Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports


Three Tests for Nick Mullens and a Chance for More Bonus Points

Bret Rumbeck
Nov 11, 2018 at 8:08 PM


Eighteenth and nineteenth-century sailors setting forth on a global voyage faced plenty of peril: scurvy, pirates and mythical sea monsters. But getting stuck in the doldrums, where the trade winds die, left boats floating aimlessly under a scorching sun and cloudless sky.

After days or weeks of a slow meander, the breeze would finally return and filled the sail with enough air to push the men back on course.

Last week, the Bay Area wind blew into Santa Clara, and riding its back was an undrafted quarterback from Southern Mississippi.

Some may discount quarterback Nick Mullens' huge victory because the Oakland Raiders currently reign atop a mountain of industrial waste, but that's a hollow argument.

Mullens' leadership reenergized a stale offense and a frustrated fan base. He deserves the start today, but I'd like to see him tested in three areas.

Mount a Comeback

Please read a few more words before the comment section collapses under the gravity of negative comments.

Last Thursday, the 49ers' offense was scoring touchdowns at will, which was a welcome change.

However, what happens if the first two or three drives stall Monday night? It might be frustrating to see a return to earth, but it's the first test of Nick Mullens. Do not fear if the Giants are up by 10 points early in the game; here is a big test for Mullens we can enjoy. Can he bring the team back from a deficit and go on to win the game?

It's a fair test of a quarterback, no matter if he's the square-jawed, steely-eyed billion-dollar man or the undrafted kid from Hoover, Alabama.

Close a Game

One of the knocks on quarterback C.J. Beathard is his inability to finish sure victories or put last-minute points on the board when needed.

In Weeks 4, 7 and 8, the 49ers had a chance to close a game and walk away with a win. Against Green Bay, the 49ers ran nine plays on their last three possessions gaining a grand total of four yards.

Obviously, we know how the game ended.

The 49ers' loss to Arizona during Week 8 was similar. Beathard and the offense mustered 57 yards on the final three possessions, averaging 3.17 yards per play. The team punted twice and the game ended on a bad snap from Erik Magnuson.

The 49ers were never close to beating the Los Angeles Rams, but head coach Kyle Shanahan noted the team's need for players who could close games during his October 29 press conference.

"It comes down to, you can do a lot of things throughout a game, but when it comes down to the end when we need to close people out, and we need some closers to do that. We've had some opportunities to do it. This year there's two games in particular that have bothered me the most, this game and the Green Bay game where we've gotten that ball back with a chance to where you just get two first downs, and you can end that game, and we just got one of them."

Unlike the Rams game, the 49ers dominated Oakland on all sides of the ball and a victory was never in doubt. Despite a resounding win, Mullens is in an ideal position to show Shanahan he is the quarterback who can seal victories.

Further, a last-second win or a game-sealing drive could continue to change the mentality of the 49ers for the better and send the crowd at Levi's Stadium into a frenzy.

A Two-Minute Offense

Nothing drives me more insane than watching a team waste time at the end of the half just to get to the locker room and eat orange slices. If Shanahan wants to kick the tires on Mullens, then we need to see Mullens operate a two-minute offense.

These are precious seconds, and using those correctly can add up to wins. Shanahan needs to tear up the conservative play sheet that drains the clock and give Mullens an in-game test. During the remaining games, I'd like to see the 49ers walk into the locker room on a high note with the opposing defense getting an earful for playing lazy.

The 49ers and Shanahan have nothing to lose from seeing Mullens develop this part of his game.

Bonus Point: Here's Where Mullens Succeeded Where Beathard Has Failed

Fans forgot the type of game Shanahan can call when the offense is firing on all cylinders. His offense is not based upon wild route combinations. The multiple pre-snap shifts and various motions set the defense up in the prime position for the offense to attack. After that, Shanahan calls routes that stress weak points or routes that result in a wide-open receiver.

Since Beathard took over for the injured Jimmy Garoppolo, the 49ers' offense has looked stagnant and thoughtless. Some plays worked, but many others fell apart due to a slow read or an errant throw.

Take the play below for example from the Week 8 loss to Arizona.

Week 8 - 1st Quarter, 1st and 10 at the ARI 37, 6:03
There's nothing magical about the route design above. Shanahan's call was stretching a zone defense with two vertical routes while forcing the safety to choose between the stick-post route or tight end George Kittle's vertical. Fullback Kyle Juszczyk ends up being open, but Beathard doesn't see him because he was staring down Kittle. The play resulted in a sack for a nine-yard loss.

All quarterbacks stare down particular receivers on plays. It doesn't make them poor quarterbacks, it's just the way football works. Mullens did it, but he also did a better job of scanning the field and finding open men. He made simple plays, like the one below, look brilliant.

Week 9 - 1st Quarter, 3rd and 4 at the SF 40, 3:40
The top route combination is a smash concept, which has been in the 49ers' playbook since the Harbaugh-Roman era, if not longer. In this situation, the 49ers needed 4 yards for a first down; Garçon ran a seven-yard stop route and kept the drive going.

The crossing routes are as old as the West Coast Offense. Bill Walsh used to run an H-Y cross, which is identical to what you see above.

Ignore the records of both teams playing on Monday. It's a big game for Shanahan, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and Nick Mullens, as the Faithful and football junkies want to see if the team can repeat its Week 9 performance.

All statistics courtesy of NFL.com.
  • Bret Rumbeck
  • Written by:
    Bret Rumbeck has been writing about the 49ers since 2017 for 49ers Webzone and 49ers Hub. He is a Turlock, CA native, and has worked for two members of the US House of Representatives and one US Senator. When not breaking down game film, Bret spends his time seeking out various forms of heavy metal. Feel free to follow him or direct inquiries to @brumbeck.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


0 Comments

  • No Comments

Facebook Comments



More San Francisco 49ers News



With Elijah Mitchell out, 49ers RB Jordan Mason will get his chance to shine

By Rohan Chakravarthi
Nov 28

Since the beginning of the offseason, San Francisco 49ers running back Jordan Mason has made the most of his opportunities, earning praise for his hard-nosed, physical running style that embodied an NFL player. However, due to a variety of circumstances, Mason has yet to see significant NFL action. After Elijah Mitchell suffered a sprained MCL in Week 1, Mason could've seen opportunities behind Jeff Wilson in San Francisco's running back rotation, given his performance in the offseason and style of play. But, the 49ers opted for a different direction, utilizing Wilson as a bell-cow back, significantly decreasing the team's efficiency on the ground, before involving veteran Tevin Coleman, who had a short stint on the active



Three 49ers lead their positions in NFC Pro Bowl voting

By David Bonilla
Nov 28

According to an NFL press release, the following three San Francisco 49ers players lead their respective positions in Pro Bowl votes for the NFC. Fullback Kyle Juszczyk with 78,009 total votes Defensive end Nick Bosa with 72,910 votes Tackle Trent Williams with 30,483 votes For those wondering where some other 49ers players stand, ESPN's Nick Wagoner states that Christian McCaffrey is the second running back in the voting for the NFC, behind Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants. In addition, George Kittle is second among NFC tight ends, behind T.J. Hockenson of



49ers' Nick Bosa on 4th-down sack vs. Saints: "I think it was just a good jump"

By David Bonilla
Nov 27

New Orleans Saints fans were fuming after the game. Many felt that San Francisco 49ers pass rusher Nick Bosa was early off the line of scrimmage on the fourth-down play that led to sack number 11.5 for the defender this season. Even Bosa wasn't sure the play would stand. "It was great. I didn't think it counted, but once I realized it did, I was pretty happy," Bosa told reporters after the 49ers' 13-0 win at Levi's Stadium. A reporter asked Bosa why he felt it might not have counted. "I thought I jumped, but I looked at it," Bosa shared. "I think it was just a good jump." That, of course, led to some laughs from the 49ers media. The talented defensive end went on to discuss the play further. "I think the tackle got off at



Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel on facing 49ers' Kyle Shanahan, Nick Bosa

By David Bonilla
Nov 29

There are a lot of storylines surrounding the upcoming Week 13 matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and the Miami Dolphins. First, it features Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel going up against his former mentor, Kyle Shanahan. It will also feature running backs Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. returning to Levi's Stadium for the first time. But don't discount the storyline of McDaniel being concerned about facing the 49ers defense—specifically, Nick Bosa. On Monday, the Dolphins coach was asked about his concern about game planning for the 49ers' talented pass rusher without left tackle Terron Armstead, who has been ruled out due to a pectoral injury. "If Nick Bosa has a pulse, you're concerned," McDaniel responded (h/t


Featured

More by Bret Rumbeck

More Articles

Share 49ersWebzone