‘An awesome job’: 49ers coach Shanahan praises quarterback Nick Mullens
Here’s our report card from the 49ers’ second victory of the season Thursday night, a 34-3 blowout of the Oakland Raiders at Levi’s Stadium.
Passing offense: A
Nick Mullens threw three touchdowns and didn’t turn the ball over. His 151.9 passer rating was the third best in 49ers franchise history — and San Francisco has a pretty strong lineage of quarterbacks. He was poised, ran the entirety of Kyle Shanahan’s offense and completed 72.7 percent of his throws. It’s hard to imagine Mullens playing any better in his debut after going undrafted out of Southern Miss and spending most of the past two seasons on the practice squad. A caveat: Yes, we know the Raiders played terribly.
Rushing offense: B+
Mullens had the benefit of a strong performance from the running game. The 49ers ran the ball 32 times — to just 22 passes — and averaged 4.5 yards per attempt. Raheem Mostert led the way with 86 yards, but it appears his season is over following a gruesome looking fractured arm in the second half. His 52-yard score was his first-career touchdown — and also his longest run.
Passing defense: A-
The 49ers’ defense had far-and-away its best showing of the season against the struggling Raiders and quarterback Derek Carr, who finished with 171 yards while completing 16 of 21 (76 percent) passes. Carr didn’t find the end zone, which was impressive given the 49ers struggled badly in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss against rookie Josh Rosen. Third-string strong safety Tyvis Powell had a much stronger game. But the story for San Francisco was the pass rush. The defensive front logged seven sacks (while setting a new season-high in the first half alone). Cassius Marsh had a career day with 2½, while Dekoda Watson added 1½ in his 2018 debut after starting on injured reserve. Solomon Thomas, DeForest Buckner and Ronald Blair were also credited with sacks.
Rushing defense: B-
The 49ers were without linebacker Reuben Foster and safety Jaquiski Tartt, who are typically two of the team’s best tacklers in the middle of the field. The Raiders rushed for 102 yards on 23 carries (4.4 average), but the running game was mostly negated because San Francisco opened its big lead early on. Doug Martin had 49 yards on 11 rushes to lead Oakland.
Special teams: A
Robbie Gould hit both his field goal attempts and all four of his extra points. Bradley Pinion had his best game of the season, averaging 54.7 yards on his three punts. His average coming into Thursday’s game was 42.6. And there were no muffed punts or fumbled kickoff returns, which is always a plus.
Sure, the Raiders didn’t exactly play an inspired brand of football. But Shanahan having his hand-picked undrafted third-string quarterback ready to start, and play at a high level, is a testament to good coaching. Now he’ll have to decide if Mullens deserves another start in the next game against the Giants. At 2-7, why not?