After two strong performances on the road in Weeks 2 and 3, 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens fell back to earth in a major way Sunday night. He turned the ball over three times as San Francisco fell to 0-2 at Levi’s Stadium in a sloppy 25-20 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Mullens eventually was pulled from the game in the fourth quarter, with third-stringer C.J. Beathard nearly engineering a miraculous comeback effort. Mullens’ difficult night in his 10th NFL start gave him the dubious distinction of being NBC Sports NFL analyst Peter King’s “Goat of the Week.”
"It’s an unenviable spot, being a backup quarterback leading a banged-up team on prime-time television,” King wrote in his weekly NFL column. “For the majority of the game, Mullens was more than adequate in an offense that was heavily reliant on short passes and the running game. But his two fourth-quarter mistakes were glaring. First was a fumble that led to the Eagles’ go-ahead score.
"And Mullens followed up that mistake with the game-ender, an inexplicable throw straight into the arms of linebacker Alex Singleton, who took the easiest interception of his life right into the end zone. Mullens was yanked on the next drive in favor of C.J. Beathard.”
With Jimmy Garoppolo out over the past few weeks while he nurses an ankle sprain, Mullens’ strong outings led some to question whether the 49ers could have an impending QB controversy on their hands. But a loss to the previously-winless Eagles and Mullens’ particularly difficult night would seem to dispel those murmurs.
Coach Kyle Shanahan didn’t indicate after the loss whether Garoppolo’s status could be upgraded before next week’s showdown with the Miami Dolphins, but if he once again is unable to take the field with the 49ers, it will be interesting to see who between Mullens and Beathard would be the starter under center in Week 5.