SANTA CLARA (AP) — Arizona Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu made waves this week with comments about San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and new starter Blaine Gabbert.
“We just knew Kaepernick’s tendencies. We knew what he liked to do,” Mathieu said in a conference call with Bay Area reporters. “And you don’t pick up those same things from Gabbert. He’s better in the pocket. He has a better feel for coverages. It seems like he can get to the line, see a coverage and then go to a different play.”
Fullback Bruce Miller responded, “I don’t care nothing about Tyrann Mathieu saying nothing.”
Arizona’s third-ranked defense intercepted four of Kaepernick’s passes in a 47-7 victory in Week 3, including two returned for touchdowns. Mathieu was responsible for two of those turnovers, and scored on a 33-yard return on San Francisco’s second possession.
Kaepernick was benched in favor of Gabbert before a game against the Falcons Nov. 8. San Francisco won that game, 17-16, before falling in Seattle, 29-13 after a bye week in Gabbert’s second start.
In two games, Gabbert is averaging 46 more yards passing than Kaepernick, completing his throws at a higher percentage, and has three touchdowns passes. Kaepernick had six in eight starts.
Kaepernick was placed on season-ending injured reserve before last week’s loss to Seattle and underwent surgery Tuesday to repair a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder.
With Kaepernick no longer an option this season, the 49ers downplayed criticisms of their former starting quarterback heading into the game with the leaders of the NFC West.
“I think (Mathieu’s criticism) comes along with film study throughout the week,” center Daniel Kilgore said. “As offensive linemen, we pick up tendencies of defensive linemen. I guess that’s with every position. I’m sure some guys are easier to disguise, just like how some defenses are.”
After three disappointing seasons in Jacksonville, Gabbert enhanced his game after getting 763 days between starts, allowing the former 10th-overall pick to watch and learn from the sidelines.
“You probably forget how long it’s been since he’s taken snaps,” Chryst said. “Not many people can go 92 yards on a drive right before the end of the half and get seven (points), which was good.”
After a dreary start Sunday, Gabbert gave the 49ers life before halftime with a scoring drive that lasted 1:31, culminating in tight end Vance McDonald’s first career touchdown catch with 9 seconds remaining against Seattle’s second-ranked defense. However, that was San Francisco’s only touchdown of the day on three red-zone trips.
NOTES: 49ers RB Carlos Hyde was ruled out and will miss his fourth straight game Sunday while recovering from a stress fracture in his left foot. ... LB Ahmad Brooks returned to practice Friday after reporting headaches on Monday. Brooks is going through the NFL’s concussion protocol and is listed as questionable.