49ers

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

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

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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.

49ers roster analysis: Signing George Kittle to new contract top focus

49ers roster analysis: Signing George Kittle to new contract top focus

This is the fourth installment of a 10-part series that examines the 49ers’ roster coming out of the 2019 season, looks ahead to 2020, and outlines the offseason challenges facing general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan on a position-by-position basis.

Thursday, a look at the 49ers’ tight ends.

Under contract (signed through)

-George Kittle (2020)
-Daniel Helm (2020)

For the first time this offseason, the 49ers and Kittle’s representation can negotiate a multi-year contract extension. After being a fifth-round draft pick in 2017, Kittle has greatly outperformed his contract. He is in line to become the highest-paid tight end in the league at far more than $10 million a season.

Expiring contract

-Levine Toilolo (UFA)
-Ross Dwelley (EFA)
-Garrett Celek (UFA)

Celek, 31, announced his retirement on Feb. 7 after eight NFL seasons. Celek experienced back issues the past couple seasons and underwent surgery in June to repair a herniated disk. He played five games last season before going on injured reserve when his back flared up. He finished his career with 82 receptions for 1,104 yards and 12 touchdowns in 91 games.

Dwelley as an exclusive-rights free agent has no outside negotiating rights and certainly will be back with the 49ers for a third season.

What needs to happen

One thing needs to happen this offseason: The 49ers and Kittle must agree on a multi-year contract extension. It should happen. It has to happen.

It does not make any sense for Kittle to take the risk of stepping on the field again without first receiving a large sum of guaranteed money to reward him for the best three-season opening to a career of any tight end in NFL history.

The 49ers have produced great tight ends in their history. But Kittle is the first to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark. And, now, he has done it two seasons in a row. His 1,377 receiving yards in 2018 were the most in a single season by a tight end in NFL history.

How vital is Kittle to the 49ers? His teammates voted him as the winner of the Len Eshmont Award, the team’s most prestigious honor, for his courageous and inspirational play.

Toilolo was the second-most-used tight end on the team late in the season and into the playoffs due to his blocking ability. He could be back on a veteran minimum contract.

[RELATED: 49ers roster analysis: More receiver depth needed around Deebo Samuel]

Expectations

Kittle is the best player on the team. He will continue to be the best player on the team.

Dwelley made a big jump from his rookie season to Year 2. If he can make another big improvement with his blocking, he will position himself to see a bump in playing time. He stepped in and made some big catches while Kittle was out with ankle and knee injuries in the middle of the season. Dwelley had 15 catches for 91 yards and two touchdowns on the season.

Toilolo became the team’s sixth offensive lineman, in effect, as he played 34 snaps combined in the playoff games against Minnesota and Green Bay when the 49ers dominated with their ground game. Toilolo has enough value for the 49ers to re-sign to fill a similar role in 2020.

The 49ers promoted rookie Daniel Helm from the practice squad late in his rookie season. The club originally claimed him off waivers from the Los Angeles Chargers in August. He did not see action in any games, but it was a clear indication the 49ers see something in him that they can develop for the future.

Why Kyle Long wants to see 49ers sign Tom Brady in NFL free agency

Why Kyle Long wants to see 49ers sign Tom Brady in NFL free agency

Should he decide to leave the New England Patriots in NFL free agency, Tom Brady will have no shortage of options of where to suit up for the 2020 season.

The six-time Super Bowl champion will be 43 years old when the season begins, but Father Time hasn't gotten the best of him yet. Given the right situation in which he's surrounded by a stout line and dynamic playmakers, Brady can put up elite numbers and lead another team -- should he choose to leave New England -- to the Super Bowl.

While the Raiders, Tennessee Titans, Los Angeles Chargers and Chicago Bears are the teams commonly thrown around as landing spots for Brady, former NFL offensive lineman Kyle Long wants to see TB12 head to a different team out west -- the 49ers.

"I think this will drive people crazy," Long said on "NFL Total Access." "I know people like to talk during the offseason and one name I've thought about is a guy named Tom Brady and the team called the San Francisco 49ers. It would be something where we would find out if the 49ers are really in love with Jimmy Garoppolo, and I think Tom Brady has earned the right to select a turn-key organization that is one quarterback away from the Super Bowl.

"Who better than the 49ers? He's a hometown kid. He grew up idolizing Joe Montana."

Long isn't the first person to float the idea of Brady ending his career with the team he grew up cheering for. Kyle's brother, Chris, who played with Brady in New England has said the 49ers might be the only team the legendary quarterback would leave the Patriots for. Of course, Chris said that before Garoppolo led the 49ers to Super Bowl LIV, a game they appeared to have won before suffering a monumental collapse in the final eight minutes against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.

On the biggest stage, Garoppolo had moments of greatness mixed with cringe-worthy mistakes. There was the first-quarter interception that set up a Chiefs field goal. After that, Garoppolo was the picture of efficiency, carving up Kansas City's defense during the second and third quarters as the 49ers took a 20-10 lead.

But with the 49ers trailing late in the fourth quarter, Garoppolo had Emmanuel Sanders open for the would-be go-ahead touchdown, but he overthrew him so badly that Sanders didn't even have a chance to make a play on the ball. 

[RELATED: 49ers need to add more receivers around Deebo in offseason]

The 49ers have one of the NFL's top defenses, an offensive innovator in head coach Kyle Shanahan and the best tight end in the game in George Kittle. If San Francisco wasn't already piloted by Brady's former backup, they would be the ideal landing spot for the free-agent signal-caller. 

But if Brady goes anywhere this offseason, it won't be to San Francisco. The 49ers are Jimmy Garoppolo's team, for better or worse.