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Kyle Shanahan won’t be making a change at quarterback after all.
The 49ers coach on Monday named Nick Mullens the starter for Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks despite his lackluster performance in San Francisco’s lowest-scoring effort of the season at Tampa Bay last weekend.
“I know that I said Nick didn’t play very well, but no one played well and I didn’t coach well. It was all of us,” Shanahan said. “Nick did a good job in his first two games. It was not the reason that happened (Sunday) so that’s not fair to do that to him.”
The 49ers lost 27-9 to the Buccaneers, who entered the game with the NFL’s 28th-ranked passing defense. Mullens completed 18 of 32 passes for 221 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. His 62.1 quarterback rating was down significantly from his combined 104 clip against the Raiders and New York Giants at Levi’s Stadium.
San Francisco will play its second straight road game Sunday in Seattle, where it hasn’t won since December 2011, when Alex Smith was the starter. The Seahawks are surging toward a playoff berth after consecutive victories over two wild-card hopefuls, the Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers.
Seattle is a 10-point favorite, according to Westgate, which would mark the second time this season the 49ers are double-digit underdogs (Sept. 30 at the Los Angeles Chargers).
Shanahan reiterated he’ll decide on a starting quarterback from week to week, and he’s not tied to starting Mullens for the remainder of the season. Second-year pro C.J. Beathard has backed up Mullens since being displaced Nov. 1 against the Raiders after suffering a thumb injury that prevented him from properly gripping a football.
“I’m not trying to announce it every week. But, Jimmy (Garoppolo) is our quarterback. Everyone knows that,” Shanahan said. “C.J. got an opportunity when Jimmy got hurt, and Nick got an opportunity when C.J. got hurt. So we’re playing this year out with our two and three and we’ll see how games go. We’re going to do everything we can to win a game. I know we’re preparing with Nick, and if he ever struggled, I’d bring in C.J. We’ll see how it goes.”
Mullens was sacked four times and hit nine times at Tampa Bay after taking no sacks against Oakland and the Giants. The Buccaneers’ pass rush hit Mullens early in the game, which appeared to portend to a skittish performance. Mullens had 45 yards at halftime while completing just 4-of-10 attempts and 121 yards through three quarters.
“If you go back to Oakland and the Giants, that’s how you want games to go as a coach. They’re very balanced,” Shanahan said. “You’ve got a lead in both of them. You’re able to stay in very manageable third downs. You’re able to run the ball a lot.
“We ran the ball fairly well (Sunday), but we also had a number of penalties. We also had some negative runs. We got on some third and longs, and when you get on some third and longs and some very predictable passing situation where they’re teeing off, and then you go to the second half where we get down a couple of scores, that’s going to happen. We were more predictable on what we were doing, and I thought we were going against a few better rushers.”
The 49ers (2-9) are tied with Oakland and the Arizona Cardinals for the worst record in the NFL. San Francisco is in line for the No. 1 pick in the draft because its strength of schedule (.455) is weaker than the Raiders’ (.517) and Cardinals’ (.533).
Reed ruled out - Rookie defensive back D.J. Reed won’t play against Seattle after suffering a heel injury and chest contusion at Tampa Bay. Reed was the primary backup at free safety to Jimmie Ward, who suffered a season-ending forearm fracture in the game, his second in two seasons.
That means the 49ers will be down to their fourth-string free safety, Antone Exum Jr., against the Seahawks after second-year pro Adrian Colbert began the year as the starter. Colbert was placed on injured reserve because of a right high ankle sprain sustained against the Rams on Oct. 21.
Smith dealing with tendinitis - Linebacker Malcolm Smith, who is expected to start the remainder of the season after the team released Reuben Foster, has been dealing with Achilles’ tendinitis in recent weeks, Shanahan said, which is why he was in and out of the game against the Buccaneers.
“We kind of want to go with Malcolm and Fred (Warner), but Malcolm’s battling his Achilles’,” Shanahan said. “He has been all year and it was bothering him a little bit worse these last two weeks. He went as hard as he could go the first half. We were watching it and Malcolm is pretty honest with us. He would have kept going, but it was tough to watch him out there battling through it and Elijah (Lee) came in and did a good job.”
Receiver Pierre Garçon’s knee injury will be re-evaluated Wednesday. Garçon has missed the past two games. Wideout Marquise Goodwin’s status is to be determined while he remains excused from the team to deal with a personal issue.