Coming off a big win against the Raiders, there’s good reason to be excited about the outlook for the rest of the season. CJ Beathard’s replacement at quarterback provided a much-needed spark to a team that seemed destined to lose out through 2018 - albeit against a team that is probably destined to lose out through 2018. Is it too soon off the high of the victory to declare the win “fool’s gold” and resume keeping both eyes on the offseason? Long answer short, we’ve just got to wait.
The Raiders defense is bad. Like, really bad. Unbelievably bad. Their coverage of the passing game was horrible - frequently blown coverages aside, the Raiders seemed to have difficulty scheming their players into position, or making plays when the chance was available. Going simply by the eye-test and a 24+ hour memory of the game, it seemed like the Raiders were consistently sending a minimum of five defenders at the undrafted QB who was playing his first game in the NFL.
Obviously, it’s not an ill-advised strategy, but the anemic Raiders pass rush (which had the potential to be gamebreakingly devastating just a few short season ago by teaming Khalil Mack with Aldon Smith) relied on volume of bodies, because they just didn’t have the juice to win on individual matchups. This strategy left the secondary undermanned, which likely contributed to Mullens’ big day through the air. Credit is certainly due to Mullens for beating the blitz regularly, and criticism is more than deserved for the Raiders secondary who seemed out-of-position throughout much of the game.
Back to the thesis - was the W against the Raiders fool’s gold? Mullens put together some solid tape in his first start, but we’re left with a chicken-and-egg conundrum. Is Mullens’ success due to innate intangibles that will translate from opponent to opponent, or did he manage to Matt Flynn himself into relevance by the fortune of being slotted in for Raiders week? I wish I had a better answer for you, but we’re stuck with “sample size!” as perhaps the best answer right now. Considering that Kyle Shanahan has yet to name a starting QB for next week, there exists a chance that this sample size may not increase for quite some time.
Nick Mullens by the numbers | Johnson, NBC Sports Bay Area
Kyle Shanahan on why Nick Mullens went undrafted | KNBR Staff
George Kittle by the numbers | Johnson, NBC Sports Bay Area
George Kittle’s breakout season | Almquist, KNBR