I begin this article with the immortal words of Heath Ledger’s Joker “And here we go!”. Sunday’s dominating performance against the New York Giants eased the minds of some Faithful. It has also stirred up some controversy that was otherwise thought to be a ridiculous idea. Let’s dive into what we learned from the game.
The rooks came to play
With their opportunities to step in and contribute in a major way, first round rookies Javon Kinlaw and Brandon Aiyuk took full advantage. Kinlaw was a monster up the middle. Flashing strength and quickness, consistently ending up in the backfield to collapse the pocket and blow up run plays. And it didn’t take long either. Look no further than the first defensive snap of the game, where Kinlaw shed his blocker and made a beeline for running back Wayne Gallman. A bad spot by the refs took away a tackle for loss. On the opposite side of the ball, Brandon Aiyuk began his day with a couple jet sweeps, both gaining positive yards. In the second half he emerged as the go to target for Nick Mullens catching 5 passes for 70 yards. He also added another carry to end with a rushing stat line of 3 carries for 31 yards, taking that one to the crib. That’s 8 touches for 101 scrimmage yards. Aiyuk displayed concentration over the middle, fluid route running, and great hands. Both players fit what this coaching staff was looking for at both positions. I’m excited to see their increased contributions to this team.
Reed it and weep
Jordan Reed was really becoming a key piece to this offense. His athleticism and savvy route running allowed him to fill in extremely well for an absent George Kittle. We were getting closer to seeing Aiyuk, Deebo, Kittle and Reed on the field at the same time. But the horrific MetLife turf does not know the meaning of hospitality and made sure we left New Jersey with another injury. That may be a little harsh for MetLife, but I’m still in my feelings about it. I’m optimistic the injury isn’t too severe for Reed, but it seems likely he’ll miss time.
Get rid of the DONTae’s
Am I the only Faithful that is fed up with the law firm of Dante and Dontae? I understand we have depth issues at both the wide receiver and corner positions due to injury, but these two dudes have to go. Johnson is a liability in coverage, consistently getting beat. Add in two straight weeks of committing a penalty that led to a first down, and the frustration level increases exponentially. Pettis and his struggles are well documented. He only played eight snaps on Sunday. Eight snaps for a team dealing with injuries at the skills positions. Through three weeks he has only one target and zero catches. For context, running back JaMycal Hasty has the same amount of targets, more receptions and more receiving yards than Pettis. There was one play for me against the Giants that solidified this view. On a drive late in the second quarter, Nick Mullens sent Dante in motion from left to right. When he completes the motion, Nick then motions him back right to left. A confused Pettis raises his hands as if he doesn’t know what’s going on and proceeds to complete the motion. Now this could be a miscommunication between Mullens and Pettis, but the perception is that Pettis doesn’t know what he’s doing. Limited snaps and opportunities in those snaps only affirm this is the case. Maybe there isn’t anyone on the open market better than these two at the moment, but Johnson and Pettis are wasting roster spots.
Early last week a reporter asked Kyle Shanahan if there would be a Quarterback controversy if Nick Mullens played well. Kyle scoffed at the question, quickly responding with no. I don’t know if the Faithful are so sure about that decision. Mullens was a cool 25 of 36 for 343 and 1 touchdown. He spread the ball around hitting ten different receivers. He controlled the game from start to finish, masterfully executing the game plan. Had it not been for a missed field goal due to a botched snap, Mullens would have led the team to scoring points on 8 out of 8 drives. He was accurate, poised and confident. He made quick decisions which were also the right decisions. As much as I loved his performance though, that doesn’t make him the starter. He did what the backup is supposed to do. He performed the way most coaches expect their second string quarterback to perform. This isn’t the reality for most coaches, but it is for Kyle Shanahan. This is why he kept Mullens on the team instead of trading him. In the event Jimmy ever went down, he had faith in Mullens to execute his vision for the offense. In a year seemingly full of injuries and the uncertainty of who could go down next, Nick provided calm in the midst of the storm and kept this team in the thick of the NFC West race. You have to respect him for that!
- If Jason Verrett needs to play, we can trust him.
- Mike McGlinchey gave up zero pressures in the passing game. Hopefully we see continued improvement in this aspect of his game.
- Kerry Hyder and Dion Jordan record sacks in replacement of Bosa and Ford. Production may not be the same but we’ll be fine from a pass rush standpoint.
- Despite all the injuries this team responded well. They know who they are and fought for each other. The brotherhood is legit.
- Fred Warner is becoming the ultimate leader. In his pregame speech he sought out Nick Mullens and said “we got your back”. He continued to say we’ll get you the ball. Not only did the team collect three turnovers, Warner himself was responsible for one of them. He is leading with words and actions. You love to see it!