Earlier this week, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said he had faith that Nick Mullens could run the offense if called upon Thursday night.
That proved to be an understatement.
Mullens, called upon to start against the Oakland Raiders on a nationally televised Thursday night game at Levi's Stadium, was the best thing to happen to the San Francisco offense since Jimmy Garoppolo was plugged into the lineup last year about this time.
Of course, Garoppolo is out for the season with an injury and his backup, C.J. Beathard hurt his right wrist this past Sunday, putting Mullens – who’d never thrown a pass in an NFL regular-season game – into his first NFL start.
Yet from the start, Mullens was brilliant in San Francisco’s 34-3 victory.
The second-year man from Southern Mississippi, who went undrafted and was on the San Francisco practice squad last season and at the start of this one, completed 16-of-22 throws for 262 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s the first 49ers QB to throw for three TDs in his first start since Tim Rattay in 2003. Mullens led the 49ers to TDs on their first two drives, hitting Pierre Garcon for 24 yards for the first score and Kendrick Bourne 4 yards for the second.
By halftime the 49ers were up 17-3. They then added two TDs in the third quarter on Mullen’s 5-yard pass to tight end George Kittle and a 52-yard run by Raheem Mostert to go up 31-3. San Francisco added a Robbie Gould field goal late in the game to complete the scoring.
The victory by the 49ers improves their record to 2-7 and drops the Raiders to 1-7.
Oakland’s defense, once again, was incapable of doing much, just as it couldn’t stop Indianapolis last weekend over the second half. This time, the Raiders gave up 405 total yards on an average of 7.5 yards per snap and allowed Mullens and Co. to convert 41 percent of its third-down plays. On offense, the Raiders didn’t commit a turnover, but also couldn’t sustain drives. Derek Carr completed 16-of-21 throws for just 171 yards. Eventually Carr, under constant pressure and sacked five times by the 49ers, was replaced by A.J. McCarron near the end of the game.
The one consolation prize for the Raiders was the loss drops them into a tie with the New York Giants for the worst record in the NFL in the race to earn the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft.
The 49ers won’t return to action until Monday night, Nov. 12, vs. the Giants. The Raiders will play the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, Nov. 11 in Oakland.
The question now for the 49ers is, if Beathard is healthy next week, will he start again … or will Mullens get another shot?