Here’s our report card following the 49ers’ 27-23 loss to the New York Giants on Monday night at Levi’s Stadium:
Passing offense: C
Nick Mullens had a respectable game, completing 69 percent of his passes for 250 yards. But his 6.4 yards per attempt was below standard, and one of his two interceptions proved costly. An argument could be made that his first-half interception, a bad pass to receiver Kendrick Bourne that deflected to linebacker B.J. Goodson and led to the Giants’ first touchdown, was the key play in the game.
Rushing offense: B
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Matt Breida ran for 101 yards, his second-most this season, on 17 attempts for 5.9 average. He scored both of San Francisco’s touchdowns. But the 49ers received little production aside from Breida in the first game since backup running back Raheem Mostert was lost for the season with a fractured arm. Alfred Morris had 19 yards on nine carries — making it clear the 49ers need more from their backups while Breida continues to nurse an ankle injury.
Passing defense: D
Monday’s loss could be traced to missed assignments in coverage, particularly during Odell Beckham Jr.’s two touchdown catches. On the first, he slipped between safety Jimmie Ward and slot cornerback K’Waun Williams while both players had their eyes on quarterback Eli Manning instead of covering Beckham, arguably the league’s most talented receiver. Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon never got the help he was looking for on Beckham’s second score. Safety Antone Exum Jr. was elsewhere in coverage and was supposed to give Witherspoon help. Malcolm Smith’s holding call on third and 17 on the Giants’ final scoring drive was a massive gaffe, as was Witherspoon’s pass-interference penalty against Beckham moments later.
Rushing defense: B-
The 49ers limited Saquon Barkley to 67 yards on 20 carries (3.4 average), which is good enough. But receiver Sterling Shepard’s reverse that went 27 yards in the third quarter put New York in range for a field goal during their comeback. The left side of San Francisco’s defense was out of position, allowing Shepard a wide running lane to the 20-yard line.
Special teams: D
New York’s comeback was aided greatly by poor plays in kick and punt coverage. After the 49ers made it 20-10 with Breida’s second touchdown, Corey Coleman took the ensuing kickoff 51 yards to midfield and the Giants scored a touchdown five plays later. Rookie gunner Tarvarius Moore hit the Giants’ return man well before he could catch a Bradley Pinion punt, giving Giants quarterback Eli Manning the ball on San Francisco’s 47. The tying field goal came four plays later. Seventeen of New York’s points came after two bad special-teams plays and Mullens’ interception deep in his territory. On the bright side, Robbie Gould made all three of his field goals, including a 53-yarder.
This was a game where 23 points should have been enough against a Giants offense that totaled just 277 yards. Overall, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan assembled a good game plan for Mullens to thrive in his second start. His most notable mistake: calling a long pass play on second and 12 following a holding penalty that pinned the 49ers at their 6-yard line. It led to Mullens’ first interception and the Giants’ first touchdown. It would have been better to dial up two running plays and punt rather than putting the second-year pro in a precarious position so close to his goal line.