X

Nick Mullens Leads 49ers to Stunning Blowout Win over Raiders in NFL Debut

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistNovember 2, 2018

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens throws a pass against the Oakland Raiders during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Ben Margot/Associated Press

Nick Mullens has the best quarterback winning percentage in NFL history.

The second-year player led the San Francisco 49ers to a 34-3 victory over the Oakland Raiders in Thursday's Bay Area battle at Levi's Stadium in his first career start. San Francisco improved to 2-7, while Oakland dropped to 1-7 overall and 0-4 on the road.

The Southern Mississippi product went 16-of-22 for 262 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions, while Derek Carr countered with 16-of-22 for 171 yards, zero touchdowns and zero interceptions.

It wasn't just the quarterbacks who contributed, as Raheem Mostert, George Kittle, Pierre Garcon and Kendrick Bourne all scored touchdowns for the victors.

                  

Oakland Is Thursday's Real Winner

The scoreboard tells a different story, but the Raiders were the real winner Thursday.

It's a lost season for both teams, but Oakland and San Francisco are locked in a battle with the 2-6 Buffalo Bills, 1-7 New York Giants and 2-5-1 Cleveland Browns for the top pick in the 2019 NFL draft. Landing a top-notch prospect is far more important for these rebuilding squads than an early-November victory.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller projected defensive linemen Ed Oliver and Nick Bosa as the top two picks in his latest mock draft, which could work for a 49ers defense that entered play 28th in the league in points allowed per game and an Oakland defense that entered play 31st.

The Raiders have already kick-started their rebuilding efforts by trading wide receiver Amari Cooper to the Dallas Cowboys for a first-round pick. They also dealt pass-rusher Khalil Mack (along with a 2020 second-round pick and 2020 conditional fifth-round pick) to the Chicago Bears for a 2019 first-round pick, 2020 first-round pick, 2020 third-round pick and 2019 sixth-round pick.

Head coach Jon Gruden signed a 10-year deal with the team this past offseason and has his eyes on the future with those moves.

As for San Francisco, it already has its franchise quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo but needs to add talent around him to compete in the NFC West.

The 49ers picked up a second win, but Oakland benefited in the long term.

                            

Mullens' Big Night Reinforces Kyle Shanahan as Man for Job Despite 49ers' Record

Head coach Kyle Shanahan made Mullens look like the second coming of Joe Montana for stretches during Thursday's game, and he wasn't working with a roster full of All-Pro talent.

San Francisco demonstrated notable improvement under Shanahan last season by winning its final five games, but the momentum was cut short when running back Jerick McKinnon and Garoppolo suffered season-ending torn ACLs before Week 3 was finished.

While Kittle is talented at tight end, Mullens wasn't exactly throwing to Randy Moss and Jerry Rice at wide receiver. Yet he connected with Garcon, Richie James Jr., Marquise Goodwin and Bourne throughout. 

What's more, Alfred Morris was the only healthy running back on the roster to run for 500 yards in a season before 2018, and that came in 2014 when he was in his prime with Washington.

Despite all that, Shanahan schemed receivers open, starting on the first possession when Mullens capped a six-play, 75-yard drive with a touchdown pass to Garcon with no defenders anywhere near him. Mullens hit Bourne for a touchdown on the second drive, and it was all 49ers from there.

The coaching advantage was even apparent in the ground game when Mostert had nothing but running room on a pitch play that resulted in a 52-yard score.

It wasn't all schematics, as Kittle flashed his head-turning talent with a one-handed catch on the second-half's first possession. That set up a Mullens-to-Kittle score.

Shanahan was an offensive coordinator from 2008 through 2016 for the Houston Texans, Washington, Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons. He helped lead the Falcons to the 2016 Super Bowl with an explosive offense and hasn't lost his touch.

If Shanahan can make Mullens, Mostert and Kittle look like parts of a dynamic offense, it suggests great things will come when Garoppolo returns and the 49ers add talent.

This season is one to forget, but San Francisco's future is still bright with Shanahan in charge.

                

What's Next?

Both teams will be home in Week 10, as the 49ers host the New York Giants and the Raiders host the Los Angeles Chargers.