NBC Sports

What we learned about 49ers in Week 15 loss to the Cowboys

NBC Sports

The 49ers got off to a slow start.

But that was nothing compared to their finish. The 49ers committed two turnovers early that put them in hole. Then, two more giveaways in the fourth quarter gift-wrapped the Dallas Cowboys a 41-33 victory in their Week 15 matchup in Arlington, Tex.

The Cowboys scored 24 points off four 49ers turnovers in the game.

The 49ers, the last-place team in the NFC West, fall to 5-9 on the season with their third consecutive loss and their sixth loss in seven games.

Here are three things you need to know about the 49ers’ loss to Dallas:

Sticking with Mullens

It is obvious that coach Kyle Shanahan does not believe there is much debate about which quarterback gives the 49ers the best chance when Jimmy Garoppolo is sidelined.

Shanahan stuck with Nick Mullens last week against Washington, and there did not seem to be much thought given to making a change when Mullens got off to a slow start on Sunday against the Cowboys.

Mullens’ two fourth-quarter interceptions led to the deciding points.

Mullens’ future with the organization is in question, for sure. He is scheduled to a restricted free agent. C.J. Beathard’s future appears set if Shanahan does not believe has a chance to be an upgrade over Mullens.

Beathard did not enter the game until 1:41 remained and Mullens appeared to sustain an injury to his throwing arm.

Mullens fumbled on the 49ers’ second offensive series. That led to a Cowboys touchdown.

Mullens helped get the 49ers back in the game with short touchdown passes to Jordan Reed and Brandon Aiyuk, and the 49ers trailed just 17-14 at halftime.


In the fourth quarter, Mullens threw an interception in his sixth consecutive game. That led to a field goal. Another interception was cashed in for a touchdown.

He has thrown 13 interceptions on the season.

Mullens finished the game with 21 completions on 36 pass attempts for 219 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Secondary becomes a primary focus

Cornerback Jason Verrett proved to be a keeper this season. But he was unavailable on Sunday as he was ruled out of the game with a non-COVID-19 illness.

Ahkello Witherspoon, who has been a disappointment as a third-round pick in 2017, got the start on Sunday and played well. Witherspoon broke up two passes and was solid in coverage throughout the game. He is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent and does not figure to be back with the 49ers.

Richard Sherman, who has already said he does not figure to re-sign with the 49ers next season, had a difficult day with a couple of missed tackles in the red zone that led to Cowboys touchdowns.

Free safety Jimmie Ward sustained a concussion in the second quarter. He did not play in the second half. Marcell Harris and Tarvarius Moore played the safety positions, and Harris got beat deep when Cowboys receiver CeeDee Lamb got behind him for a 45-yard gain.

The 49ers have a lot of decisions to make in the offseason with Sherman, Verrett, K’Waun Williams and safety Jaquiski Tartt scheduled to be unrestricted free agents. Tartt was lost for the season due to a groin injury in Week 9.

RELATED: Aiyuk passes Deebo, breaks 49ers' rookie receptions record

Miscues dig early hole

This game showed how the 49ers have little room for error -- even against an extremely flawed team such as the Cowboys.

The 49ers found themselves in an early 14-0 deficit due to a string of mistakes that made things quite easy on the Cowboys.

Tight end Ross Dwelley committed a false start on a third-and-1 play.

Jordan Reed dropped a pass on third down.

Richie James fumbled a punt.

Mullens fumbled when Cowboys edge rusher DeMarcus Lawrence got around right tackle Mike McGlinchey. Former 49ers edge rusher Aldon Smith made the recovery.

The 49ers entered the game with a minus-7 turnover margin, and they committed two giveaways in the first six minutes of the game.

Dallas cashed in with touchdowns on Tony Pollard’s 1-yard run, and Andy Dalton’s 3-yard pass to Michael Gallup.

And after 8 ½ minutes, the 49ers trailed 14-0 and were playing uphill from the beginning.