49ers 26, Seahawks 23: Grades

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens (4) runs off the field after an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers beat the Seattle Seahawks 26-23 in overtime Sunday afternoon. Here are the 49ers’ grades:

NICK MULLENS: A. He took a team that lost not once but twice to the Arizona Cardinals this season and led it to victory over the Seattle Seahawks, who were one win away from the clinching a playoff spot. This is the 49ers’ biggest win since Jim Harbaugh was the head coach. Mullens’ performance against the Seahawks was more impressive than any performance of Jimmy Garoppolo’s career. Mullens completed 20 of 29 passes, and three were dropped. The Seahawks pummeled him during the fourth quarter and he didn’t back down. He threw for 275 yards. Only four quarterback threw for more this week. Mullens might just be better than Garoppolo. We don’t know yet. But we do Mullens is a starting NFL quarterback, and a good one. The 49ers are lucky to have him. They can get rid of C.J. Beathard now.

RUNNING BACKS: D. Matt Breida rushed for just 2.9 yards per carry, and Jeff Wilson fumbled for the third time in the past three games. But, the 49ers didn’t bench him, and he sealed the victory with three tough runs during overtime.

WIDE RECEIVERS: C. Dante Pettis had a good game – he caught five passes for 83 yards. Kendrick Bourne and Trent Taylor both had awful games. Each dropped a crucial pass during the fourth quarter. Each is expendable.

TIGHT ENDS: A. George Kittle caught just three of eight targets – the Seahawks focused on shutting him down. But, they forgot about the other 49ers tight end, Garrett Celek, who came into the game with more penalties (five) than catches (three) this season. Celek made a wide-open 41-yard touchdown catch.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: F. The 49ers struggled run blocking and pass blocking for the second week in a row. Left guard Laken Tomlinson and center Weston Richburg were particularly horrendous. Even when they worked together, they had a tough time blocking Seahawks nose tackle Jarran Reed. The 49ers should consider replacing both Tomlinson and Richburg during the offseason.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: A. They held their own defending runs between the tackles, and DeForest Buckner sacked Russell Wilson twice. Buckner has 11 sacks with two games to go. He is the second-best defensive tackle in the NFL after Aaron Donald.

LINEBACKERS: A. Mark Nzeocha recorded a sack, and Fred Warner and Elijah Lee combined to make 19 tackles. Warner and Lee are a promising inside-linebacker duo for the future.

SAFETIES: D. Starting free safety Antone Exum Jr. missed a tackle and gave up a touchdown catch to Doug Baldwin. And starting strong safety Marcell Harris failed to set the edge a few times and gave up some long runs.

CORNERBACKS: C. Ahkello Witherspoon injured his knee during the first quarter and didn’t return. Rookie third-round-pick Tarvarius Moore replaced Witherspoon and gave up a five-yard touchdown catch to Baldwin. Richard Sherman did not give up any catches. The Seahawks never targeted him.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A-minus. Robbie Gould made all four of his field goals, and Richie James returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. I downgrade this group slightly because the punt coverage unit failed to down any of Bradley Pinion’s punts inside the 10-yard line. The 49ers stood and watched as the ball bounced into the end zone. They’ve done that a bunch this season. Bad habit.

COACHES: A. Kyle Shanahan officially is off the hot seat. He did everything right against the Seahawks. He established six receivers other than George Kittle during the first half, designed a brilliant, long touchdown pass to Celek and closed out the victory with power run plays during overtime. Shanahan didn’t improve in the red zone, and may never will – the 49ers were 0-2 in that area of the field. But, he won. And this is how he wins. He creates long touchdowns early, then hangs on late. His formula would have worked much better this season had Mullens been the quarterback all along. The 49ers probably would be no worse than 7-7 right now. Bodes well for 2019.

This article has 50 Comments

  1. I wouldn’t give the offensive line a F. Richburg’s struggles were due in part to Reed’s alignment, and the guard(s) not giving him the help he needed to get his angle….

    1. I agree. The O line struggled, but the Seahawk defense is stout. I think a C- grade is deserved. They did protect enough, and Mullens just is not mobile enough to avoid the pass rush. his pocket awareness could use some improvement, but that just comes with more experience.
      I would give the RBs a B-, and the safeties a C, because they did a good job in the first half. The safeties struggled a bit in the second half.
      Other than that, I thought the grades were fair, although maybe every position should get better marks because they beat a superior opponent.

  2. The grades for some units is a bit harsh. The offense did enough in the first half and defense held it for them in the second half.

    The running game did just enough to allow for the pass and the O line, while not great did help with those runs late in the game.

    This is, by far, the best game of the ShanaLynch era. For that the grades should be a little higher. Kudos to Saleh too.

    Shanahan also is more creative in the first half, not so much in the second. However, as a HC he did change things up and put the team in a position to win. So hats off to him.

  3. KS was never on the hot seat and secondly, you can’t give a compliment to Mullen’s and just leave it alone and take the high road but you have tear into Jimmy G. I guess that’s your style.

  4. Who’s hot seat was Kyle on? Yours Coach? Mullens should have completed 23 of 29 passes without the drops and the OL didn’t pass block and gets an F? :-/ The team had 94 yards rushing but the OL gets an F for run blocking? :-/ This is what you get when you have a soccer player grading a football team. What a joke. FYI the 97 yard run back was a TD, at least in the game I was watching. What game were you watching Coach?

    1. Yes, ST deserves an A.
      The one player I was not impressed with was Marsh.
      It was nice to see Pita lay the lumber to Lockett, and Nzeocha played well.

  5. … and … the best part was ….

    The Smurf got beat by a 3rd string QB … !!

    ( I’ve been waiting’ for something like this …
    for ..… WAY … too long ! )

    This “revenge” game was a long time coming … but ..
    o-hhhh ….so … so sweet !! …. Think I’ll savor it for awhile !

  6. Moore had two huge PBU’s late. I’ll forgive the TD because he’s a rookie, a converted S, and he had been playing the other side of the field as Sherm’s backup. I was happy to see him playing aggressive.

  7. Jack Hammer says:
    December 14, 2018 at 9:52 am
    49ers 23 Seahawks 22

    Had this one pretty much nailed for regulation. For the second week in a row this team didn’t beat themselves by giving the opponent the ball deep in their own territory, Seattle’s best starting field position was their own 34.

          1. I missed your hat on your periscopes ;p
            Thought both the pregame and post game had good analysis, and I liked your call on screen passes.

  8. Mullens did not replace Jimmy. Honestly, for whatever reason only Shanahan knows, he’s still deciding between Mullens and Beathard. Mullens did nothing that Jimmy wouldn’t have done with more time: he started off shaky outside of that Raiders game and proceeded to get better and more confident over time with repeated success.

    Shanahan. was. never. on. the. hot. seat. It’s debatable whether Saleh was ever on the hot seat. Stop that.

    Pettis isn’t expendable and Bourne came down with a tough catch, so that counts for something as well as the drop. Trent also had a key 3rd down conversion while Pettis put up big gains to move the ball.

  9. If Mullens did not beat the Raiders, and the Seahawks routed the Niners like they did the first time. KS would have been 2-12, and certainly on the hot seat, just like BW was during his first season.
    However, KS called a good game, and these last 2 wins show the Niners are on the right track. Sure, KS was given a 6 year contract, but if the Niners had kept up their Keystone Kops moments, nobody should have been considered safe. Just a few weeks ago, posters and pundits were saying the team was devoid of talent.
    It was nice to see KS finally finish a games well, and the Niners not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Still, the Niners will finish out against 2 playoff teams, so we may need to be content with 4 wins.

  10. Am just glad the Bosa talk is over…..
    Definately best game won in the KS era…
    T. Moore looks promising…….i like💙
    RJJ aka The Dark Horse #senseispunk…..came through today….💚
    We have weapons, offense looks legit….. all we need is a possession WR or hope Bourne keeps developing…
    This Lynch guy is not doing bad after all…2 drafts and we have the core of the franchise…….our backup situation looks good……
    Saleh redeemed himself…..did well with the rookies……
    5 picks in the draft……we need difference makers from FA……hello Clowney….
    I will wait to see JimmyG next season before I join the Mullen’s era begins crowd….

    1. After watching the Pats-Steelers highlights, Brady may be on his last legs. If Brady retires, I wonder if the Pats may offer a boatload of picks for JG. With Mullens in the picture, the Niners have flexibility, and should consider all options.
      JL did whiff on Joe Williams, and Foster disappeared like a puff of smoke, so the second guessing on the 2017 draft does not make it a stellar draft.
      Clowney will not leave a playoff team.

  11. This is a great win but slow down there buddy.

    3 weeks ago Grant thought Kap should be brought in to replace Mullens now Mullens has a win better than any Jimmy G victory and is long term starting material?

    Jimmy G beating Jacksonville last year was better then this Grant. They were minutes away from going to the SB and had the best defense in the league and Jimmy shredded them. Seattle is a slightly above average team that just had our number for awhile. Sometimes you seem bi-polar with how quickly you love a player then hate them or think someone is garbage and a bust then you think they’re amazing.

  12. The 49ers weren’t as bad or as good as everyone decides over a bad game or a good game. They still need an upgrade and an impact player at every position except maybe tight end and QB. The scouts will have their hands full finding a pass rusher, a top corner, safety, and WR. The good news is the 49ers look like they will be competitive next year.

  13. I think some of the grades were a little harsh as no one player
    or position group was on the field by themselves. Losing (Apparently)
    the Bosa sweepstakes is counteracted by Mullen’s peformance
    under pressure who performed with 10 other teammates at one time.
    I would give the whole team an A and ignore the individual grades.

  14. No team is ever as good as it’s best game nor as bad as it’s worst. This team showed flashes of this sort of play in other games but could never put it all together. Mullins played a good game but the way Grant made it sound he played an error free game. Just to keep it real he over threw an open Kittle twice and they were not even close. . One that would have been a sure TD. If this was a QB that would have fit his “trash him “agenda, he would have only focused on the two over throws.

    I think and have always thought this team would eventually get it together and then they would get results like happened Sunday.

    1. With tine Mullens will make both those throws to Kittle. Also, at some point Goodwin wlll be a more significant part of the game plan. I’d like to see how Mullens steps up when that happens. Goodwin made a lot of big plays for Jimmy.

  15. This game was huge. The Niners beat the streak. They stopped Seattle from celebrating, getting into the playoffs in Levis. The Seahawks seemed to have the Niner’s number, but this last game changed all that. Pete Carroll is a fantastic upbeat coach, but KS out thought and out maneuvered him. KS set up plays like in a chess match, and Pete Carroll fell for traps. 4th and short? Pass. Mismatches? Several. Invite the blitz? Burn them. After the Seahawks destroyed the Niners by 27 points 2 weeks ago, it sure seemed like the Seahawks were taking the Niners lightly. The Niners seemed like they were biting nails, thirsting for revenge.
    Guess the Niners got tired of losing. KS said that champions need to start acting like champions, and that defense did not give up an inch willingly. They beat them to the punch, and Pita laid the lumber. Buckner was a beast. Thomas impressed. James made up for his previous muffed punts. Even Nzeocha, Taylor, Mitchell, Exum and Smith played well, and Sherman deserved the game ball. It was a team victory, from the coaches on down.
    Saleh not only had his defenders well prepared and focused, he motivated them to beat a superior opponent. KS finished the game, but I was happiest because he did not use his time outs at the end of the first half. He did not use them, which might have helped the Seahawks. KS was not greedy, and was content to have a 4 point lead at the half. That was using his time outs wisely.
    I could give a rat’s fart for losing a draft position. Winning was so much more important. Some day, I hope the Niners start winning a lot because they hate losing, more.

  16. Richberg is absolutely terrible. Horrendously bad. Here is my take on this team. We have some good, very young talent that has been hidden all year. Harris, Reed, Moore (who will play over Witherspoon next year), DJ Jones, James, etc. Instead, we played veterans who didn’t care enough. Nor are they that good (Mitchell, Ward, etc),. These kids are hungry.

    Next, they finally played S Thomas at his natural inside position and he was either held or in backfield all game. He is an very good inside pass rusher.

    49ers have a great problem. Two potential franchise QB’s. Mullens is 23 and signed for at least another 3 years. Remember, we got Jimmy G on the cheap. In three years, if Mullens continues to shine (in even limited action), he could be worth a 1st round pick to a QB needy team. You could argue that his limited starts are more impressive than Jimmy G’s were prior to the trade. In fact, you really cannot argue it.

  17. I enjoy this team having sparks again, the young guys getting playing time gives the coaches a more accurate who’s who on the team. We all knew this was going to be a rebuild but whomever said Lynch is key to it right here and now is kidding themselves. Alot of these rookies and 2nd year players showing up to play were guys position coaches and scouts pushed for. Look at who our upper tier draft picks were. I still say the Brady back up curse is in effect, Garropolo goes down due to injury on non contact? He backed up Brady behind a way better offensive line and still got hurt. My point is he doesn’t seem durable. I’ll be sold on KS IF he continues to show he can learn from his mistakes. What is concerning is that this team still seems to lack more discipline. Though my viewpoint is probably scewed after having Harbaugh as head coach. My personal opinion would like to see a change at GM, but this organization thanks to ownership is stuck with what they got. Look how free agents, coaches, and probably the GM recruitment went after the way Harbaugh was let go. Fire any of those key positions and its not much different than dating someone who drops you for the “better choice” , only you know its coming the moment dinner is over and you are paying for a extravagant meal barely through the first date.

  18. The bottom line is Kyle would rather win with Mullens than lose with Kaep! :p
    Kudos to Coach/GM for managing to get his usual snipe in at Kyle. Creative, negative writing amongst a positive weekend. Good one.

    1. See my previous post. Once JG tore his ACL, if the Niners had signed Kaep, maybe we would be speculating about the playoffs, rather than who to draft.
      Sure am glad that KS mentioned he fit his scheme to the QB, not fit the QB to his scheme.

  19. Grant,
    I agree regarding Tomlinson and Richburg. I hope they are able to trade back with a couple of their picks and they load up with interior O linemen in the draft. I believe that Moore took a huge step towards becoming a NFL CB yesterday. With Witherspoon showing great improvement over the last few games, Shermans solid play all year and now Moore possibly breaking out I will remove CB from my drat board at least for the first 3 rounds. Free agency and the draft should be about 2 areas pass rush and interior o line. imho

  20. For the most part the individual posts are far superior to Grant’s comments which is why I read his blogs. I believe all of the comments about coaches or Lynch being on the hot seat were and are ridiculous. People forget how important continuity is to team sports. Kyle was the hire and he chose everyone else including Lynch. He knows that coaching is a team activity as well as bringing in the right players is a team activity. In a good organization like the one we have now, everyone has input. Scouts bring forward their reviews of all the potential players, coaches evaluate and John and Kyle make the decisions together.

    I think the F grades in a winning effort against a playoff team are nonsensical, at least in this particular game. Dismissal comments, such as the comments about the safeties only make sense to a person sitting in their lounger. You have to have a better replacement before you dismiss someone. Those comments make about as much sense as wanting to replace Mullins with Kaepernick. I think Grant would be wise to be a little more patient with young players and a young team and a young organization.

  21. Very Gratifying win.

    1. Yup this was right up there with the home playoff win versus New Orleans (Alex Smith), home playoff win versus GB, the road playoff win at frozen GB, the road NFC championship win versus Atlanta and the road regular season sunday night game versus New England – remember that one.

    1 a. Wishing Alex Smith a speedy recovery .

    2. I’ll surprise some and say I really enjoyed Tomsula’s Monday night win versus Vikings. I liked Tomsula and in hindsight he got a pretty raw deal.

    3. Mullins is a good QB. It is a bit unfair to compare his performances versus Seahawks to Kaps. They had a very different defense 4 years ago.

    4. I like Breida, but I dont think he can handle a 200 + carry workload. We still need to find an every down back.

    5. Mckinnon is not the answer. He will have flashes of brilliance , but will be injured often. 2 non contact injuries this preseason.

    6. We will need a true #1 receiver. Pettis and goodwin will be excellent compliments to whoever he is.

    7. Our interior O-Line stinks. It has been bad for several years. The problem now is that we also have to start thinking about a replacement for Staley.

    8. We seriously need to draft better – acquire free agents better and most importantly assess talent better.

    9. Fatty donnie is going to prison . Collusion is real but so are all the other investigations into this corrupt dirty weasel. Garrett Graff twitter

    1. Russian collision… lmaooooo. That’s right up there with Sebs big blue wave and Shanahans hot seat!
      Turn CNN off you sheeple

  22. Sorry Grant I think your a little premature in awarding Mullens a starting QB status until he faces the Bears defense next Sunday. (I have to watch them every Sunday and the defense is for real) If he can pass for more than 250 yards and no turnovers then I will join the Mullens bandwagon.
    It is simply impossible to have a QB grade of A and an OL grade of F. Lets start being objective and leave your personal likes or dislikes out of the articles. Yes most of the readers agree with you that the two named O linemen are wanting and should be upgraded after some more pressing needs are taken care of first.

  23. I see that Marcell Harris made the blog in your grades. But not for anything good.

    I think you overlooked or failed to mention how well he played. He is fast, takes great angles and hits hard. I’m already looking at this guy as a player to make an impact on this roster in the very near future.

    I was very impressed with this rookies game aside from one play where he didn’t set the edge :l

    And I see that Sebby is still a narcissist. SMH.

  24. I like Mullens over JG. Or maybe he’s a flavor of the month. Mullens is tough. He took some hits in the rain in muddy Santa Clara. He’s like Jeff Garcia. He also has no WRs, much like Joe in his first years before Rice showed up.

    Rueben Foster and Solomon Thomas were so-so picks but Deforest was a good one. If they get a really good CB and WR, the team can contend with the Rams next year for sure.

    Goff can be shaky at times. Gurley is good but Brieda in the KS scheme looks good.

    They should bring back Kaep!

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