Much has been made of the 49ers injury list in this young season. So much so that the team should consider changing its name to the 49IRS rather than the 49ers.
However, after dispatching the lowly Jets last week, Sunday was a stark reminder of how much depth and quality coaching this San Francisco team possesses as the Niners’ B-Team crush the Giants 36-9.
The Tail of the Tape
Despite the lopsided score, there was a certain uncertainty in the air up until the end of the third quarter. Kyle Shanahan told NBC’s Peter King that “it was 16-9 [late in the third quarter] and finally we just wore ‘em down took over. It was really tough in the first half”.
The Giants held up well for the first three and a half quarters. However, a Fred Warner interception just before half-time led to a 49ers field goal to make the score 16-6.
Daniel Jones, who did some good things on Sunday, and the Giants looked to make a game of it. Especially when 49ers corner Emmanuel Moseley went out with a concussion, leaving Dontae Johnson to fill his place. Jones picked on Johnson initially as the fourth-string corner struggled early. However, the Niners defence rallied, refused to allow the Giants into the endzone and handed the game over to the offence.
As Shanahan said, by the end of the third quarter, the Giants defence had been subject to a barrage of masterful play-calling by Shanahan – a Hall of Fame offensive mind. Nick Mullens was in stride, picking apart the Giants secondary with impeccable timing. The run game was punishing and rookie Brandon Aiyuk flourished whenever he got the ball.
By the middle of the fourth quarter, the Giants had shrunk and rolled over as the Niners get back West with two wins.
49ers Offensive Players Of The Week
Nick Mullens: First of all, let me get this out of the way. There is no quarterback controversy in San Francisco. Mullens did look fantastic, however, Jimmy Garoppolo was PFF’s highest-graded quarterback of Week Two – because he was playing the Jets! Just as Mullens was playing the Giants! For all intents and purposes, the Giants and Jets are Tweedledum and Tweedledee of the NFL.
When Garoppolo is 100% healthy – he will be back.
With that said, Mullens proved once again that he is the second-best backup quarterback in the NFL, only behind Nick Foles of the Chicago Bears. Mullens threw for 343 yards, 1 touchdown and 0 interceptions on Sunday, with a completion percentage of 69.44% and a yards per attempt of 9.53.
Outside of the stats, Mullens was a reassuring presence in the pocket, who struggled to push the ball downfield early, but once the UDFA got into a rhythm, it was night-night Giants.
If Mullens is to start again next week against the Eagles, do not expect a repeat performance. Although, Mullens has proven he is to be respected in this league.
Jerick McKinnon: This week, speaking to Greg Papa, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan recalled a conversation he had with Jerick McKinnon prior to the running back signing a restructured contract ahead of the 2020 season.
Shanahan said, “He said, ‘Hey, Kyle, I just need to know if I’m coming back, I want to make sure there are no limitations on me,’”. Well, Shanahan made true on that promise, as both Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman were out for the game against the Giants.
McKinnon played 48 snaps the Niners, recording 38 yards rushing, 39 yards receiving and 1 total touchdown in the process. On an offence bereft of premier talent, McKinnon stepped up the plate and demonstrated how proficient he is in a modern-day NFL offence.
It was reported after the game that McKinnon suffered bruised upper ribs and it was questionable whether or not he will feature against the Eagles. Nevertheless, it’s believed to be a minor injury and if McKinnon is to miss any time, it is sure to be only one week.
Brandon Aiyuk: When Deebo Samuel returns (expected to be Week Five against the Dolphins) opposing defences are going to have their head’s spinning trying to stop the two dynamic pass-catchers.
Aiyuk flashed in a big way against the Giants, amassing 70 yards receiving and 31 rushing (101 yards of total offence) to go along with a touchdown.
Aiyuk had a quiet first-half but became far more aggressive in the second, becoming Mullens’ number one target on drop-backs. If the rookie can stay healthy this season then expect his name to come up in the offensive rookie of the year conversation come January.
49ers Defensive Players of the Week
Jason Verrett: The injury-stricken, yet talented, corner made his much-anticipated return to action on Sunday – and did so in remarkable fashion.
The veteran stepped up big in Richard Sherman’s absence and made multiple plays, the highlight of which included a diving pass break up.
IF, and I mean IF, the former All-Pro can stay healthy, then a one-two cornerback tandem of him and Richard Sherman is a tasty prospect for 49er fans.
Fred Warner: The best linebacker in the National Football League. On an injury-stricken 49er defence, mike linebacker Fred Warner is a calming veteran presence.
Warner showed up again on Sunday, intercepting Daniel Jones at a pivotal moment at the end of the second quarter to set up a field goal for the Niners.
Per Rob Lowder on Twitter, Warner revealed that the Niners defence had been discussing that Giants play all week and that safety, Jaquiski Tartt, called it out prior to the snap. Warner then knew exactly what to do and was in the position to make the play.
Dion Joran: Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day, in rotation with Ziggy Ansah, Dion Jordan had a productive day against the Giants.
Jordan recovered a fumble, hit the quarterback twice, registered one TFL and sacked Jones once. Now, Jones, who has had trouble off the field with suspensions and injuries, is no Nick Bosa. Although, if the edge defender can maintain this level of steady play then it will be a big help for this Niner defence.
To Sum Up…
To sum up… it was a masterclass performance from Kyle Shanahan. He used Nick Mullens as a puppet, marching up and down the field, forcing the New York Football Giants into submission by the fourth quarter.
Although this team is banged up, the coaching advantage is often times insurmountable for the opposition for most weeks.
The pathetic 0-2-1 Philadelphia Eagles await the 49ers on the West Coast next week. Despite the Eagles record, they are still a dangerous team with a litany of talent across their roster. It just so happens that they aren’t playing well at the moment.
At the end of the day, the vast majority of injured Niners will come back at some point this season, and when they do return, and this team has some semblance of health, then they will not go quietly into that goodnight like so many pundits have forecasted this season.
One way or another, the Revenge Tour 2020 still marches on.
And as always, continue to be part of the discussion at Overtime Heroics!