49ers

49ers takeaways: What we learned from 34-3 dismantling of Raiders

49ers takeaways: What we learned from 34-3 dismantling of Raiders

BOX SCORE

SANTA CLARA -- Nick Mullens' NFL debut was a memorable one.

The quarterback delivered in a big way, as the 49ers ended their six-game losing streak with a 34-3 win over the Raiders on Thursday night at Levi’s Stadium.

Mullens, an undrafted second-year pro from Southern Miss, got the call because 49ers starter C.J. Beathard was less than 100 percent with right wrist and thumb injuries.

Mullens put together a strong showing against Jon Gruden’s beleaguered Raiders. Mullens completed 16 of 22 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns, and he was not intercepted. His passer rating was 151.9.

Here are three quick takeaways from the 49ers’ win over the Raiders:

Mullens’ blazing start

The entire playbook was open to Mullens, who has been with the 49ers since signing in the spring of 2017.

The offense rolled smoothly, as Mullens converted the team's first four third-down opportunities and threw touchdown passes to cap his first two drives.

Mullens found wide receiver Pierre Garçon all alone for a 24-yard TD pass after the Raiders kicked a field goal on their opening drive. Then, Mullens and Kendrick Bourne hooked up for a 4-yard score on the next possession.

Mullens became just the second 49ers quarterback since at least 2000 to throw TD passes on each of the first two drives of a game. Colin Kaepernick also threw TD passes on his first drives of the 2014 season opener against the Dallas Cowboys.

Through the first half, Mullens completed 12 of 17 passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions and a passer rating of 141.1. The 49ers led 17-3 at halftime.

Pass rush emerges

The 49ers entered Thursday with one of the most anemic pass rushes in the NFL. But against the Raiders, they generated consistent pressure on quarterback Derek Carr.

The 49ers recorded 16 sacks in their first eight games of the season, but they pressured Carr in the first half for four sacks and finished with eight for the night.

Cassius Marsh recorded 2½ sacks. Dekoda Watson, who made his season debut after spending the first eight weeks on injured reserve, was credited with 1½ sacks. DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas and Ronald Blair had one sack apiece.

Carr was taken out of the game in the fourth quarter after completing 16 of 22 passes for 171 yards and no touchdowns with no interceptions.

Closing it out

In six of the 49ers’ first eight games, they either held the lead or had been within one score in the fourth. Their only victory, however, came in Week 2, when they nearly let a 17-point lead get away against the Detroit Lions.

So, yes, closing has been an issue for Shanahan’s team.

That wasn't the case this time. Although the 49ers were playing on a short week after a tough loss to the Arizona Cardinals, they looked well-rested and fast against the Raiders.

The 49ers blew the game open at the start of the third quarter with back-to-back touchdown drives. Tight end George Kittle had a 71-yard reception of a risky Mullens pass in traffic. Two plays later, Mullens hit Kittle for a 5-yard TD pass. Kittle finished with four catches for 108 yards.

Running back Raheem Mostert scored on a zig-zagging 52-yard touchdown in the third quarter. He later exited the game with a season-ending broken forearm. Mostert gained 86 yards on seven carries.

Why NFL Media's Peter Schrager believes Richard Sherman is underrated

shermanap.jpg
AP

Why NFL Media's Peter Schrager believes Richard Sherman is underrated

Richard Sherman's resume is as long as any other cornerback, but NFL analyst Peter Schrager believes the 49ers veteran is underrated. 

"I think Richard Sherman last year had a really good season," Schrager said on NFL Network's "Good Morning Football" on Monday. "The Achilles didn't seem to bother him all that much. And then when it mattered most, [he] was shutting down the No. 1 wide receivers in the league, and that was with a completely depleted defense and an offense that had an undrafted rookie named Nick Mullens keeping them afloat. I think Richard Sherman [is] still underrated." 

Sherman started 14 games in his first season with San Francisco, defending a career-low four interceptions and intercepting zero passes for the first time in his career. Those low counting stats would be concerning for a defensive back's first season in their 30s, even excluding the season-ending Achilles injury he sustained in 2017, but Sherman's production wasn't the same as his best years with the Seattle Seahawks in large part because NFL offenses didn't seem to underrate him. 

According to Pro Football Focus, Sherman was targeted just once every 12.6 coverage snaps. No cornerback was avoided more than him, and Sherman also ranked first among corners in allowing a reception every 20.7 coverage snaps. In other words, opposing quarterbacks seemed to rate Sherman as one of the NFL's best cornerbacks. 

[RELATED: 49ers have important conversations beginning during OTAs]

How long that continues is an open question. Sherman is entering his ninth year in the NFL and turned 31 in March. Twenty-eight defensive backs were 31 or older last NFL season, and only 12 of them were 32 or orlder. Sherman will be 33 if he finishes out the three-year deal he signed with the 49ers last year, and it seems likely he will targeted more the older he gets. 

But until then, it's clear Sherman's opposition under center view him as one of the best cornerbacks in the league even if Schrager's punditry peers do not. 

Ex-49ers linebacker Reuben Foster carted off field after suffering leg injury

fosterusa.jpg
USATSI

Ex-49ers linebacker Reuben Foster carted off field after suffering leg injury

Organized team activities began Monday for NFL teams, and Washington suffered a loss shortly after the opening of camp.

Former 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster went down during the second play of OTAs with what appeared to be a serious left leg injury. He was on the ground for several minutes before being carted off while in tears.

After an receiving an MRI, Foster's injury appears to be very serious.

That's a brutal development for Foster and Washington.

[RELATED: 49ers have important competitions beginning during OTAs]

Foster was drafted by the 49ers with the No. 31 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, which was the beginning of a tumultuous time in the Bay Area.

The Alabama product was arrested three times and suffered multiple on-field injuries during his time with the 49ers. San Francisco cut ties with Foster last November after he was accused of committing domestic battery at a team hotel in Florida.

Washington claimed the linebacker off waivers a few days later. Foster recorded  84 solo tackles in his 16-game career with the 49ers.

The 49ers have since revamped their linebacking corps after Foster's departure. They signed Kwon Alexander to a four-year contract in the offseason and spent a fifth-round draft pick on Arkansas' Dre Greenlaw.

Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch hope Alexander, once he gets fully healthy, and Greenlaw can fill the role left by Foster's departure in the middle of the defense.