49ers recap: Mullens can’t keep pace with Winston and Bucs’ passing attack

San Francisco 49ers Tampa Bay Buccaneers Week 12 recap
Mike Evans #13 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Richard Sherman #25 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Will Vragovic/Getty Images) /

Quarterback Nick Mullens and the San Francisco 49ers’ offense were no match for Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston, who led the Bucs to a 27-9 victory over the visiting Niners.

Sunday’s Week 12 matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was an excellent demonstration of how quarterback pressure can affect the outcome of an NFL football game.

49ers quarterback Nick Mullens was under constant duress throughout the contest, while Bucs QB Jameis Winston‘s uniform wouldn’t have required a post-game wash if not for the fourth-year quarterback’s 24 rushing yards on the day.

Mullens — who wasn’t sacked in either of his first two NFL starts — was brought to the turf four times on Sunday, and was pressured or hit on numerous pass attempts. Mullens finished the day with just 221 passing yards and a touchdown on 32 attempts, and threw a pair of interceptions in the latter half of the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, Winston — who entered the game with 11 interceptions in less than four games worth of action — finished the day with a clean sheet to go along with his clean uniform, despite his 38 pass attempts. When the 49ers rarely brought pressure, Winston reverted to his turnover-prone self, but San Francisco was unable to corral any of the quarterback’s errant throws.

After trading punts to start the game, The Buccaneers struck first with a short touchdown reception by tight end Cameron Brate. The key play of the drive was a 42-yard pass on third down from Winston to wide receiver Mike Evans, with 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman in coverage:

After two additional punts by San Francisco, Mullens executed a nine-play drive that culminated in a 13-yard touchdown reception by rookie wide receiver Dante Pettis, who finished the game with a team-high 77 receiving yards. Unfortunately for the 49ers, kicker Robbie Gould missed the following extra-point try:

The Buccaneers ended the first half with a pair of field goals, and a 13-6 lead. The 49ers drove the length of the field to begin the second half, and appeared to score on two consecutive plays, but were forced to kick a field goal when the officiating crew declared the Niners short of the goal line on both attempts.

The 49ers’ failure to punch the ball into the end zone proved to be the turning point in the game, as Bucs quickly responded with a 75-yard drive and a short touchdown run by running back Peyton Barber:

Tampa Bay followed up their quick score with an 85-yard drive that took five minutes off the game clock. Winston put the nail in the 49ers’ coffin by avoiding San Francisco’s four-man rush before hitting wideout Adam Humphries with this 28-yard touchdown pass:

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49ers tight end George Kittle was relatively quiet during today’s game, as Mullens’ top target hauled in six passes for just 48 receiving yards. Niners running back Matt Breida was his normal explosive self, but his 106 yards on the ground and 34 yards through the air weren’t enough to counter Tampa Bay’s passing attack.