The San Francisco 49ers made big mistakes during big moments in their loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. San Francisco had every opportunity to not just win the game, but take it over and put it away. The small mistakes eventually grew into big mistakes, which eventually led to losing a perfectly winnable game on Sunday night. Today we take a look at what went wrong and why the 49ers fell on Sunday.
Big Mistakes Nick
Heading into Sunday’s game, the conventional wisdom said that even an average game from quarterback Nick Mullens would likely lead to a comfortable victory for the 49ers. Mullens was fresh off the heels of a big day against the Giants and the offense received good news with the return of tight end George Kittle and wide receiver, Deebo Samuel. However, in the big moments on Sunday, Mullens came up small. For the game, Mullens finished with 200 yards passing on 18 of 26 passing. He threw for a touchdown, two interceptions, and lost a fumble. It was his worst performance in the NFL and served as the catalyst for the loss. Mullens’ mistakes were self-inflicted.
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On the second play of the game, fullback Kyle Juszczyk found himself wide open on a wheel route up the left sideline. However, Mullens overthrew his fullback by at least a few yards. Unfortunately, replays later showed that Juszczyk had acres of space in front of him as the two closest defenders were running to the opposite end of the field in coverage. The interceptions were equally bad. The first came with the 49ers in the red zone and in a position to get a field goal. Mullens forced a pass while under pressure and it was intercepted by the Eagles. A sack would not have knocked the 49ers out of field goal range. The second interception was another bad throw as Mullens threw it right to a defender for a pick-six.
Turnstiles On the Field
One of the keys leading up to the game on Sunday was to protect the quarterback. Philadelphia has one of the better defensive lines and the 49ers have struggled in pass protection all year. On Sunday, the offensive line had big problems against the Philly pass rush. On the day, the Eagles collected five sacks and a forced fumble. Their pressure also contributed to one interception. San Francisco’s offensive line did not have just a single weak link, but rather the entire line struggled. Pressure primarily came off the edges on both sides as Trent Williams and Mike McGlinchey had fits against Philly pass rushers. Eagles defensive end, Derrick Barnett, seemed to be Williams’ kryptonite as the pass rusher used both his speed and strength to keep the left tackle off balance. On the other side, it was Brandon Graham who got the best of McGlinchey.
#49ers' Allowed Pressure, Week 4 (PFF):
1. Daniel Brunskill, 4
2. Trent Williams, 4
3. Mike McGlinchey, 3
4. Laken Tomlinson, 3
It's not good when Ben Garland's the only offensive lineman that doesn't give up a pressure.
— Akash Anavarathan (@akashanav) October 5, 2020
On the interception at the end of the first half, McGlinchey got beat to his outside and struggled to ride Graham past the quarterback. Unfortunately, Mullens scrambled to his right and into the path of the Eagles’ defensive end. The pressure led to an ill-advised throw that was intercepted and ended a potential scoring drive. San Francisco’s inability to block with the front five resulted in far too many rushed throws and negative gains on the ground. The 49ers offensive line was only overshadowed by the poor performance from Mullens. However, there are big problems along the offensive line, and they are nothing new to the 49ers.
San Francisco’s execution was lacking throughout the game on both offense and defense. However, it must be said that the playcalling by both Kyle Shanahan and Robert Salah did not make things any easier. Defensively, it was the same story of the 49ers struggling to play against a mobile quarterback. While Carson Wentz is no Lamar Jackson with his feet, the Philadelphia quarterback made big plays on the ground. The 49ers were unable to keep containment on zone-read plays. As a result, Wentz found chunks of yards on the ground and even scored a touchdown. Either the 49ers do not practice containment or the defensive play-calling is unable to adjust to what is happening on the field. The Eagles moved Wentz out of the pocket to help with an injured offensive line and the 49ers were unable to adjust. It’s the same approach employed by the Rams and Sean McVay.
Brandon Aiyuk hurdles into the end zone! @THE2ERA
— NFL (@NFL) October 5, 2020
Offensively, Shanahan seemed to overthink the gameplan. On their best drives, the 49ers got touches from their playmakers. The return of Deebo Samuel helped open up the offense and rookie Brandon Aiyuk had an electrifying reception. However, the only weapon who received consistent looks was George Kittle. For the game, Kittle finished with 15 receptions for 183 yards receiving and a touchdown. Conversely, Samuel and Aiyuk combined for a measly seven touches. On one play, Aiyuk scored on a 38-yard screen play after breaking two tackles and hurdling a defender. Part of the issue in the second half came from the Eagles adjusting on defense. When the motion presnap for the 49ers resembled a possibly jet sweep or end-around, the Philadelphia defense crowded the lin and essentially created a six-man line. Shanahan seemed to abandon the runs as a result, further leading to the mistakes by Mullens.
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It did not matter who was specifically to blame, the 49ers dropped the ball on Sunday night. A victory would have kept them a game behind the division-leading Seahawks. However, San Francisco is now a full two games behind and the schedule will only get more difficult. As a result of Mullens’ performance, it will be interesting to see if Jimmy Garoppolo is brought back for the next game against the Miami Dolphins. If not, does Shanahan return to Mullens or does C.J. Beathard get the nod after an impressive outing in relief? The same mistakes must not be made or the 49ers risk falling further behind in the division. The 49ers have questions to answer on both sides of the ball. Hopefully, the loss on Sunday was the wake-up call they desperately need.
– 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