SANTA CLARA – The 49ers beat the Raiders 34-3 Thursday night. Here are the 49ers grades:
MULLENS: A-plus. Sure, he faced the Raiders, and they didn’t try. But, Nick Mullens made his first career start, and statistically it was the best quarterback debut since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970. Mullens threw three touchdown passes and his quarterback rating was 151.9. He played free and easily, like Jimmy Garoppolo last season. Gave the 49ers confidence they haven’t felt since Garoppolo was their quarterback. Beathard killed their confidence. He was a dark cloud hanging over the entire team. Mullens should start the rest of the season. He’s better than Beathard.
RUNNING BACKS: A. They gained 144 rushing yards. Starter Matt Breida fumbled and averaged just 3.7 yards per carry. But, backup Raheem Mostert didn’t fumble, and averaged 12.7 yards per carry. He rushed for 86 yards and a touchdown on just seven carries before breaking his arm during the third quarter. He most likely will miss the rest of the season. What a shame. He was averaging 7.7 yards per carry this season. He was the best running back on the team.
WIDE RECEIVERS: B. Marquise Goodwin didn’t make an impact, but Pierre Garcon made his first touchdown catch with the 49ers. And backup slot receiver Richie James caught a six-yard pass over the middle and ran 47 yards with the ball after the catch. He should be the starting slot receiver the rest of the season. Trent Taylor hasn’t played well since he had offseason back surgery. He didn’t even play in this game.
TIGHT ENDS: A. George Kittle gained 108 receiving yards and caught a touchdown pass – his third of the season. He is the 49ers best offensive player. Third-string tight end Ross Dwelley caught an eight-yard pass in the red zone. The 49ers should use him more in that area of the field.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: A-minus. The 49ers ran at will, and the Raiders never sacked Mullens. They touched him only once. Right tackle Mike McGlinchey made a terrific block 52 yards downfield during Mostert’s long touchdown run. McGlinchey played well. Center Weston Richburg did not. The Raiders pushed him around in the red zone, because he’s not strong enough to block a nose tackle one on one.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: A. The Raiders made the 49ers pass rushers seem like Pro Bowlers. The 49ers recorded eight sacks. Cassius Marsh alone recorded 2.5. DeForest Buckner recorded one.
LINEBACKERS: A. Rookie middle linebacker Fred Warner led the defense with seven tackles. Reuben Foster didn’t play and the 49ers didn’t miss him. He’s replaceable.
SAFETIES: A. Jaquiski Tartt and Antone Exum Jr. didn’t play. Tyvis Powell, a third-stringer, started at strong safety. And he helped limit Raiders tight end Jared Cook to just two catches and 20 receiving yards.
CORNERBACKS: A. The Raiders leading receiver was Martavis Bryant, who gained 29 receiving yards. Brandon Lafell gained 20. Jordy Nelson gained 16. They made the 49ers cornerbacks seem like Hall of Famers.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A. Robbie Gould made one field goal, and Bradley Pinion averaged a whopping 48 net yards per punt.
COACHES: A-minus. Kyle Shanahan prepared the 49ers on a short week, and motivated them to play hard and clean. They committed only three penalties and zero turnovers. And they humiliated the Raiders on national television in front of every Bay Area sports writer. Good work. If Nick Mullens continues to play well and win games, he may save Shanahan’s job. I don’t understand why Shanahan didn’t make Mullens the starter sooner. Shanahan watches his players practice every day. He needs to know which ones are good. He insisted C.J. Beathard is the best quarterback in the building, and was wrong. Mullens is the best. Shanahan should have benched Beathard after he lost to the first Cardinals game back in Week 5. The 49ers record was 1-4 at that point. They still were alive. But, they threw away the next three games because they stuck with Beathard, and now their season is over. At least Mullens makes them watchable.