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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Mullens blames self, Shanahan blames group for 49ers offensive issues against Eagles

Oct 4, 2020 at 10:00 PM--

After notching a 36-9 win over the New York Giants in Week 3 when everything seemed to be clicking on offense, things took a significant turn in the wrong direction for quarterback Nick Mullens and the San Francisco 49ers Sunday night in a 25-20 upset loss at home to the previously winless Philadelphia Eagles.

What went wrong for the 49ers against the Eagles? Some credit certainly should go to the Eagles defense, particularly for the way it was able to generate pressure up front (five sacks). But there were plenty of areas on which the 49ers could have played better on offense, as 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan mentioned after the game.

"I think it was on everybody," Shanahan said. "That's a good front. They did that to the team they played last week. Some's on play-calling, some's on Nick, some's on all of us. We've got to play better all around."

Mullens in particular had a rough night for the 49ers as he had three turnovers (two interceptions, one fumble) while putting up 200 yards on 18 of 26 passing with one touchdown before being benched in the fourth quarter in favor of C.J. Beathard. Mullens seemed out of rhythm throughout much of the game and wasn't quite able to pinpoint the reason why.

"That's a good question and I'm kind of wondering that myself," Mullens told reporters following the game. "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."

Both of Mullens' interceptions were especially costly, with the first coming in the red zone in the second quarter with the Eagles up 8-7 and the second resulting in a fourth-quarter pick-six that put the Eagles up 25-14. Mullens said there was too much risk taken on his part during his first interception, which was grabbed by safety Rodney McLeod at the Eagles' six-yard line.

"I was rolling out to my right. I saw the defender in front of the crosser," Mullens said. "I thought he could outrun him, so I tried to just lay it out in front, but the defender came from behind. He cut it off. It's an opportunity ball, it's a risky throw, and that's what happens when you take unnecessary risks, especially down in the (red zone)."

The second interception, which was returned for a touchdown by linebacker Alex Singleton, came with just under six minutes left to play in the game. It was hard to know what Mullens was thinking on the play while watching the game live, but he told reporters it was a matter of not putting enough air on the ball to get it where it needed to go.

"We had a 14-yard stop route," Mullens said. "The linebacker, I saw him, I knew he was getting under it but the ball just didn't come off right. I was going to have to put it over him a little bit but the ball just didn't come off right and it unfortunately went right to him."

Shanahan put the blame on Mullens for the first interception but took some of the blame for the pick-six himself.

"The first one he just missed the throw," Shanahan said. "He's got to get it out there or check it down to Juice (fullback Kyle Juszczyk) beneath him. 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 he threw it into double coverage -- just a bad decision. But he had no other choice on the play. He had to just take it."

It also seemed like the 49ers had some problems up front with the Eagles at times, including Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams, who had an uncharacteristically off night. Shanahan admitted Williams wasn't at his best against the Eagles but said there was much more to the offense's struggles than just one player.

"He's healthy, just didn't have one of his best games," Shanahan said. "I'll see more when I watch the film tonight, but I thought as a whole the entire offense struggled a little bit. Right when we did get some things going it was really one weak link on each play that got us in some bad situations and cost us some drives. I expect him to do better and expect all of us to do better."

Mullens didn't see much of an issue with the offensive line at all, at least when it came to pass blocking.

"They had a pretty good pass rush, but I thought our guys up front did a really good job, actually," Mullens said. "I really wasn't too worried about the pressure and things like that. I felt pretty calm back there, felt relaxed, felt focused."

Mullens didn't think pregame preparation was an issue either. The 49ers were open about how well they prepared coming into their win against the Giants, and Mullens thinks things went well again in that area this week.

"I feel like we had a really good week of practice," Mullens said. "Mentally I felt really sharp throughout the week of practice. I thought we were working hard and executing well. Even during the game, the defense executed at a very high level, and I feel like if I would have completed the passes, we would have executed at a very high level. So no, I don't think that was an excuse."

Regardless of what went wrong and who was responsible, the 2-2 49ers now find themselves in a tough spot in the NFC West, sitting two games back of the unbeaten Seattle Seahawks with the biggest challenges of their schedule still to come. They'll have to turn things around next week at home against the 1-3 Miami Dolphins (1:05 p.m. PDT), and Mullens will certainly need to play much better -- if he's even in the starting lineup.

"It seemed good in pregame warmups and stuff, but that happens," Shanahan said. "You started the play with two passes and miss both of them. I thought we'd give him the chance to get going, get him in a little bit of a rhythm. It seems like whenever we did, something else came up and just wasn't able to get him into much of a rhythm today. I know he had a tough challenge going against that front and everything, but I know and Nick knows he can play better."

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