3 ways SF 49ers stay in contention amid brutal injuries

Nick Bosa #97 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Nick Bosa #97 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /
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Nick Mullens, SF 49ers
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens #4 (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

No. 2: SF 49ers needs Nick Mullens must play well

As the saying goes, a strong running game is a quarterback’s best friend. If Nick Mullens does play Sunday against the Giants, he needs to live by that saying.

After suffering a high-ankle sprain in the first half of Sunday’s win, Jimmy Garoppolo did not play in the second half at all. Kyle Shanahan stated Sunday Garoppolo’s status for the Giants game was uncertain.

High-ankle sprains can be tricky, though, and can require more time to heal than a typical ankle sprain. Add to that the feeling from both the players and Shanahan that the MetLife Stadium was and is a dangerous surface to play on, and Shanahan may opt to hold Garoppolo out anyway.

If that’s the case, Mullens will be making his first start since 2018. In his eight games played that year, Mullens had 13 touchdowns with 10 interceptions, completing 64.2 percent of his passes for 2,277 yards. He actually played the Giants in Week 10 that year in place of then second-string QB C.J. Beathard, who had played in place of an injured Garoppolo.

The results were not that good.

Although Mullens completed 27 of 39 passes, with 250 yards and a touchdown, he also threw two interceptions. The latter interception led to the Giants’ winning score in a 27-23 loss for the Niners.

Both teams have turned over quite a few players since that contest, so the slate is clean. Mullens, should he start, must rely on the running game, use play action to move coverage in the Giants secondary and, most importantly, be accurate.

Mullens is decisive in his reads and releasing the football. He will, however, need to anticipate well to cover for a lack of arm strength, especially on out routes.

With Shanahan calling the offense, the team should be able to move the ball down the field with Mullens under center. Utilizing tight end Jordan Reed in the absence of George Kittle paid dividends in Week 2, with Reed hauling in seven catches for 50 yards and two touchdowns.  Mullens should be able to find Reed and slot receiver Trent Taylor, especially for third-down conversions. The Giants defense is allowing nearly 55 percent (17-of-31) of third-down conversions through two weeks of the season.

Mullens should be able to make plays against this Giants defense to extend drives. With running back Saquan Barkley out for the season with an ACL tear of his own, the Giants offense may struggle to take time off the clock and win the time of possession, leaving their defense on the field longer.

This should favor the SF 49ers and the offense as the game progresses into the fourth quarter.