Blaine Gabbert had a chance on Sunday to sink a knife in San Francisco's hyped-up quarterback duel. Instead, he delivered a comprehensive mixed bag of positives and negatives in the 49ers' 24-13 loss to Houston.
While Colin Kaepernickrested his sore throwing shoulder, Gabbert unfurled a handful of off-target lobs and failed to generate points over his first two drives against the Houston Texans.
His inauspicious start began with a poorly thrown screen pass to running back Carlos Hyde. Two plays later, Gabbert again targeted a wide-open Hyde in the flat, only to zip the ball out of reach.
Gabbert's second drive ended in full-blown disaster. After tossing off his back foot and badly underthrowing Quinton Patton, the signal-caller handed the ball to Hyde, who was pancaked by Vince Wilfork to trigger a fumble that linebacker John Simon took to the house.
Gabbert on that drive came up limping after a big hit, but showed toughness returning for a third and final march. From there, the former first-rounder finally got on track with the help of buzzy tight end Vance McDonald, who took a short pass from Gabbert 43 yards to paydirt.
Finishing 5 of 11 for 66 yards and the score, Gabbert's numbers were saved by that final throw. He also showed off his plus mobility with three rushes for 18 yards, but new coach Chip Kelly can't be happy with the streaky passing performance.
Amid whispers and innuendo that Gabbert has already won the job, Sunday's performance did little to call this fight.