SANTA CLARA — 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens made an error that could have been costly in the final seconds of Sunday's game against the Broncos. Thankfully for San Francisco, he learned his lesson without a bad ending.
The 49ers should have been able to run out the clock after having the lead and a first down at the 2-minute warning. A miscalculation, however, left four seconds on the game clock once the fourth kneel-down had been completed.
Denver then had a chance to steal the victory after trailing by 20 points earlier in the game. Case Keenum completed a short pass to Tim Patrick, and the Broncos' offense attempted a few lateral passes before the ball finally was fumbled out of bounds, giving the 49ers a 20-14 win at Levi's Stadium.
Coach Kyle Shanahan explained how the miscalculation unfolded.
“We thought it was dead even, and then it was off one second,” Shanahan said. “The play clock and the game clock were off one second. So, when you get to fourth down, you have to have what we call a slow clock, where the quarterback comes back, pause just one second before he takes a knee.
Shanahan added Mulllens knew that was the plan.
“Nick was very ready for [it] and very ready to do [it], but he just snapped it with six seconds left on the play clock and took a slow knee. But, it stops on fourth down, so it was a good rookie mistake and rookie rep.
“That was good, because he’ll learn it forever, and it won’t happen again and it didn’t cost us the game.”
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When asked about the botched kneel-downs, Mullens appeared very relieved it didn’t end in a loss.
“Yeah, we don’t really have to talk about that,” he said with a little chuckle. “I’ll go back and watch it, see how the time played out or whatever. But, I’m pretty mad at myself, yeah.”
Will it ever happen again?
“I shouldn’t have done it in the first place,” Mullens said. “Are you kidding me?”
Outside of that mishap, Mullens had a respectable performance. He completed 20 of his 30 passes for 332 yards and two touchdowns for a rating of 102.1. His statistics were assisted by George Kittle’s yards after catch on his record-breaking day.
“I thought he played well,” Shanahan said of Mullens. “He did some real good things and was one of the reasons we won.”
Again, Mullens didn’t do anything to make Shanahan consider a quarterback switch heading into the 49ers' second matchup with the Seahawks in Week 15. He has simply stated that Jimmy Garoppolo is the quarterback of the team and Mullens and C.J. Beathard are in a heated competition for who will be his backup once he returns.