Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

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Film From the Field House: What to Expect With Nick Mullens at Quarterback

Bret Rumbeck
Sep 26, 2020 at 8:00 AM


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The San Francisco 49ers had their bounce-back game in Week 2 after a successful trouncing of the woeful New York Jets. Both sides of the ball looked far more polished, with only a handful of errors sprinkled throughout the game.

However, nothing sums up the 49ers' win more than a meme that made the rounds of Twitter on Sunday afternoon.

Young Gamora: Did you do it?
Thanos: Yes.
Young Gamora: What did it cost?
Thanos: Everything.

Though 'everything' still seems too light a word to describe the outcome.

Defensive end Nick Bosa and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas suffered season-ending knee injuries within moments of each other. Their combined loss will take away the threatening punch of the NFL's best defensive line.

Running back Raheem Mostert, who opened the game with an 80-yard touchdown run, sprained his MCL but will miss this week's game due to his second child's birth.

The 49ers ruled out tight end George Kittle due to a knee injury suffered in Week 1, and also noted running back Tevin Coleman will be inactive.

Fans also breathed a sigh of relief when learning quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo's high-ankle sprain will keep him off the MetLife turf and safely watching from a distance.

Garoppolo played a brilliant half against the Jets, considering he injured his ankle just under four minutes into the ball game. He completed 14 passes on 16 attempts for 131 yards and two touchdowns.

Back-up quarterback Nick Mullens has plenty of experience in head coach Kyle Shanahan's system and took all the first-team reps this week. Shanahan noted on KNBR Friday morning that the offense would not change because Mullens is calling the plays.

He also took a moment to praise his back-up.

"Nick's a machine. He prepares as hard as anyone I've ever been around. He knows the offense inside and out. When he's given reps in practice, specific reps like he's gotten all this week, he's very crisp and prepared for every moment that he has."

There is plenty Shanahan can learn from the 49ers' win as he finalizes his game plan for another trip to MetLife Stadium.

1st Quarter: 1st and 10 at the SF 20 (14:53)


The 49ers' offensive line did not have its best day pass blocking, but it did help 49er running backs tally 182 combined yards on the ground.


Shanahan used '18 Force' at least three times during the game with massive success, including an opening game touchdown run.

On Mostert's touchdown run, center Ben Garland made an excellent block on the middle linebacker, while wide receiver Kendrick Bourne's block on the safety helped keep Mostert running free.

'Force' is an outside zone run that attacks the strong side edge of the formation. I highly expect Shanahan to give the Giants a heavy dose of 'Force,' while also attacking the weak side with 'Wanda' runs.

It would not surprise me to see Shanahan call 'Suzy,' which looks like a weak side run, but then has the fullback and running back snap back to the strong side. 'Suzy' would be an excellent big-gain play to call when the Giants sleep through a defensive series.

1st Quarter: 1st and 10 at the SF 20 (12:24)



Two plays before Garoppolo's injury, Shanahan called a play-action that gained only four yards. Typically, a four-yard play is not worth a review or a breakdown, but play-action and movement plays are critical to Shanahan's offensive success. Garoppolo was able to succeed without them in the first half, but expect more of these on Sunday, especially to get Mullens far away from the interior offensive line.


I like 'Keep Right F Slide' because it floods the right side of the field, cutting the area in half and giving Mullens easier reads deep, intermediate, and short. The 'slide' route is a nice complement to the 'sift' blocks Shanahan uses on certain run plays.

3rd Quarter: 2nd and 15 at the SF 20 (6:58)


Mullens has always played with no fear when he's had his opportunities to be behind center. He may not always make the right read, but he is aggressive and isn't afraid to thread the needle.


For example, take a look at this throw to Bourne on 'X Attack' with just under seven minutes left in the third quarter.


Mullens threw to Bourne with anticipation, even with three defenders in the area. Bourne gained the 15 yards to give the 49ers a fresh set of downs. Unfortunately, an atrocious block from right tackle Mike McGlinchey three plays later led to an interception.

4th Quarter: 2nd and 8 at the SF 25 (13:02)


No 49er game is complete without Shanahan calling a dagger route at least once.


Last season, the 49ers had success with the dagger concept, especially to rookie wide receiver Deebo Samuel.

It's also a versatile play; Shanahan can use it with Jet or Scat protection, as he did in the 2nd quarter, or use it in a play-action as he did near the beginning of the 4th quarter. Dagger is also easy to spot. The inside receiver will run a 'deep thru' route while the outside receiver runs a 'dover' route.

The 'deep thru' is the first read on the play and sets the tone for success. The receiver must choose the angle at the near-high safety, about 14 yards downfield. If there are two safeties, he'll take a soft angle toward the middle of the field. If there is one safety, he will cut sharply toward the post.


Mullens found Bourne on the 'dover' route in the middle of the field for a huge 24-yard gain.

This week's game is a huge mental test for the 49ers and what the team can do without the bulk of its all-star players. The Giants have the worst offense in professional football. Their offensive line has allowed seven sacks, with a ground game that has only racked up a total of 104 yards over two games.

The 49ers' defense needs to set the tone early with a few sacks and a turnover, and Mullens needs to take advantage of any momentum shifts throughout the afternoon.

Don't expect total domination from the 49ers, but they will leave the Garden State 2-1 after beating the Giants 24-10.

All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference unless noted.
All images 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.


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