Studs and Duds: Week 3
The 49ers absolutely annihilated the Giants by a final score of 36-9. Watching the team just hammer their opponent was so inspiring and touching, because they were led by 15 -fifteen!!!- undrafted free agents.
Nearly 25% of the 49ers’ 53-man roster were not one of 250 draft selections when they first started their journeys towards becoming NFL athletes. Considered afterthoughts by many, they rose to the challenge and contributed towards the first 36-9 victory in NFL history. That’s right, before yesterday, an NFL game has never ended 36-9. How ‘bout that.
The team headed to the east coast with an 0-1 record, and they’re leaving with a 2-1 record. Injuries aside, the 49ers strung together two very impressive performances and, despite the ups and downs, the season feels much more on track than it did a week ago.
Without further ado, here are your Week 3 studs and duds:
1- Nick Mullens:
Mullens is one of the 15 undrafted players who contributed in the win Sunday. He lit up the Giants for 343 yards and a touchdown, while completing 25 out of 36 of his pass attempts.
In the second half alone, Mullens completed 11 of 12 passes for 153 yards and a touchdown. He was carving up the Giants’ defense like a Thanksgiving turkey, as he completed passes to ten different receivers. On third downs, Mullens converted the down and distance with the help of six different receivers, and he himself even picked up a first down with a quarterback sneak.
It’s a good thing Mullens came out guns blazing, because the ground game was struggling in the first half. Having a backup like “BDN” is a huge luxury, and he proved that to be true with a fantastic performance against the Giants.
2- John Lynch, Kyle Shanahan, and Robert Saleh:
I’m combining the three big faces of the team here, because each of them deserve their fair share of credit.
Lynch- Like I mentioned earlier, 15 undrafted players played in this game. Lynch, with the help of Shanahan, found the vast majority of those players on his own. Looking at guys like: Mullens, Jeff Wilson Jr., JaMycal Hasty, Kendrick Bourne, Dan Brunskill, Ross Dwelley, Kevin Givens, Azeez Al-Shaair, Demetrius Flannigan-Fowels, and Emmanuel Moseley. Lynch has a knack for finding talent deep in the draft, and he has built one of, if not the deepest team in the league. Lynch also deserves credit for not giving up on players like Jerick McKinnon and Jason Verrett.
Kyle Shanahan- Shanahan called this game beautifully. Going into the game, I said Shanahan should give Mullens full reigns of the offense, and that is exactly what he did. He didn’t hold anything back, and he put the game in Mullens’ hands. The play calling allowed Mullens to get in rhythm, and I also loved the effort to get Brandon Aiyuk involved early. I also give Shanahan a lot of credit for not abandoning the run. The team was struggling to run the rock in the first half, and finally loosened up that Giants’ front-seven in the second half of the game.
Robert Saleh- Saleh has called great games in back to back weeks. It’ll be interesting to see what he does against more high-powered offenses, but I’m really liking what I’m seeing thus far. Saleh was frequently using exotic blitz packages to apply pressure on Daniel Jones. Fred Warner, K’Waun Williams, and Jimmie Ward were all used to blitz at various points throughout the game, and it really helped keep Jones uncomfortable.
3- The first-round rookies - Javon Kinlaw and Brandon Aiyuk:
Kinlaw- Kinlaw had his best game in a 49ers uniform, as he was making plays all day long. On the Giants first play from scrimmage, he stuffed Wayne Gallman in the backfield for a loss. Kinlaw continued to make plays either behind or right at the line of scrimmage for the remainder of the day.
Two of Kinlaw’s biggest plays both happened to kill the momentum the Giants were trying to sustain. On a 3rd and 8, Kinlaw got his hands up and deflected a pass on a drive where the Giants were moving the ball into 49ers’ territory. That drive ended in a field goal. The other play was a 4th and 1 stop, where Kinlaw was one of the initial guys who helped keep Daniel Jones short of the line of gain.
Excellent stuff from the 14th pick.
Brandon Aiyuk- Like Kinlaw, Aiyuk had his best game as a member of the 49ers. Aiyuk led the team with over 100 yards from scrimmage, and scored his first NFL touchdown on a 19 yard end around. On the drive where Aiyuk scored, he gained 59 of the 70 yards the team accumulated (five more came via penalty).
Aiyuk is clearly an explosive playmaker, and what Shanahan sees in him is already evident. Once the 49ers are healthy on offense, they have a serious chance to become an even better unit than last year.
4- Jerick McKinnon:
McKinnon has now made this list three consecutive weeks. Each week he does something that wows me. He had a leaping catch to close out the 1st half, and made another tough reception on a 3rd and 2 to keep the drive alive. McKinnon has found the end zone every game this season, and would’ve scored two against the Giants if it weren’t for an iffy penalty on Dan Brunskill.
5- The Defensive Line
I try my best to keep the studs and duds segment individual based, but the entire defensive line should be recognized for their performance. It was a deep rotation of d-linemen, but each one of them made an impact one way or another.
Most notably, Kerry Hyder, who continues to wreak havoc. He’s been one of the best additions to the team, and could be the player that ends up saving the defense from experiencing any sort of fall off without Bosa.
Dion Jordan, in his first game as a 49er, recovered a fumble, had a sack, and a few pressures.
D.J. Jones was applying pressure, and out shifting offensive lineman. The same could be said for Kevin Givens.
Arik Armstead and Ziggy Ansah simultaneously applied pressure on Daniel Jones, which ended up resulting in an interception by Fred Warner.
Most impressive of all, the 49ers gave up 17 yards on 10 carries to running backs. Even though the Giants did not have Saquon Barkley, that is still an extremely impressive stat.
6- Fred Warner
Fred freakin’ Warner. Where to even begin when talking about this guy. He’s just all over the field and being utilized in so many ways. He led the team in tackles, again, with 7, one of which was for a loss on a pitch play. He made plays in the passing game, having a pass defensed and an interception. He is also timing his blitzes perfectly, and although he hasn’t recorded a sack yet, he’s being really disruptive when he is sent on those blitzes. Warner is off to an All Pro caliber start to the season.
Side note: This dud list has been getting shorter each week! Good news for the 49ers.
1) Kyle Nelson
Nelson’s performance yesterday is the epitome of the word dud. What the heck was going on with that guy!? I’ve never seen such a horrific long-snapping performance in my life. Nelson has literally one job, and he was horrible at that job on five different occasions. Plus he almost had Mitch Wishnowsky’s head ripped off, which led to another PAT attempt, which led to another awful snap seconds later. I’d be shocked if the team doesn’t continue to experiment with other long snappers. It’s not good when you have to bench your long snapper mid game. Justin Skule replaced Nelson in the 4th quarter.
2) Kwon Alexander
Alexander’s contract value is tied for the fifth most out of all linebackers. His contract is worth as much as Bobby Wagner's. Simply put, he needs to perform better and more consistently. He showed horrible discipline yesterday, and was fooled over and over by Daniel Jones on the read-option. If Alexander doesn’t pick it up, he may lose his starting spot to Dre Greenlaw once he returns from injury.
That’s your dud list. Short and sweet, like it’s preferred as.