The 49ers had hoped to establish a running game against the Panthers Sunday, but that didn’t quite work out.
San Francisco averaged just 2.5 yards per carry at Carolina for a total of 65 yards. Starting running back Carlos Hyde, who had a solid opening game against the Rams, had just 34 yards on 14 carries in Game 2.
Some of those problems, of course, were on the offensive line, which had trouble against a pair of solid defensive tackles in Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short and standout inside linebacker Luke Kuechly. But in Monday’s news conference, 49ers head coach Chip Kelly said an inefficient passing attack exacerbated the problem. Kelly said quarterback Blaine Gabbert could have helped the running game by better attacking the Carolina defense outside and downfield.
“Sometimes you’ve got to loosen them up a little bit with the passing game,” Kelly told the media. “So if you’re starting to get some edge pressure, which we did, we needed to get the ball distributed outside a little better. Throw the ball a little bit more. Maybe throw the ball a little big more on first down to kind of loosen them up a little bit to keep them out of some of the run blitzes that they’re trying to get you and hold you accountable for.”
Kelly says the passing and running attacks go “hand in hand.”
In Sunday’s game, Gabbert threw for 243 yards and two touchdowns, but many of his attempts were short routes. Pro Football Focus noted Gabbert completed just 5-of-16 passes of more than 10 yards, with two interceptions.
The ineffective running game also impaired the passing attack later in the game, because the Panthers didn’t bite on play-action passes.
“It’s the offense as a whole,” Kelly said. “We just need to get in sync.”
The 1-1 49ers will get their chance this Sunday in Seattle against the Seahawks, with kickoff set for 1:05 p.m.