Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

49ers’ Nick Mullens climbs record books despite first-half struggles vs. Rams

Dec 30, 2018 at 6:04 PM--

While San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle garnered most of the attention during the Niners' 48-32 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 17, quarterback Nick Mullens quietly climbed up the record books for most yardage thrown through the first eight career games.

Things certainly didn't get off to the best of starts for San Francisco 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens, who looked to pull off an improbable road upset over the Los Angeles Rams in Week 17. After all, the Niners' first three offensive drives on Sunday ended in an offensive turnover, with two of those coming in interceptions thrown by the second-year signal-caller.

At the 11:10 mark of the first quarter, and with San Francisco already trailing 7-0, Mullens was hit in the pocket trying to throw, and the wobbly pass sailed right into the hands of Rams linebacker Corey Littleton. The following drive, Mullens tried to hit tight end George Kittle for a would-be touchdown pass, only to see it deflected into the air and into the arms of safety Blake Countess.

And at the 12:45 mark of the second quarter, Littleton picked off Mullens again and returned it 19 yards for a pick-six touchdown.

"Obviously you're doing everything you can to protect the football," Mullens later admitted. "It's frustrating. It's part of the game. I think I could have taken an easier read on the [first interception] 3rd-and-long. You don't have to make the big play, just check it down. So that's something I can definitely learn from. The tipped ball to George [Kittle] was a one on one, so I guess you could just say, 'bad luck.'"

Mullens had 117 pass yards over the first half, often pressured regularly from Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who worked with relative ease against a Niners offensive line that struggled all day in pass protection.

"You turn the ball over like that, and games get out of hand quick," Mullens continued. "We experienced that today. It's frustrating."

That said, Mullens bounced back in the second half, eventually finishing with a 23-of-33 mark for 282 yards and three touchdowns. He hit wide receiver Richie James for a 9-yard touchdown late in the second quarter, and then Mullens managed to find fellow wideout Kendrick Bourne for a 2-yard score in the fourth.

Then, of course, Mullens hit tight end George Kittle for a 43-yard touchdown late in the same quarter, which helped Kittle set a new all-time record for most receiving yards by a tight end in a single season (1,377).

Mullens climbed the record books, too, although it won't garner the attention Kittle's record-setting day will. By passing for 282 yards in the game, the quarterback moved into fourth place on the list for most pass yards tossed by a quarterback over his first eight career starts. He entered the game with 1,995 and now has 2,277. The list is as follows:

  1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs -- 2,526
  2. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts -- 2,404
  3. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers -- 2,393
  4. Nick Mullens, San Francisco 49ers -- 2,277
  5. Marc Bulger, St. Louis Rams -- 2,062
  6. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans -- 2,026
  7. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys -- 2,020

San Francisco's young quarterback wrapped up his Week 17 efforts with those three interceptions, but also three touchdowns and an overall passer rating of 88.2. Granted, the Rams began to sub out starters as the second half wore on.

But at least Mullens can feel halfway decent about putting himself in the record books, too.
  • 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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