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Mistakes mount for Mullens as the 49ers lose 41-33 against the Cowboys

Shanahan expected a different result from Mullens despite a half season’s worth of evidence.

San Francisco 49ers v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers offense picked up where they left off last week as the first drive included a drop and a penalty. The Niners had a sack-fumble and a muffed punt in the first quarter. That spotted the Cowboys 14 points, not even halfway through first. It felt like it would be that type of game.

When San Francisco didn’t turn the ball over, they moved the ball. Weird, isn’t it? Raheem Mostert felt like he was close to breaking one of his touches on a few occasions. The running game was rolling, as Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. combined for 17 carries to rush for 83 yards early on. The play-action passing game was there, and Nick Mullens even made a few plays with his legs. The offense punched it in on a shovel pass to Brandon Aiyuk to make the score 17-14.

Dallas was fortunate on offense during the first half. The 49ers' defense missed a few tackles to give the Cowboys a first down. On one third down, Richard Sherman made life far too easy and gave Michael Gallup too much space. The Cowboys averaged 5.8 yards per pass and 2.8 yards per rush before they took over prior to the two-minute warning.

Dallas elected to attempt a 60-yard field goal with 27 seconds left in the half, which was a terrible decision. But San Francisco couldn’t move the ball at midfield before the half, which kept the score 17-14.

The broadcast struggled during the first half. They called Trent Williams “Trent Brown.” They also said Jaylon Smith was in coverage on CeeDee Lamb. The announcers and the players were off.

The defense came out hot to start the second half as Javon Kinlaw, who earlier was responsible for Arik Armstead’s first sack, beat his man for a TFL. Then, Fred Warner had a big hit on the running back. On third down, the 49ers got pressure on Andy Dalton, and Kinlaw forced a fumble. The refs ruled that Dalton didn’t fumble, which was a bad call, but the 49ers' offense ended up in Dallas’ territory a few plays later.

Ball don’t lie.

The offense marched the field but stalled on third-and-1. Kyle Shanahan had a decision to make and elected to kick a 41-yard field goal. Gould was good, and that made it 17-17. Based on the game-flow, it felt like the correct decision to kick a field goal. Dallas hadn’t sustained a drive against you or shown that they’re capable of doing so. The 49ers' offense had proven they could move the ball, so that wasn’t going to be the last time you’d be in Cowboys territory.

After suffering a concussion on a big hit where he was involved with Lamb, Jimmie Ward left the game. He did not return. Dion Jordan was also ruled out. By the way he was tackling, Sherman checked out as well. He missed a few tackles on the afternoon, including one that led to a Cowboys touchdown.

On the previous third down play, Armstead let Dalton out of the pocket to allow a completion deep, where Marcell Harris, Ward’s replacement, was nowhere to be found. That came on a third-and-6. So as soon as it felt like Shanahan made the correct decision to go for it, Dallas follows that up with a touchdown. That score made it 24-17.

On the ensuing drive, Wilson Jr. came up hobbled and was grimacing on the sidelines. Tevin Coleman checked in. Speaking of running backs, the 49ers finally hit Kyle Juszczyk on “leak,” a generally automatic play. Kevin Harland thought the crowd was booing, but they were screaming “juice.” There were 30,000 fans on hand for this game, and there was a lot of red in the stands.

Jordan Reed made up for a drop on the first drive by making a play on third down to keep the drive alive. Aiyuk had a gain of four yards where he broke two tackles, and Wilson Jr. punched it in to tie the game at 24. The defense forced a punt after K’Waun Williams broke up a pass to give the offense the ball back. The Niners went three-and-out, and Mike McGlinchey left the game after having the wind knocked out of him.

In what felt inevitable, Mullens threw a brutal interception where he stared down the receiver. Mullens was fortunate not to throw multiple interceptions, but this throw specifically highlighted his lack of arm strength. On the next drive, Aiyuk broke up a pass, and Mullens had another throw where the defensive back got his hands on the ball.

As they tend to do, the defense did their job and got the ball back for the offense. After a late hit penalty against McGlinchey, Dallas was flagged for defensive pass interference against Aiyuk. Mullens, as only he could, threw it over the middle without noticing an underneath defender. That’s been a problem for 49ers quarterbacks for a while now.

Dallas scored on the next drive to make it 34-24. That felt like ball game, and it was. For the eighth game in a row, turnovers cost San Francisco. They’ve been fortunate to win a couple of games in between, but you can’t turn the ball over four times and expect to win.

A late field goal made it 34-27. Then Lamb returned the onside kick to make it 41-27, Cowboys. Bourne caught a hail mary from C.J. Beathard to make it 41-33. That was ugly. Dallas scored 24 of their points off turnovers.