Editor’s note: Former 49ers Pro Bowl quarterback Jeff Garcia, now an NBC Sports Bay Area analyst, shares his thoughts on the team each week throughout the season. This week, he takes a look at two impressive young guys on offense.
The 49ers turned to their young players against the Denver Broncos, and those guys stepped up.
As much as the Broncos were coming in on a three-game win streak, they had some issues with young guys taking more prominent roles on the field. The 49ers turned to their own group of youngsters, and those guys played well. It was good to see.
Rookie defensive backs D.J. Reed Jr. and Marcell Harris played really solid football. They were involved. They were all over the field, combining for 19 tackles.
Harris made two big stops on back-to-back, third- and fourth-down plays in the fourth quarter. That was a big sequence, as the 49ers were protecting their lead.
The 49ers led 20-0 at halftime. The offense did not score in the second half. They will need four good quarters to hang with the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
Nothing to knock with Nick
Every week we’re trying to pick apart Nick Mullens’ game and figure out his weakness that can be exposed as he moves forward. But every week, he steps up and does his job. There has not been any noticeable drop-off.
The Tampa Bay game was the worst showing for the entire team this season. But in four of his five starts, Nick has played some pretty good football. He has been very efficient and makes good decisions with the football.
Against the Broncos, the second half was nowhere near the first half. They pulled the reins back a little and tried to focus on the running game. The big mistake was the interception, but even that was not his fault. It was a pass that should have been caught, but it was deflected into the defender’s hands.
Nick continues to play good, clean football. It is hard to say anything negative about him, especially because he is not surrounded by a bunch of elite weapons. There really is no No. 1 wide receiver out there, though Dante Pettis is doing a lot of good things. It’s good to get Marquise Goodwin back out there.
[RELATED: Pettis leads 49ers receivers in snaps]
The 49ers are playing a running back, Jeff Wilson Jr., who is essentially the fifth man in line. Of course, tight end George Kittle is doing some great things. Nick is doing a great job of getting the ball into the right guy’s hands. He is making plays and moving the chains.
For being on a big stage in his first opportunity in the NFL, Nick Mullens is doing everything the 49ers are asking of him.
Kittle channeling his inner T.O.
George Kittle is fun to watch. He’s got a great attitude. You wish more guys had his attitude and his approach to the game. He is refreshing.
Of course, he has a lot of athletic ability. But what I see most from Kittle is the fight within him. He is not going to be denied. It’s his mental and physical toughness. He takes the approach into every game that he is going to be the difference-maker. He is going to battle every single play, whether he is blocking or running a route. He wants to be the best player on the field.
When he gets the ball in his hands, you see can see how he runs. It’s like when T.O. used to run those slant routes or take those quick throws and turn them into big gains. T.O. ran with purpose, with anger and with an attitude that showed, “I am going to get to the end zone.” You see that with Kittle, too.
The guy can move. When he starts getting down the field, he does not want to be stopped. You see the same approach when he blocks on the line of scrimmage. He takes pride in his work. That’s what makes him so good.
It’s too bad he did not get the ball in the second half to get the single-game yardage record for a tight end. That is a record that has stood for a long time, and it’s unfortunate he did not get that opportunity to break Shannon Sharpe’s mark.
Closest thing to the playoffs
The Niners have to be feeling good about themselves coming out of last week with a win. Denver had a lot riding on that game. They were competing for a playoff spot, and the Niners knocked them off.
Seattle comes to Levi’s Stadium playing some really good football, especially on defense. What they did Monday night against Minnesota and all their weapons across the board was very impressive.
The 49ers know what they’re up against. They know what it’s going to take to win this game. In Seattle, the offense played well in the second half. They have to match that.
They must be better on the defensive side. You know Seattle is going to come in and play smash-mouth football with their three-headed monster rotation at running back. Obviously, the defense has to contain Russell Wilson. They must keep him in the pocket, and force him to throw over defenders and not through lanes.
Seattle is one of the hotter teams in the National Football League right now. It would be a great opportunity to play with a nothing-to-lose mindset. There is nothing on the line for the 49ers in this game, outside of playing for pride and showing they can knock off a playoff team.
And if they can do that with their young players just two weeks after getting blown out in Seattle, it would serve as a great building block for the future.