Winners and Losers From the Monday Night Loss to the Giants
Image Credit: Andrew Giesemann
With 101 yards and one touchdown on 17 rushes and another 31 yards and touchdown on three receptions, it is easy to state that Matt Breida is the focal point of the offense. His 20 touches for 132 yards and two touchdowns was his best games since Week 2 against the Lions. Kyle Shanahan let us know that he envisioned a two lead-back backfield with Jerick McKinnon and Breida before McKinnon went down with an injury. That tells fans to look forward to the hybrid backfield next season.
Quickly becoming one of the most popular players on the 49ers roster, Kittle had another huge game. With nine receptions on ten targets for 83 yards, Kittle came just short of back-to-back 100-yard games. The obvious focal point of the passing game, Kittle is not so quietly putting in an All-Pro season together for the 2-8 squad. Side note, if you search George Kittle, the fourth automatic search is if he has a girlfriend, the Kittle train has fully left the station.
After the game Shanahan let everyone know that Mullens would be the starter moving forward. A UDFA who spent last year on the practice squad, Mullens is showing that he was putting in real work behind the scenes the last season and a half. He is showing real command of the offense and understanding of where players should be. He spread the ball to seven different receivers. His statistics (27/39, 250 yards, touchdown, 2 interceptions) were not what they were against the Raiders, the first interception wasn’t his fault, and the second interception was, it appeared, just plain bad luck. He routinely converted third downs (61%), and had his teammates rallying around him for a comeback attempt. If Mullens can continue to perform on an upward curve and show a better command and decision making in the offense, he will force John Lynch to re-sign him and look for a trade partner for C.J. Beathard this off-season.
Uncle Sherm continues to show that he was the best off-season addition for the team. His leadership through his play and his teaching on and off the field is invaluable. He is right there to support his teammates, such as Ahkello Witherspoon, and teach them while on the field. As much as my thirty-year-old self would hate to hear me say this, but he definitely walks the walk when he talks the talk.
It’s easy to pick on a guy playing in the NFL when you’re watching the game from your couch, sipping on soda and yelling at people who will never hear you. Smith had a rough game. The pass interference call against him killed the team. His coverage down the seam against Ingram, helping to keep the Niners in the game at that point was great. He just hasn’t delivered at a high, or even moderately high level, on a regular basis, game to game. If he keeps putting this level of play on film, look for Lynch and Shanahan to replace him in the off-season, unless he doesn’t even make it that long.
Personally, I thought he played OBJ perfectly on the pass-interference play. Well, almost perfectly. If he could have just turned his head it would have been perfect. Sherman has been vouching for his cornerback partner all season, and I tend to trust his eye test over mine, but Witherspoon finds himself in the loser column due to the fact that the 49er Twitter fans will be unfairly calling for his resignation.
Since flashing a lot of potential the first week of the season, Pettis has not delivered to his draft status. Shanahan tried to use him in space, throwing wide-receiver screens to him, but they amounted to only four catches for 12 yards. He is slowly losing ground to Kendrick Bourne for being the replacement for Pierre Garcon in 2019. One has to wonder if he is still more injured than he is letting on.
People will continue to call for his job when his players get the quarterback only once against one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. He doesn’t have the players to get continual pressure, but as a coach one must figure out how to succeed with the pieces he has. Shanahan is running one of the better offenses with a third-string quarterback and a second-string running back ( who’s really a RB1). Saleh has enough talent in places to be stopping opposing offenses more often. I think that Shanahan is very loyal and the front office will sign and draft edge players this off-season, and Shanahan will give him one more year to implement the defense with all the pieces in place.
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