The starting quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers spoke with reporters prior to the team's Week 16 road game against the Detroit Lions.
After converting on 2-of-14 third downs last week versus the Cincinnati Bengals, Blaine Gabbert discussed how the offense can improve moving forward. The signal-caller also touched on the play of Joe Staley, Trent Brown and Shaun Draughn.
What stood out to you in terms of the struggles on third down against the Bengals?
"It's what the defense is playing. They know what we're trying to do on 3rd-and-15. We're trying to get to the sticks. So that's the coverage that they're going to play. They're going to drop everybody right there at the marker and like I said, make you throw underneath so then they can rally and make a tackle.
So my job on 3rd-and-long is to find some type of completion. Whether it be past the sticks or underneath the sticks, just get the ball in our guys' hands and let them make a play."
You don't want to force anything and make a dramatic error?
"Yeah, it's all predicated on what the defense does. We're not hitting check downs because we want to... You've seen guys hit check downs that go for 25-yards. I love using the example when Joe Flacco hit Ray Rice, I think it was 4th-and-25 in the playoffs and he got 26 yards and they go on to win the Super Bowl. Our guys have the ability to do that. It's just my job to give them the football."
How well has Staley played at left tackle for you this season?
"Joe's done a tremendous job. The consistency that he brings day in and day out, and the work ethic that he brings to the practice field is second-to-none. So when you have a guy leading like that on the offensive line, it shows the young guys how to approach daily work. He's done a great job.
Our entire offensive line had a tough task last week and they played tremendous. Those guys fought their tails off and gave me plenty of time to do my job."
Do you think Brown could be a legitimate starter in the NFL?
"No question. He has all the physical attributes and being a young guy in the NFL, it's kind of that maturation process that the young guys go through. He's getting better on a daily basis and that's what you look for.
He came in and stepped right up and didn't miss a beat when he was in the game last week. Gave us a little juice up there and definitely think that's something he can build off moving forward."
How big of a loss would it be if Draughn can't play versus the Lions?
"Yeah, Shaun's done a tremendous job but like I've always said, injuries are a part of the game. You never want them to happen to a friend and a teammate but at the same time, it's the next man up mentality. So the running backs in that room are eager to step up and fill that void if he can't go, but I hope he heals quickly and we have him back out there."