After watching Nick Mullens’ turnovers cost the San Francisco 49ers a game despite a strong defensive effort, coach Kyle Shanahan said it might be time for a change at quarterback.
Shanahan said he would consider benching Mullens for C.J. Beathard after two giveaways led to defensive touchdowns for Washington in the Niners’ 23-15 loss on Sunday.
“I’m up for anything right now,” Shanahan said Monday. “We’ll see how that goes the next couple days.”
The game turned on the two turnovers by Mullens that turned into Washington’s only two touchdowns on the day. Da’Ron Payne knocked the ball loose on a sack with San Francisco protecting a 7-6 lead late in the first half. Rookie Chase Young scooped it up and ran 47 yards for the score that put Washington up for good.
Then in the third quarter, Mullens missed Kyle Juszczyk on an outlet pass that Kamren Curl returned 76 yards for another TD.
“The way we’ve been turning the ball over so much, I need to decide if changing of quarterbacks will help or not,” Shanahan said. “It’s very tough to win football games the way we’ve been turning the ball over.”
The Niners have committed multiple turnovers in seven straight games, becoming just the second team in the past eight seasons with a streak that long.
Mullens has nine giveaways in five starts since starter Jimmy Garoppolo went down with his second ankle injury this season.
“At some point, it has to be done to give this team a chance to win,” Mullens said about eliminating the turnovers. “If you turn the ball over, you’re not going to win football games and that’s really, that’s what it comes down to.”
Shanahan said Garoppolo isn’t ready to return to practice this week and it’s still “up in the air” whether he will return this season.
“We’ve gotten over the hump but it is a risk, and we’re not going to do it if there’s a risk,” Shanahan said of Garoppolo’s return. “We feel talking to Jimmy and the doctors it is a risk this week. We’ll put it out another week and see how it goes. … We’ll re-evaluate it next Monday.”
Defense. After getting gashed by Josh Allen and the Bills last week, the Niners’ defense responded with one of its best games of the year. San Francisco had season bests allowing 193 yards of offense, 95 yards passing and only 12 first downs. The Niners allowed only three field goals on defense, including one on a 13-yard drive following a turnover.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Ball security. San Francisco committed three more turnovers, including two that were returned for touchdowns. Nick Mullens lost a fumble and threw the interception that went for a score and Jeff Wilson Jr. also fumbled. This marked the seventh straight game San Francisco had at least two giveaways, the team’s longest streak since an eight-gamer in 2008.
Brandon Aiyuk. The rookie receiver was once again a bright spot for San Francisco. He tied a Niners rookie record last achieved by Hall of Famer Jerry Rice by catching 10 passes and also had a career-high 119 yards. His 660 yards receiving on the season are fifth most for a rookie in franchise history.
Mike McGlinchey. The 2018 first-round pick has had a rough season at times. He struggled to control Washington’s talented edge rushers and committed a holding penalty on San Francisco’s final drive that negated a 22-yard pass to Kendrick Bourne to the Washington 22.
WR Deebo Samuel left after re-injuring his hamstring on the first play of the game and will miss the rest of the regular season. … All-Pro TE George Kittle (foot) could return to practice this week. RB Raheem Mostert (ankle) and LB Fred Warner (stinger) will be re-evaluated and Shanahan will have more information Wednesday.
3.11. The 49ers allowed a paltry 3.11 yards per play, but still lost thanks to allowing two defensive TDs. That’s the fourth-fewest yards per play San Francisco has allowed in a loss since the merger.
The Niners visit Dallas on Sunday.
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