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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

‘I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t play real well’: Kyle Shanahan, 49ers confident in Nick Mullens

Sep 26, 2020 at 2:32 PM--

Nick Mullens will make his ninth NFL start on Sunday when the San Francisco 49ers play the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, along with several other starters, is sidelined with an injury.

Mullens was 8-of-11 for 71 yards with an interception and a passer rating of 51.7 during last weekend's 31-13 win over the New York Jets after Garoppolo left with a high-ankle sprain. Mullens has the support of his teammates and a reputation for preparing like a starter despite receiving few practice reps.

"Nick's confident in the whole game plan," tight end George Kittle, who is among those who will not play on Sunday, said this past week. "He's got it locked in, and he's going to have a great game. ... We're definitely in good hands if Jimmy can't go."

Kittle is dealing with an MCL sprain and a bone bruise, and head coach Kyle Shanahan ruled him out against the Giants.

Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu has only been with the 49ers for about a week-and-a-half. Even he is confident in Mullens' ability to lead the offense and team to a win.

"Nick been firing that thing," Sanu said on Thursday. "Nick has been coming in, taking command of the huddle, making plays. Not much of anything has changed. Jimmy does the same thing. You can tell they have a certain standard in that room, how they carry themselves, how they practice.

"They practice with high-intense focus, and you see it in their play. The quarterbacks have been doing their thing."

Mullens completed 64.2 percent of his passes for 2,277 yards with 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions during his eight starts in 2018. He passed for over 220 yards in each of those games. The last 49ers quarterback to accomplish that feat? Another pretty good player by the name of Joe Montana, who did so through nine consecutive starts between the 1985 and 1986 seasons.

The confidence that teammates have in Mullens means a lot to the undrafted free agent out of Southern Miss, who is now in his fourth NFL season, counting his rookie year on the practice squad.

"It's huge. It helps a lot," Mullens said on Friday. "I enjoy stepping into the huddle, and just hearing encouragement from our team captains like [Kyle Juszczyk] and George and the veterans like Sanu."

Players aren't the only ones confident in Mullens' chances to lift the 49ers above .500. He has the support of his head coach, too.

"Nick's ready to go," Shanahan told Greg Papa this week. "I'd be very surprised if he doesn't play real well. He's had a great week of practice. Yeah, he got thrown in there in that game, and it was a little bit off — not just him but just everybody.

"It had been a while since a new guy had been in there, just the cadence, and the rhythm of the whole offense seemed off a little bit. But we've had a great week of practice. He's gotten all the reps, and I'm pumped to see him Sunday. And I know our team is confident to go into the game with him."

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