The 49ers continue to start Nick Mullens and expect different results. After the game, Kyle Shanahan made it sound like Mullens knows where to go with the ball, and C.J. Beathard doesn’t. There is your answer as to why Mullens remains the starter.
QB Breakdown: Backup quarterback Nick Mullens’ turnover issues continued in Dallas as he coughed up a fumble and threw a pair of costly interceptions late. For the eighth straight game, the Niners had two or more turnovers, which is the longest streak for the franchise since the 2008 team and longest current streak in the NFL. Mullens finished 21-of-36 for 219 yards with two touchdowns and those two picks for a passer rating of 71.4.
Troubling trend: Punt returner Richie James Jr. coughed up a fumble on Dallas’ first punt, a fumble the Cowboys recovered and promptly turned into the game’s first touchdown. It was San Francisco’s third lost fumble on a punt return this season, the most in the NFL and the first time they have lost that many in a season since 1996. Add returner to the team’s ever-growing list of offseason needs.
NICK MULLENS: C.
It would be silly to say Nick Mullens played well, because he didn’t. But it would be equally silly to say Mullens lost the game for the 49ers, because he didn’t do that, either. This loss was a group effort. Mullens took his usual beatdown before he left the game in the fourth quarter with an elbow injury. And before he left, he committed three turnovers — one fumble and two interceptions. But Kyle Shanahan didn’t fault Mullens for the fumble. Shanahan said the defensive end made a great play by beating Mike McGlinchey around the edge and swatting the ball out of Mullens’ hand as he attempted to throw a quick pass.
Winner: CeeDee Lamb
It was evident that the San Francisco 49ers wanted to involve their rookie wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk all throughout the contest against the Cowboys. He even scored a touchdown. What was more evident - with no Aiyuk disrespect intended - is that the Cowboys have potentially the greater talent in CeeDee Lamb.
We all wish that Lamb had had more opportunities this year to really show off his skillset, but he had some moments in this game that were highlight-worthy. His catch at the end of the first half was not easy yet he made it look so, and he quietly led the team in receiving yards with a cool 85. He also had a nice punt return.
Lamb’s time is coming. We are seeing flashes of it in the here and now (like the onside kick return touchdown... a point he expressed some mild regret over). That is one of the most exciting things about this season.
Too often this season, NFL players have opted to slide to the turf and let the clock wind down rather than getting the glory of a touchdown. Serious props to Lamb for ignoring that smart but boring maneuver.
Look what we were all rewarded with as a result! Niners third-string quarterback C.J. Beathard completed a 26-yard pass to rookie Brandon Aiyuk, then uncorked a Hail Mary to the end zone as time expired that Kendrick Bourne snagged for a 49-yard score.
4. Big Day for AA
Arik Armstead had one of his best outings of the season, recording his first multi-sack game since Week 12 of the 2019 season (2). On the first, rookie Javon Kinlaw cleared out both the Cowboys right guard and tackle as the veteran pass rusher burst through an open hole and wrapped up Andy Dalton to force a Cowboys punt. The second, Armstead forced Dallas’ right tackle to collapse the pocket as he got his arms around Dalton.
Armstead also led the team with eight total tackles.