The San Francisco 49ers took advantage of a lackluster Oakland Raiders defense in Week 9, riding the surprisingly hot hand of quarterback Nick Mullens to a 34-3 lopsided win. Let's grade out the Niners' efforts after a victory for a change.


Well, who would have guessed an unproven quarterback like Nick Mullens would end the San Francisco 49ers' losing streak?

But that's what happened, as Mullens' three touchdowns on Thursday Night Football against the Oakland Raiders prompted the Niners' 34-3 victory and second win of 2018.

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Mullens, who was filling in for an injured C.J. Beathard (wrist), wasn't San Francisco's only impressive performance of note, however. The defense, after registering just 16 sacks over the first eight weeks of the season, got to Raiders quarterbacks Derek Carr and A.J. McCarron eight times on the night. Oakland managed just 242 yards through the air during the contest, which is another aspect few likely would have predicted with 49ers defenders Jaquiski Tartt (shoulder) and Reuben Foster (hamstring) ruled out for the contest.

Granted, the Niners' Week 9 grades have to take into account the situation the Raiders find themselves in halfway through the year -- certainly not made better by their loss in Santa Clara Thursday night.

That doesn't mean San Francisco's win is any less fun, though.

Quarterback


Who cares if Mullens' first NFL start was against a Raiders defense? That shouldn't matter. What was more important was how confident and decisive the second-year pro was within the pocket, even if Oakland's pass rush has been nonexistent all year. Mullens' reads weren't all too complicated. But if you thought he was unable to hit tight windows, just watch this completion to tight end George Kittle for 71 yards:


Mullens was 16-of-22 for 262 yards, three touchdowns against zero interceptions -- all for a passer rating of 151.9.

A quarterback controversy on our hands? Perhaps, but let's not go that far yet. Just enjoy the young QB's performance for now.

Grade: A

Running Back


Before suffering what looked to be a fractured forearm (don't click here if you have a weak stomach), running back Raheem Mostert managed some solid efforts on the ground for the third week in a row. He finished with 86 yards on seven carries, including this impressive "Thatch Weave-like" touchdown run behind offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey:


Meanwhile, fellow tailback Matt Breida added 44 yards on 12 carries, while Alfred Morris had 13 of his own on seven rushes.

Mostert's injury stinks, though.

Grade: B

Wide Receiver


Mullens' first touchdown found wide receiver Pierre Garçon, and it was nice to see the veteran get involved after he was the subject of NFL trade deadline conversations earlier this week.

Second-year wideout Kendrick Bourne added a 4-yard touchdown pass of his own.

Interestingly enough, head coach Kyle Shanahan elected to give the Week 9 start to rookie wide receiver Richie James over second-year pro Trent Taylor, who was inactive. James had himself a night, catching two balls for 60 yards after having just one reception for seven the previous eight weeks.

Grade: B+

Tight End


For those who elected to sit tight end George Kittle in fantasy football, likely leery of an unproven quarterback under center (ahem, me), you're kicking yourself.

Kittle was up to his usual ways, including catching that 71-yard pass and finishing the night with 108 total yards and a touchdown to boot. He's easily one of the top five tight ends in the league regardless of who is under center.

Grade: A+

Offensive Line


The Raiders may have a terrible pass rush. But it's still impressive to consider Mullens took zero sacks and only two quarterback hits. So after eight games now, Oakland still has just seven sacks. That's bad. But it's good for the Niners offensive line.

San Francisco's run blockers, particularly McGlinchey, had zero trouble taking advantage of one of the league's worst run defenses Thursday night. Go back and watch Mostert's impressive touchdown run as an example.

Grade: A-

Defensive Line


Have a game, Cassius Marsh. The 49ers EDGE finished with a team-high 2.5 sacks, while DeForest Buckner, Ronald Blair and Solomon Thomas added one each of their own.


Oakland managed 4.4 yards per carry and netted 102 rush yards during the game. But even some of those yards were coming deep into the second half after the Niners were up big. And San Francisco was featuring more of its pass-rushing formations in many of those cases.

Consider this -- the 49ers had 16 sacks before Week 9. They finished this game with half that number alone.

Grade: A

Linebacker


The Niners did some shifting at linebacker with Foster out, putting Malcolm Smith over at WILL and getting Dekoda Watson (previously on injured reserve) back at SAM. Watson added 1.5 sacks of his own during the game and made a massive difference in the front-seven pass rush.

Meanwhile, rookie linebacker Fred Warner led the defense with seven tackles and one pass broken up. And he didn't have issues with missed tackles at all. Neither did San Francisco's defense during the night -- another key reason the team picked up win No. 2 on the year.

Grade: B

Secondary


Well, at least safety Tyvis Powell didn't allow a touchdown. He deflected a pass that somehow found its way into the hands of Raiders running back Jalen Richard and went for a 25-yard gain for Oakland.

After giving up both the Arizona Cardinals' fourth-quarter touchdowns last week, Powell should still feel OK about that missed interception.

The Raiders managed a total of 171 pass yards, which is a testament to the effectiveness of the Niners pass rush. But the secondary held its own too. And kudos to safety Jimmie Ward, who has now played well in three consecutive games, particularly at the back end of the defense. He finished the night with four tackles -- second most on defense behind Warner.

Grade: A

The Niners now have some considerable time off to recuperate injuries and prepare for another one-win team, the New York Giants, who come to town in Week 10 to play on Monday Night Football.

Your prediction homework will be to determine whether it will be Mullens or Beathard who starts.

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 @PeterPanacy on Twitter.