One week ago a devastating rash of injuries threatened to derail the San Francisco 49ers’ entire season. Enter Nick Mullens, the hero we need but not the one that we deserved. This showdown against the New York Giants had potential to be all doom and gloom. Instead there is hope, and a season that can be saved from the cusp of inadequacy.
Enter Batman: Nick Mullens’ alter-ego
What do you hope for when the starting quarterback goes down with injury? Typically, it’s that the backup is able to weather the storm. Keep the ship afloat, if you will.
Nick Mullens announced that he is the storm in this game.
The offensive showing was surprisingly beautiful Sunday. The 49ers punted a whopping zero times. Mitch Wishnowsky got to relax on the sideline and read the early morning newspaper all day, with the exception of coming out to hold the ball on field goals. This was due to an amazingly efficient 8-for-11 third-down conversion rate where Mullens looked calm and collected at every turn.
Now before I begin the “Mullens for MVP” campaign, the game plan itself was stupendous. While the running attack wasn’t great — the Niners only managed 93 yards on 35 carries — three of these touches were touchdowns. The end-around to Brandon Aiyuk was blocked perfectly to go along with some nice vision by the rookie for a 19-yard score. Jerick McKinnon and Jeff Wilson punched in scores of their own. The 49ers will take touchdowns over yardage every day of the week.
In the passing game, 10 different receivers caught passes during the day, with 25-of-36 attempts caught for 343 yards and a score. Aiyuk led the way with five catches, as the rookie truly seems to be settling in after having had only played one previous game. Kendrick Bourne also pulled in four catches of his own. Mullens seemed to mesh fairly well with his targets during this game.
The Replacements: An injury-riddled defense steps up
The 49ers started the game down Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas, Dee Ford, Dre Greenlaw, Richard Sherman, and Ahkello Witherspoon. (Editor’s note: Yikes!) Emmanuel Moseley also went down early in this game, so it’s expected that the defense that would be leaking everywhere. Fred Warner, the one true star left on defense, let the world know that he’s got this. He recorded seven tackles, and cut off a pass intended for Evan Engram late in the second quarter.
One area the defense needs to improve is the pass rush. Dion Jordan and Kerry Hyder, Jr. each earned a sack. However, that’s all that would be had Sunday. It wasn’t all bad, as the 49ers did pressure Jones on a number of plays, but there is an absolute need to finish those plays. This is to be expected when you lose one of the best pass rushers on the planet. The 49ers need to have someone step up and carry the load in this department.
The flip side to this is that the run defense was absolutely stout. Devonta Freeman and Wayne Gallman had absolutely nowhere to go. They were stuffed almost instantly on every run. Between the two of them, they only managed 17 yards on nine carries. Playing this brand of bully-ball up front will force future opponents to be one-dimensional. Fred Warner will continue to command this defense with the pride of stopping the run first.
In Week 3, Nick Mullens and company pulled together and had a great game, stuffing out any hope for the New York Giants, and coming away with a victory despite all their injuries. The season isn’t looking too bad, Niners Faithful. Mullens didn’t quite fill the prediction laid out for him, but this was an encouraging sign of things to come.
In the coming weeks, we should see the injury situation improve a bit. Returning stars such as George Kittle, Raheem Mostert, and Jimmy Garoppolo will improve our fortunes drastically. The 49ers are onto Philadelphia now, and it looks to be another good week of football in the Bay.
(Featured Image Credit: 49ers.com)