The 49ers took a late lead but couldn’t hold on and dropped another close game, reminiscent of their previous Monday night loss to the Green Bay Packers last month.
Sterling Shepard made a leaping, three-yard catch in the front left corner of the end zone with 53 seconds left to give the New York Giants a 27-23 victory Monday night at Levi’s Stadium, ruining the second NFL start of San Francisco quarterback Nick Mullens.
It was an entertaining game in which the 49ers couldn’t overcome two turnovers, sloppiness on special teams - which kept the Giants in the game in the third quarter and kick-started two scoring drives - and gaffes in coverage, particularly while trying to slow Pro Bowl receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
Coach Kyle Shanahan’s team had a chance to win from 20 yards out with one second left, but Mullens’ desperation heave went through the back of the end zone, dropping the 49ers to 2-8.
Beckham caught four passes for 73 yards, including two touchdowns, and Eli Manning passed for 188 yards and three scoring passes for a 110.7 passer rating. The 49ers got to him for just one sack despite the Giants allowing 31 entering the game, tied with the 49ers near the bottom of the league.
Manning saved the best for the last drive, when he hit tight end Evan Engam, who was wide open streaking through the left side of San Francisco’s defense, for 31 yards. Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon was later flagged for a 16-yard pass-interference penalty while covering Beckham four plays before the deciding touchdown.
Mullens passed for 250 yards on 27 of 39 completions with a touchdown and two interceptions. Tight end George Kittle led the 49ers in receiving yards for the seventh time this season, logging a career-high nine receptions for 83 yards.
Matt Breida rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown. He also had a touchdown catch.
Robbie Gould kicked a go-ahead 30-yard field goal with 2:46 remaining after the 49ers failed to convert on third and 6. Mullens completed a pass to Kendrick Bourne, who was bottled up along the left sideline for a three-yard gain.
Mullens looked mortal compared to his impressive debut against the Raiders. Both interceptions were by Giants linebacker B.J. Goodson, and both came off deflections.
The first interception set up the Giants’ first touchdown, coming deep in San Francisco territory. Mullens’ pass toward the left sideline was broken up by cornerback Janoris Jenkins and went right to Goodson, who returned it to San Francisco’s 12-yard line.
The first touchdown came three plays later when Beckham found a clearing between safety Jimmie Ward and slot corner K’Waun Williams in the back of the end zone. The Giants punted following Goodson’s second pick, which came off the hands of receiver Marquise Goodwin.
San Francisco opened a 20-10 lead in the third quarter on Breida’s 11-yard touchdown reception on third down.
The Giants scored 10 unanswered points in the third quarter to tie the score. Beckham beat Witherspoon for a 20-yard touchdown catch along the left sideline, then Aldrick Rosas kicked a 31-yard field goal.
The 49ers took a 13-10 lead into halftime thanks to two Gould field goals and Breida’s career-high third rushing touchdown of the season, a three-yarder.
Mullens completed 12 of 18 passes in the first half for 112 yards, with 66 going to Kittle. Mullens completed two passes to Goodwin on the final possession of the half, which resulted in Gould’s second field goal with two seconds remaining.