The NFC West rivalry between the Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers will have a new look during Sunday’s action, as quarterback Blaine Gabbert prepares to make his first career start against Seattle in the tough confines of CenturyLink Field.
After breathing a bit of new life into a stagnant 49ers offense, Gabbert will have a chance to do what former quarterback Colin Kaepernick could not do in his career: win in Seattle.
With the fire of a fierce rivalry, a lack of job security and a loud stadium bearing down on him, Sunday’s contest is sure to be no cake-walk for the fifth-year pro out of Missouri.
Wednesday afternoon, Gabbert downplayed all of the aforementioned intangibles, preferring instead to do what is often hard for an athlete in his position to do — live in the moment:
“I think the biggest think for me is I focus on this upcoming game and that’s how I approached last week and you really can’t get to far ahead of yourself, especially in the situation that we’re in. I’m focused on going out to practice today and having a good day and then really focus on the game this Sunday. Whatever happens after that will happen. But, at this point in time, I’m worried about Seattle and that’s it.”
The newly-appointed starter will have lots to worry about, however, as the Seahawks second-ranked passing offense will pose a much greater challenge to the slinger than the Atlanta Falcons did.
Historically, Gabbert has struggled on the road, posting just two wins and 13 losses in 15 career road games while earning a 73.0 passer rating. Should he pull off a second-consecutive upset, the win will be the 49ers first in Seattle since December 2011.
Gabbert remained confident when speaking about his upcoming game, seeing the contest as less of a handicap and more of just another challenge for him to overcome:
“I think any away stadium’s tough to play at just because it’s a hostile environment. It’s not your, kind of, your home turf. I enjoy playing on the road. It’s kind of a sweeter victory when you win on the road and makes you focus on the details, really prepare and focus on the little things throughout the week so you can go out there and execute at a high level.”
Likewise, head coach Jim Tomsula exhibited confidence in his starter to provide the first competitive game for the 49ers against Seattle in more than a season:
“Once you get into the field, once you’re between the white lines, really all that chaos that everybody talks about is the noise. Really I mean there’s no fans that can put their hands on you or none of that. It’s within the context of a football game in a very loud environment.”
The 49ers have practiced for blaring environments like Seattle, blaring loud music across the practice fields behind Levi’s Stadium earlier in the year through stacks of speakers.
Gabbert was officially named the starter by head coach Jim Tomsula earlier this week, having certainly earning another shot under center after an 185-yard, two-touchdown outing against Atlanta gave the 49ers an unlikely victory.
With a hot-hand approach, Sunday’s game is perhaps the perfect stage for Gabbert to make his case for more playing time down the stretch. In that sense, the game holds more of a personal value to Gabbert than it does for the 3-6 49ers.
For Gabbert, Sunday’s game could be the rebirth of an underwhelming career, or more fuel for the quarterback drama in Santa Clara. But Gabbert isn’t ready to get ahead of himself yet:
“I would say it’s a great opportunity. I wouldn’t approach it any other way, but it’s a great opportunity to go out there and start again this week and play football. And I don’t take those opportunities for granted, and I’m going to enjoy them.”