With their 36-9 victory over the New York Giants, the San Francisco 49ers leave New York with two wins, and though they lost numerous players to the turf at MetLife Stadium, they know that this team’s depth will take them far.
“…[W]e had a real good week of practice and we were pretty confident last night,” head coach Kyle Shanahan said after the game. “And then, I mean, I know the way it ended up, but by no means was that easy. I mean, those drives were grinds. We didn’t punt today and we didn’t turn it over. But man, it didn’t feel like that. We had to work for a lot of stuff and they kept us out of the end zone a number of times. Of course, our defense was able to get some turnovers. But that’s a good team. It got away a little bit there at the end, but I was real proud of our guys. And that was our plan. We came in and wanted to do that, thought we could do it. I was proud of the guys for pulling it off.”
Offense on Fire
Without Jimmy Garoppolo, George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman, the 49ers offense didn’t miss a beat.
Nick Mullens stepped in for Garoppolo and did so beautifully, finishing the day 25-of-36 for 343 yards, a touchdown and rating of 108.9.
“Nick is who he always is,” said offensive lineman Mike McGlinchey. “He was a great force for us today. He took command all week starting from Wednesday on, and he goes out and balls and that’s who he is…[W]e have all the confidence in the world in Nick, and he showed exactly why today because he just keeps plugging along and he keeps making plays for us, and it’s a testament to him and his preparation and how lucky we are to have him sitting behind Jimmy. I don’t think many teams can be that confident.”
Mullens played with noticeably more strength and confidence than when we last saw him start in 2018.
“I mean, Nick has..he can make every single throw that we need him to make,” Shanahan said. “He did a hell of a job of it today. His arm strength, with his preparation and everything, it’s why he gets the ball in the right spots…And not only did he execute a lot of stuff today, but made a number of off schedule plays to. Hitting Jet McKinnon down on that corner late, he wasn’t in route on that. They covered everyone real well on the front side. And I don’t know if he broke the pocket or not, but he hit a corner down the field late. That was huge. And I was real happy with Nick.”
As Mullens said earlier in the week, with it being his fourth year in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, there was no reason for it to be any other way.
“That goes back to the whole preparation leads up to game, so once Sunday hits, you play with a clear mind, you see it and react,” Mullens said. “I’m not the fastest, most athletic guy but I can react pretty quick. That’s what I do pretty well at and it’s a lot of fun.”
Even though the run game never caught fire, running back Jerick McKinnon was able to find holes and make plays when he needed to on the ground and scored his third touchdown in as many games, before leaving in the fourth quarter with a rib injury.
Running back Jeff Wilson had two touchdowns of his own, one on the ground and one in the air.
“I thought Jet and Jeff played a great game,” Shanahan said. “I’m sure their stats weren’t that great. Our running game wasn’t as good as it has been…But when they got the looks, they hit it good…And Jet probably would’ve finished pretty good there at the end, but he got a little banged up. And it was nice that, two plays that I was calling for Jet, the screen and then the little slant to him, he just went out the play before. And Jeff Wilson came in and he got both of them. And he did just as good of the result as I think Jet would have. It’s been cool to watch him…”
Meanwhile, rookie wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk showed why the 49ers have so much confidence in him in his second NFL game. With 8:09 left in the third quarter and the score 16-9, Aiyuk was Mullens’ favorite target on a drive that ended with an Aiyuk 19-yard rushing touchdown. It was his first NFL TD. Credit much of the 49ers’ offense for incredible blocking on that play.
“Last week, it was fun to get out there and get my feet wet a little bit,” Aiyuk said. “…So after I got that out the way, I was excited to get to work this week and knew I’d be more of an option in the offense. So it was a fun week and exciting to have that week of practice, somewhat translate into the game. Still a lot of things to clean up, but steps in the right direction.”
With all they lost in terms of players, the 49ers’ defense stepped up and showed off the depth that will keep it running. They had three takeaways, including LB Fred Warner’s interception right before halftime, which led to 26-yard FG from Robbie Gould.
“…I’ve got to shout out [Jaquiski] Tartt, because he was alerting it to me before the snap, ‘Hawk Pass! Hawk Pass!’” Warner said after the game. “It played out perfect where I read the quarterback’s eyes and baited him to throw it.”
Dion Jordan, who was just promoted from the practice squad, had a fumble recovery early in the game and a sack.
Kerry Hyder, who has big shoes to fill coming off the edge, also had a sack and a tackle for loss. They’re getting it done.
Over at corner, Jason Verrett, who had not started a game since 2017, started in place of Ahkello Witherspoon. Verrett was great in coverage, showing that a healthy Jason Verrett is an asset to the secondary.
“I was so happy for Jason Verrett,” Shanahan said. I mean, Jason Verrett is a stud…He got an opportunity and he played great in camp, then had that hamstring the last week. And that really set him back. And he got his opportunity today and he had a great week of practice. It was awesome watching him on those three days. I felt like he was going to do a really good job today. And then he did. And just seeing him after the game, seeing how happy he was and stuff, he really earned, he deserves it. And I’m pumped he’s on our team.”
Jordan Reed Hurt
The 49ers were without tight end Jordan Reed in the second half.
Reed had gone to the locker room after appearing to injure his left ankle in the first quarter, but he returned. Later in the half, he seemed to injure his left knee.
“I feel pretty optimistic it’s not to be anything long-term or anything like that, but we’ll find out tomorrow,” Shanahan said.
Veteran long-snapper Kyle Nelson had a terrible day of high and low snaps, with the latter leading to two missed extra points and a missed field goal.
On To Philadelphia
And with that the 49ers 10-day road trip comes to an end. Their next three games are at Levi’s Stadium, starting next week on Sunday Night Football against the 0-2-1 Philadelphia Eagles.