If ever there was a quarterback controversy surrounding the San Francisco 49ers, that was put to bed Sunday night. After backup quarterback Nick Mullens’ strong performance in a 36-9 win two weeks ago over the Giants, talk began to generate regarding if quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo should get his starting spot back when he returns from his high-ankle injury.
That will no longer be a topic of conversation. On national television, Mullens and the 49ers looked terrible in a 25-20 home loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Mullens never looked comfortable under center. From missing open passes, to throwing head-scratching interceptions, Mullens had perhaps his worst game as a professional. Mullens finished the game with 200 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. The first interception he threw came in the red zone, which cost the 49ers points. And the final interception came late in the game and resulted in a pick-6.
Mullens was eventually benched for CJ Bethard. In his first action since 2018, Bethard went 14 for 19 in the fourth quarter. Bethard gave the 49ers a chance to win the game, but on the final play, a heave into the end zone landed on the ground and not in the hands of a San Francisco receiver.
For the second game in a row, San Francisco had trouble running the ball. Jerick McKinnon had a team-high 54 yards on 14 carries. As a team, the 49ers rushed for 116 yards on 20 attempts. Perhaps the best run of the evening came on a carry by rookie Brandon Aiyuk. The speedy receiver was able to get into the flat, break a number of tackles and then hurdle a defender on his way to a 38-yard touchdown.
In a game that didn’t feature a lot to feel good about, the return of all-pro tight end George Kittle was the exception. In his first game back on the field since the opening contest of the season, Kittle picked up right where he left off. Kittle had a game-high 183 yards receiving on 15 receptions with one touchdown.
The loss of defensive end Nick Bosa has really been on full display the past few games. San Francisco was unable to put a major pass rush on Philadelphia quarterback Carson Wentz, which allowed him to have all the time he needed to complete passes.
And just like every week, the injuries continue to pile up. Newly signed defensive end Ziggy Anash is out for the year with a torn bicep and cornerback K’Waun Williams is likely headed to the injured reserve with a knee sprain.
The loss pushes the 49ers to 2-2 on the season. The good news is there could be some fresh bodies returning to the field. Linebacker Dre Greenlaw, running back Raheem Mostert and possibly Garoppolo could be back sooner, rather than later. And this week the practice window is opened for cornerback Richard Sherman to return to action, after being placed on short-term injured reserve with a calf injury.
The 49ers look to return to the win column as they take on the Miami Dolphins (1-3). The last time they took the field, the Dolphins lost to the undefeated Seattle Seahawks 31-23. On paper, the Dolphins should be a team who San Francisco should be able to beat, but the same was said last week against Philadelphia.
If the 49ers can somehow figure out a way to put pressure on Miami quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and get back to running the ball with authority, a win should be in the cards. If the 49ers do win, perhaps it’ll be another close game. The prediction is San Francisco 23, Miami 17.