Although third-string quarterback Nick Mullens and the San Francisco 49ers put together a game-winning drive in the final two minutes of their preseason opener to beat the Dallas Cowboys 24-21, the real story of the game was injuries. More on that shortly.
Kyle Shanahan said he doesn’t want to see overtime in a preseason game, but he still went for the two-point conversion.
“I don’t want to lose either,” Shanahan said. Fair. It worked. Niners win.
But, the Injuries
In the first quarter alone, LB Malcolm Smith, TE George Kittle, DL Solomon Thomas, and RB Matt Breida left the game with injuries. OL Garry Gilliam was next as the second quarter began, and Eli Harold left later in the game.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan said he thinks Kittle and Breida have shoulder injuries that will keep them out some time, while Thomas and Gilliam have concussion symptoms. Harold has some sort of leg injury.
Smith has a hamstring injury. The veteran linebacker was out all of last season with a torn pectoral muscle, missed the beginning of training camp with a lower leg issue and now this. Rookie Fred Warner, who would in theory replace Smith, didn’t play tonight, as he’s been battling a chest injury. The linebacker position could be in trouble.
More information tomorrow on the severity of the above injuries.
Richie James and the Wide Receiver Competition
Seventh-round draft pick Richie James took his strong training camp with him to tonight’s game.
With slot receiver Trent Taylor out, James was the first man out. He finished the night with four receptions for 46 yards and a touchdown (the aforementioned game-winner). He continues to show quickness, toughness and overall ability.
“I just really have to give credit to Nick Mullens,” said James. “That was a good ball. It was in the right window. He did a really good job.”
QB1 has liked what’s seen out of James thus far.
“His athletic ability for such a young guy, it’s impressive.” said quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, whose 49ers record stays at 6-0 thanks to the win. “[O]nce you put the mental part of it with the physical part, it’ll be something good.”
Victor Bolden, who is suspended the first four games of the season for violating the NFL’s PED policy, had three receptions for 54 yards, while Kendrick Bourne finished the night with three receptions for 31 yards. All three are fighting for a roster spot, so it’s going to be an interesting few weeks for that position group.
It was a good night for seventh-round draft picks, as rookie defensive tackle Julian Taylor had an impressive four quarters that included three total tackles, a sack, and a tackle for loss.
“I just literally ran the play that was called,” Taylor said. “We set the run and we executed perfectly. It worked out. It wouldn’t have worked without the D-Line as a unit and all of the coaches so I am thankful for them for calling the play and giving me the opportunity to make it.”
It’s not often that QB3 is the hero, but Nick Mullens got to be just that tonight.
“It was an awesome moment, and an awesome moment for our team,” said Mullens. “The threes, we work together every day in practice. It was cool to just see us take advantage of our opportunities out there today. It was a lot of fun. Everybody was locked in and we finished strong.”
To his credit, Mullens ran a very well-executed two-minute drill.
“Yeah, it’s fun man,” Mullens said. “You know you’re going to pass it and I like to pass, of course. The receivers did a great job. Guys that we work with every day, the guys up front, we were just very in-tune, very locked in. We walked through that every single day of camp and it was cool to see it translate to the field.”