Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Mullens describes what happened on final 49ers offensive snap

Dec 23, 2018 at 5:20 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers had just forced a turnover against the Chicago Bears, recovering a fumble by wide receiver Allen Robinson, who could have iced the game simply by going down after making a first-down grab after the two-minute warning and with zero Niners timeouts. Cornerback Tarvarius Moore knocked the ball loose, and defensive back Greg Mabin grabbed it.

The 49ers were still alive, albeit trailing Chicago 14-9 with 1:52 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Two plays later, quarterback Nick Mullens hit wide receiver Kendrick Bourne for a crucial 25-yard gain. Bourne was able to get out of bounds to stop the clock. But after failing to move the chains again on the next three snaps, Mullens and the Niners offense found themselves in a 4th-and-4 situation with 1:14 left.

Mullens was flushed out of the pocket to his right. And despite Bears linebacker Leonard Floyd chasing him down, the 49ers quarterback appeared to have a clear path to the first-down marker. Perhaps much, much more.

Instead, Mullens tossed deep to wide receiver Marquise Goodwin. The ball sailed incomplete, the Bears took over and ran out the clock to win the game and send the Niners to 4-11 on the season.

Take a look at the play itself:

"I saw Marquise down the field," Mullens told reporters after the game. "I thought I'd give him a chance instead of making the simple play. ...I was trying to make a big play, and it wasn't the smartest decision."

Indeed, the smart play would have been to attempt the first-down run. While Floyd was closing fast, it seems likely Mullens might have been able to reach the marker and get out of bounds, stopping the clock and leaving the chance of a 49ers comeback open.

Yet he didn't, although this Yahoo! Fantasy Sports tweet is a little too good to leave out:

"The second I threw it," Mullens admitted when asked at what point he realized not running was a mistake. "You look at the film, or whatever. I stood there for 30 seconds understanding what I just did and how big of a mistake it was."

Did Mullens' decision cost the 49ers a chance at winning the game late? Absolutely. Yet the Niners also went 0-of-3 in the red zone, relying solely on kicker Robbie Gould's three field goals for all their offense. Meanwhile, the Bears managed two touchdowns. And while San Francisco managed two defensive takeaways, a key interception by Mullens off the fingertips of Goodwin earlier in the game didn't help matters either.

Mullens also admitted he was still thinking of the play all the way up to his meeting with reporters, too. He'll probably think about it all night as well, even if it wasn't exactly the reason San Francisco lost in Week 16.
  • Written by:
    Peter Panacy has been writing about the 49ers since 2011 for outlets like Bleacher Report, Niner Noise, 49ers Webzone, and is occasionally heard as a guest on San Francisco's 95.7 FM The Game and the Niners' flagship station, KNBR 680. Feel free to follow him, or direct any inquiries to his Twitter account.

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