SANTA CLARA – Blaine Gabbert did nothing Thursday night to reassure the 49ers’ fan base that coach Chip Kelly has the right guy at quarterback.
The chants of “We want Kap!” grew louder as the evening progressed and the crowd thinned at Levi’s Stadium. But despite the wishes of some of the fans in attendance, backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick did not get off the sideline for a fourth consecutive game.
The 49ers were absolutely abysmal in losing their fourth consecutive game, falling 33-21 to the Arizona Cardinals, a team playing without starting quarterback Carson Palmer. The 49ers are in last place all alone in the NFC West with a 1-4 record.
The 49ers, a team with no margin for error, committed error after error after error in gifting the Cardinals everything they would need in what they considered a must-win early season game.
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Gabbert completed 18 of 31 passes for 162 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions, which Arizona turned into 10 points. Gabbert, who was sacked just three times in the first four games, was sacked seven times for minus-27 yards, including a safety on a Calais Campbell sack in the closing minutes.
The 49ers also committed a fumble that set up a Cardinals touchdown but only after also committing a penalty on a field-goal attempt gave then a fresh set of downs.
The 49ers let the Cardinals pull even late in the first half when Gabbert’s pass attempt on a third-and-10 play from the 49ers’ 24 was tipped by Chandler Jones at the line of scrimmage and intercepted by Campbell.
One play later, Arizona quarterback Drew Stanton hit a wide-open Larry Fitzgerald for a 21-yard touchdown. Fitzgerald later added another touchdown. Both were against 49ers cornerback Tramaine Brock. Fitzgerald has 16 career touchdowns against the 49ers in his 13th NFL seasons.
Stanton started his first game since 2014, and it showed. He moved into the starting lineup after Palmer was not cleared after sustaining a concussion on Sunday. Stanton completed just 11 of 28 attempts for 124 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Fitzgerald caught six passes 81 yards.
The 49ers practically handed the Cardinals their second touchdown of the game, too.
Return man Chris Davis coughed up the ball on the opening kickoff of the second half. The 49ers’ defense held the Cardinals to an apparent 26-yard field goal. However, Arizona coach Bruce Arians took the points off the board after Rashard Robinson was penalized for running into the kicker.
On the next play, running back David Johnson took it into the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown and a 14-7 lead. Johnson became the fourth consecutive opponent to rush for more than 100 yards against the 49ers. He gained 157 yards and two touchdowns on 27 rushes.
Gabbert’s second interception early in the fourth quarter led to a field goal that provided the Cardinals with a 10-point lead.
The chants of “We want Kap!” picked up a few decibel levels in the third quarter as the Cardinals took a two-touchdown lead.
But Gabbert briefly quieted the restless fans when he helped pull the 49ers to within seven points with an 11-play, 82-yard touchdown drive. Gabbert scrambled for gains of 11 and 24 yards on the drive, which was capped with Carlos Hyde’s 1-yard touchdown run. Hyde gained 78 yards on 22 rushing attempts.
But after the defense forced a three-and out, former 49ers cornerback Marcus Cooper stepped in front of Jeremy Kerley to intercept Gabbert’s pass near the left sideline.
Most of Gabbert’s damage came on the ground, as he rushed for 70 yards and a touchdown on 10 rushing attempts.