The San Francisco 49ers are in need of big performances from their backups when they face the New York Giants on Sunday. For the 49ers, the injuries are mounting but hope remains that a return to the playoffs is possible. A win on Sunday would go a long way to making that a reality. Today we preview Sunday’s clash and share the three keys to a 49ers victory.
Nick Mullens was announced as the starting quarterback for Sunday’s game as a result of Jimmy Garoppolo’s ankle injury sustained last week. Mullens has a 3-5 record as a starter, coming during the 2018 season after Garoppolo tore his ACL. At that time, Mullens was an undrafted free agent who served as the third-string quarterback behind Garoppolo and C.J. Beathard. Mullens has been with the team for three seasons and should be well-versed in Kyle Shanahan‘s offense. During the 2018 season, Shanahan was not shy about running his offense with Mullens at the helm. Conversely, Mullens had some big performances during his time, most notably his first game as a starter against the then-Oakland Raiders.
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However, Mullens will not be facing the 2018 Raiders. The Giants allow the second-fewest passing yards (377 yards total) but have allowed the third-most passing touchdowns (5). With a rather thin group of receiving options, it will be interesting to see just how much Mullens can do. His favorite target in 2018 was tight end, George Kittle. Unfortunately, Kittle is out for Sunday’s contest. Regardless of his options, the main focus needs to be on protecting the football. If Mullens can avoid turnovers and manage the game, the 49ers will have a chance. At the end of the day, that is all anyone can expect.
Next Man Up
Injuries have become a broken record in the Kyle Shanahan era. The list of 49ers who are injured and unavailable for Sunday’s game is nearly enough to field a full team and has enough talent to contend for a playoff spot. In total, the 49ers are missing eight starters due to injuries. Because of the injuries, the 49ers have scrambled to fill the roster and find players to add to the rotation. Against the Jets, the 49ers lost five players who are starters or heavy rotation pieces. Luckily, San Francisco held a 21-3 lead by halftime and was able to finish the game out without much issue. However, the Giants present an entirely different problem.
Including IR & PUP players, #49ers enter Week 3 without…..
QB Jimmy Garropolo
RB Raheem Mostert
RB Tevin Coleman
WR Deebo Samuel
WR Jalen Hurd
TE George Kittle
C Weston Richburg
DE Nick Bosa
DE Dee Ford
DE Ronald Blair
DT Solomon Thomas
LB Dre Greenlaw
CB Richard Sherman
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) September 25, 2020
Not only will the 49ers be playing on the same field which saw multiple knee injuries, but the Giants offer a tougher matchup. San Francisco signed defensive end Ezekiel Ansah this week to help at defensive end. The 49ers also called promoted defensive end Dion Jordan from the practice squad. On offense, Jordan Reed and Ross Dwelley are expected to again fill in for the injured Kittle. Reed scored twice against the Jets and should see similar playing time against the Giants. At running back, the 49ers must rely on Jerick McKinnon, Jeff Wilson Jr., and possibly Jamycal Hasty. The 49ers are believed to be promoting Hasty from the practice squad ahead of Sunday’s clash. San Francisco needs big performances from their role players if they hope to escape New York with another victory.
Due to injuries, the San Francisco defensive line is without its best pass rushers in Nick Bosa and Dee Ford. Solomon Thomas, who provided a solid pass rush from the inside, is also out. The 49ers were able to generate a decent pass rush against the Jets without the aforementioned players. However, the Giants offensive line is a step above and quarterback Daniel Jones is a danger to take off and run the football. San Francisco signed Ezekiel Ansah and promoted Dion Jordan from the practice squad to help alleviate the pressure. The name of the game seems to be a constant rotation along the defensive line.
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The rotation could consist of Arik Armstead, Kerry Hyder, Kevin Givens, Javon Kinlaw, D.J. Jones, Kentavius Street, Jordan, and Ansah. This group will be relied on to put pressure on passing downs and hold the line against the New York ground game. The Giants are without running back Saquon Barkley which should help the 49ers in making the New York offense one-dimensional. If the defense can manage without requiring excessive blitzing, the 49ers will be in great shape to steal a victory against the Giants.
Salvaging a Season
While the game is far from a must-win, the 49ers would do well to boost their playoff hopes by winning their second consecutive game at MetLife Stadium. A victory would put the 49ers at 2-1 and in prime position to put pressure on the remaining teams in the division who each sit at 2-0. The hope is that the 49ers can hold the fort until some of the injured players return, such as Richard Sherman, Deebo Samuel, and George Kittle. With reinforcements arriving soon, the 49ers could set themselves up for the rest of the season with a big victory on Sunday.
Prediction: 49ers Survive, 23-14
– Ryan Adverderada is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage 49ers. He also covers the Arizona Cardinals for Full Press Coverage. Like and follow on Follow @ryanadverderada