Going into last Thursday night’s game against the Oakland Raiders, the San Francisco 49ers were riding a six-game losing streak. They were also starting third-string quarterback Nick Mullens for the first time.
What followed was a 34-3 somewhat surprising shellacking of the Bay Area rival. Mullens operated out of a clean pocket for the entire night and the ground game was dominant. The 49ers offensive line worked well together against one of the weakest defensive lines in the NFL.
The 49ers next challenge is against a New York Giants team who is building for the future. The 49ers offensive line will have to continue to improve against the New York Giants in another primetime affair on Monday night.
Preview Versus The New York Giants
As far as statistics are concerned, the Giants have one of the least intimidating pass rushes in the NFL. They rank second to last in sacks with just 10 for the season. The only team to rank lower than them is the Raiders who have seven. The Giants blitz has not been effective and they have primarily relied on a young defensive line to get to the quarterback.
At defensive end, the Giants have B.J. Hill. He is only a rookie but has already shown flashes of his potential. In college at North Carolina State, he only had two sacks in 2017 but recorded 55 tackles. He has 14 tackles and two sacks in 2018 for the Giants.
Dalvin Tomlinson commands the nose tackle position. This season he has 24 tackles but has not recorded a sack. His 6-foot-4, 318-pound frame could cause problems for the 49ers center and guards.
Kerry Wynn starts at the other defensive end spot. He has 26 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 2018.
Review Versus The Oakland Raiders
For the first time all season the 49ers offensive line did not allow a single sack. They also cleared a path for running backs Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert who ran for a combined 130 yards on just 19 carries.
On the 49ers first offensive play of the game Mullens lined up in the shotgun formation. The offensive line was momentarily taken aback by the strength of the Raiders bull rush. The pocket calmed and Mullens was able to complete10-yard pass to receiver Marquise Goodwin.
On the next play the 49ers elected to run the ball. Breida could not find enough room on the right side and cut back to the left where there was a seam. The 49ers offensive line held their blocks throughout and Breida was able to pick up another first down.
The following play saw running back Mostert finding just enough space between right guard Mike Person and right tackle Mike McGlinchey to collect the first down and bring the 49ers a little closer to the end zone.
A few plays later the 49ers faced 3rd-and-2 from the Raiders 24-yard line. The 49ers offensive line moved to the left in perfect harmony as Mullens rolled to the right. Mullens quickly found receiver Pierre Garcon who took the pass in for the touchdown putting the 49ers up 7-3.
On the 49ers second drive of the game, they faced 2nd-and-9. Mullens looked for a receiver to throw to as the Raiders tried desperately to take him down. McGlinchey battled defensive end Frostee Rucker who tried to draw McGlinchey outside of the pocket.
This has been a problem for the 49ers offensive line all year and McGlinchey stepped up to the moment. Mullens was free to complete the pass for a first down.
On possibly the offensive line’s finest play of the game on 1st-and-10 early in the third quarter, Mostert took the pitch and raced to the right looking for daylight. As he ran downfield, McGlinchey provided the escort by running ahead of him for the entire 52-yard touchdown run.
Towards the end of the 49ers second drive of the game on 1st-and-goal, Breida took the ball and looked for an opening in the middle of the line to run through. Nose tackle Johnathan Hankins manhandled center Weston Richburg and took Breida down for a loss.
The 49ers did very well in not allowing any sacks the entire game but there was a close call. Early in the third quarter, the Raiders brought heavy pressure up the middle and nearly got to Mullens as he threw the pass.
Tight end George Kittle made a one-handed catch and rumbled 71 yards before being taken down at the 6-yard line. The 49ers scored two plays later putting them up 24-3.
Early in the third quarter, the 49ers faced 1st-and-10. Breida took the handoff and found an apparent opening on the right side of the line. Linebacker Tahir Whitehead had other plans and plugged the hole. Breida had nowhere to run and Whitehead tackled him for a loss.
In the middle of the fourth quarter, on 2nd-and-7, running back Alfred Morris ran a sweep to the right and tried to outrun the defense. The Raiders did well in pursuing the play and had a good angle against the 49ers offensive line and Morris was tackled for no gain.
On the next play, the 49ers were trying to extend the drive. Mullens looked for an open receiver but the Raiders brought a lot of pressure up the middle. Mullens was hit as he released the ball and it was completed short of the first down. The 49ers kicked a field goal a few plays later to extend their lead 34-3.
In the middle of the second quarter, the 49ers faced 1st-and-10. Breida took the pitch for a sweep and looked for room to run. The Raiders clearly had the angle on the 49ers blocking this play as Breida was forced to run out of bounds for a loss.
Late in the second quarter, the Raiders defensive line shifted right before the snap. There was some miscommunication as left guard Laken Tomlinson pulled to the outside. Defensive tackle P.J. Hall ran behind an oblivious Tomlinson to take Breida down for the loss.
For the second straight week, the 49ers offensive line will be facing one of the NFL’s weakest defensive line units. Complacency can be tempting for a unit who played very well the previous week.
However, the Giants are building for the future with all three of their defensive linemen being 27 or younger. Similarly, the 49er offensive line is also building for the future with a rookie right tackle.
Due to his performance against the Raiders, Mullens earned a second start against the Giants on Monday night. Despite their abysmal records, the battle between these two units who are building for the future may highlight the weaknesses the teams must address during the offseason. The opportunity to grab win number three is there for taking under the lights on Monday night.