Santa Clara – A frustrating night for back-up quarterback Nick Mullens, who had three turnovers that proved costly in the 49ers 25-20 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Mullens saw action for a second week while starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is sideline with a high-ankle sprain. Unlike his success last week, Mullens never got into a good rhythm. Late in the fourth he was replaced by third-string quarterback C. J. Beathard.
“Oh, that’s a good question and I’m kind of wondering that myself,” Mullens said when asked why was it so hard to connect with his offense. “We had plenty of opportunities and I really just didn’t execute. I feel like the way I’m feeling is pretty black and white right now. I just didn’t execute and that’s really all it comes down to. Three turnovers, 14 points for them off turnovers and that’s really about it. Just didn’t execute.”
Mullens second interception got him a view from the sideline. On the first play of the series, down 18-14 with almost 5 minutes left in the game, Mullens threw to a wide open defender, Alex Singleton who returned 30 yards for the touchdown. That was enough for 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan.
“The first one, he just missed the throw,” said Shanahan on Mullens interceptions. “He’s got to get it out there. Check it down to [FB Kyle Juszczyk] Juice beneath him. And then the one in the red zone, it wasn’t a good play call. No one was open. Had a short edge and he needed to throw it away or take a sack, but threw it into double coverage. Just a bad decision, but he had no other choice on the play. He had to just take it.”
Beathard moved the offense down field quickly with little time left on the clock in the fourth. He completed 14-of-19 passes for 138 yards and touchdown. Beathard found Brandon Aiyuk in the end zone for 14 yards. That setup Kendrick Bourne’s touchdown but after further review Bourne was short of the goal line. Beathard then made a smooth handoff to Jerick McKinnon for the 1-yard touchdown.
McKinnon registered 14 carries for 54 yards and one touchdown. He’s recorded at least one touchdown in each of the 49ers first four games of the season. McKinnon extended his career high for most consecutive games scoring a touchdown and became the first member since WR Jerry Rice in 1991 to score at least one touchdown of the teams first four game of a season.
“Honestly, I just give credit to me being in my fourth year in the system,” Beathard said regarding his play. “It’s night and day compared to last time I was in there playing in the regular season. Just feels comfortable. You know, the more you go through the plays, the more you’re in the offense. It just gets a lot more comfortable.”
Carson Wentz and his offense took full advantage of San Francisco’s mistakes. Wentz scrambled for an 11-yard touchdown in the first and followed with a two-point conversion to extend their lead 8-0. With less the .21 seconds on the clock, Aiyuk bobbed and weaved in between defenders before leaping over Marcus Epps for the 38-yard touchdown which cut the lead 8-7.
By the second Mullens appeared to be in control and connected with George Kittle for a 38-yard pass. But the next play, Mullens pass intended for Trent Taylor was intercepted by Rodney McCloud who rushed it back for 21 yards to end the half. To start the third Mullens found Kittle for a 5-yard touchdown. Kittle finished the night with 15 receptions for 183 yards and a touchdown.
“The mood in the locker room sucks… losing sucks,” Kittle said. “We have high goals and we want to go back to the Super Bowl. When you go out there and play like that, there’s not really any chance.”
Wentz made a remarkable play to a young man who was just promoted off from the practice squad on Saturday. Down 11-14, with 4:08 on the clock in the fourth, Wentz went deep to Travis Fulgham for a 42-yard touchdown. Philly scored again after Mullens second turnover to increase their lead 25-14.
“When we broke the huddle, I told him to be ready,” said Wentz. “We made a play and pretty impressive on how he not only caught the ball, but kept his feet in to get in the end zone. That was just huge night for us to rally around a bunch of different guys, new faces out there making plays.”
Unfortunately for the 49ers they didn’t escape injuries tonight. DL Ezekiel Ansah left the game with torn bicep and will probably have a season ending surgery. CB K’Wan Williams left the game with a knee sprain. Garoppolo is expected to practice this week. San Francisco will host the Miami Dolphins next Sunday at Levi’s Stadium.
*Photo by 49ers/Twitter