SANTA CLARA — Nick Mullens’ outstanding performance didn’t surprise anyone on the 49ers. His teammates knew the quarterback was ready for his opportunity.
Mullens received congratulations from Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre while he was doing his postgame interview on NFL Network. Favre told Mullens that he wasn’t surprised about his success, and his teammates reiterated those same sentiments after his near-perfect game in the 49ers’ 34-3 win over the Raiders.
Mullens completed 16 of 22 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns. That gave him a passer rating of 151.9, just 6.4 points shy of a perfect 158.3 score.
No one in the 49ers' locker room was surprised.
Tight end George Kittle caught all four of his targets for 108 yards and one touchdown, ended the day as the 49ers' top receiver. He remarked how prepared Mullens always is.
“He’s a guy who is literally more prepared than Coach (Kyle) Shanahan for our games,” Kittle said. “He doesn’t care if he’s on the practice squad, doesn’t matter if he’s second string, third string. He’s a guy that prepares every week like he is the starter. That’s completely on him, and that’s not on anyone telling him he should study more. That’s just him being 100 percent prepared.
Veteran tackle Joe Staley said it was a seamless transition to have Mullens take over the huddle.
“The guy’s been working very hard for the past two years, ever since he got here,” Staley said. “Undrafted quarterback, just trying to make the roster as a rookie. His work ethic has shown every day since he’s been here. So I knew, I think everyone in this locker room knew, that he was ready for this moment. He was ready because he prepared for it.
“I’d feel differently if he acted different, but he’s been the same for the past two years. He knew the offense and knew the game plan, and was ready to take advantage of it.”
Fullback Kyle Juszczyk was impressed by Mullens’ calm demeanor after only having walk-throughs to prepare for the game during a short week.
“He killed it,” Juszczyk said. “Dude is a gamer, man. We saw it all in the preseason. When he gets an opportunity, he goes out there and makes the most of it. He did a great job of that today.
“There’s a difference between preseason and regular-season games. Especially a Thursday night game, prime time, under the lights, and we had seen him in the preseason do what he did. To see him go out there and duplicate that on such a big stage, it was impressive. It was really cool to see."
Running back Matt Breida explained that Mullens acted like he’d been in this position before.
“He’s been like that since Day 1,” Breida said. “He comes in and prepares extremely hard. He prepares as if he’s going to be a starter every week, and I expected this from him, to be that good. He just went out there, went in the huddle like he’s been doing this his whole life, and it showed tonight."
Breida also spoke about Mullens’ preparation.
“I come in there early in the morning,” Breida said, “and he’s here before me, just sitting in his locker going through plays, watching film. I’m like, 'Nick, take a break,’ and he says, ‘Man, I can't.' "
The team was jubilant about its second win of the season, but they also were very happy for Mullens taking advantage of his moment.
Staley summed it up the best.
“It’s kind of one of those feel-good stories,” Staley said. “This guy that’s worked hard consistently, not complaining about the lack of opportunities that he’s had, just kind of always ready for his moment. And his moment came up today, on national television, and he came up in a big way.”