Image Credit: Stan Szeto/USA Today Sports
The San Francisco 49ers wrapped up their 2018 season with a 48-32 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Here’s a roundup of the winners and losers from the finale.
Winner: Tight End George Kittle
George Kittle capped off an incredible season by setting the single season record for yards receiving by a tight end with 1,377. The previous record was held by New England Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski, only to be broken by Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce earlier on Sunday. Kelce’s new record would stand for less than an hour after Kittle took a five-yard out route 43 yards for a touchdown. Kittle flipped the sophomore slump trope on its head while playing with three different quarterbacks. His breakout season has made John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan look like geniuses for selecting him in the fifth round of the 2017 draft.
Loser: 49ers Turnover Differential
The 49ers set an NFL record for fewest turnovers created with only seven on the entire year. The previous record was held by the 1982 Baltimore Colts with 11. On Sunday, they turned the ball over four times while not creating any as a defensive unit. The minus-25 differential was far and away the worst in the league; Tampa Bay was the second worst unit with minus-18.
Winner: 49ers Draft Position
The loss secured the second overall pick for John Lynch and Co. in the 2019 NFL draft. The Arizona Cardinals will own the first selection despite beating the 49ers twice this season. Head coach Kyle Shanahan and his staff will be coaching in the Senior Bowl, which will give them a hands-on chance to get a first look at players they might select at number two.
Loser: Quarterback Nick Mullens
Nick Mullens played like an undrafted free agent on Sunday. He threw three first-half interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown. His poor play, combined with fullback Kyle Juszczyk’s fumble, put the 49ers in an early hole. Mullens did see his numbers get a boost in the second half when the game was out of reach. He finished with 282 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. Mullens has more than likely secured the backup role next season behind Jimmy Garoppolo so it is a little disappointing to see him stumble in his final 2018 outing.
Loser: 49ers Pass Rush
The Achilles’ heel of the defensive unit has been a lack of pass rush and Sunday was no different. They were unable to bring down Rams QB Jared Goff even once. Goff was able to sit in the pocket and pick apart the 49ers’ secondary to the tune of 199 yards and four touchdowns. The pass rush will be one of the biggest areas of focus during the offseason.
Winner: 49ers Offensive Line
Rams’ defensive end Aaron Donald entered the game needing three sacks to break Michael Strahan’s single season record. During the first matchup, Donald dominated the 49ers OL by racking up four sacks and multiple tackles behind the line of scrimmage. This time around, Donald managed to bring down Nick Mullens only once and the 49ers kept him out of the record book. Overall, they did a good job to pave the way for RB Alfred Morris to rush for 111 yards and kept Mullens relatively clean.
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