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Despite Injuries, Nick Mullens Leads a Dominant Victory Over Giants

After a week of practices in West Virginia, the 49ers returned to the Meadowlands and put up a dominant 36-9 victory over the New York Giants. It's worth nothing, the 49ers went into Sunday's match without their starting quarterback, running back, tight end, center, wide receiver, linebacker, defensive tackle, both cornerbacks and both defensive ends, but still managed to put together a cohesive performance to improve their overall record to 2-1.

Here are 10 takeaways from the win:

1. After the 49ers Week 2 win over the Jets, Nick Mullens spoke with the media and said going into his fourth season under Kyle Shanahan, there is "no excuse" to why he shouldn't be able to perform. San Francisco's backup quarterback did just that and came out of the gate aggressive and making decisive throws on Sunday. Mullens finished the game completing 25-of-36 passes for 343 yards and a touchdown for a 108.9 quarterback rating.

Mullens became the first 49ers quarterback since Joe Montana (1985-86) to throw for 220-plus yards in nine-straight starts.

"Nick was great. He was very poised. We went on a lot of long drives today, which is better than not scoring, but long drives can get a little bit exhausting but Nick kept his composure," Shanahan said. "I know we went on this 16-play drive without a third down. Nick was real impressive on that with his execution and how consistent he was all day."

2. The Giants first offensive drive ended with a turnover, compliments of former first-round defensive lineman, Dion Jordan. Making a game-changing play on his first series as a member of the 49ers, Jordan, who joined the 49ers in training camp, was signed to the team's practice squad at the start of the season and was promoted to the active roster heading into Sunday.

Giants quarterback Daniel Jones made a pitch to Evan Engram as the tight end juggled the ball and Jordan jumped on the fumble. That play marked the 49ers first fumble recovery of the season and the first of Jordan's career.

3. Jordan wasn't the only member of the 49ers to finish the day with a takeaway. Fred Warner hauled in his first interception of the season and second of his career. On 2nd-and-10 on their own 25, Warner perfectly read a play and jumped a pass intended for Engram. Warner's interception set up the 49ers for a field goal heading into the half.

"I've got to shout out Jaquiski Tartt, because before they even snapped the ball, he was alerting it to me," Warner said postgame. "So, I saw the formation and was thinking it. The coaches do a great job of getting us ready throughout the week. And it just played out perfectly as I read the quarterback's eyes and kind of baited him into throwing it and was able to take it home."

4. In the final two minutes of the contest, safety Marcell Harris forced a fumble on a tackle against Darius Slayton and Tarvarius Moore came up with the ball, marking the 49ers third takeaway of the day.

5. Jordan Reed appeared to be one of Mullens' favorite targets early, seeing six passes thrown his direction in the first half, including a near-touchdown in the back of the end zone. After the play, Reed immediately grabbed his ankle, but managed to walk off the field under his own will. He later returned for a series, but left the game again with what looked like a knee injury. Reed finished the game catching two passes for 23 yards.

According to Shanahan, he doesn't believe Reed suffered anything long term. The team will further evaluate the severity of his injuries when they return to the team facility in Santa Clara on Monday.

6. Ross Dwelley came alive with Reed out of the rotation. Dwelley caught several contested passes, including a 20-yard pickup over the middle on 2nd-and-11. The tight end finished the game hauling in all four of his targets for 49 yards.

"I was just really happy with everyone across the board, especially losing some of the guys early," Shanahan said. "Losing Jordan, who was a big part of the game plan, for Ross Dwelley to come in and step it up and make some plays... (they) made some really good plays for us today."

7. San Francisco didn't score their first touchdown of the game until late in the second quarter. Jerick McKinnon took the handoff up the left sideline and dove over the pylon for a 10-yard score. Later in the third quarter, he stretched out for a beautiful pass from Mullens for 26 yards that put the 49ers near the goal line. McKinnon finished the day with 38 rushing yards on 14 carries and a touchdown to add to 39 receiving yards on three receptions.

McKinnon left the game in the fourth quarter with what Shanahan alluded to as an upper rib injury. Like Reed, the severity of his injury will be assessed on Monday, as the 49ers are already down two of their top ball carriers in Raheem Mostert (knee) and Tevin Coleman (knee).

8. San Francisco's 25th-overall pick looked as advertised coming out of the half. On the 49ers first series of the second half, Brandon Aiyuk hauled in three catches for 30 yards. He culminated the drive taking an end around 19-yards up the right sideline for a touchdown, the first score of his NFL career. Aiyuk finished the game leading the team in targets (8), receptions (5) and yards (70), while adding 31 yards on the ground and his score on three carries.

"I was happy with Aiyuk also," Shanahan said. "He struggled a little bit in the first half and got going in that opening drive in the third quarter. He really made some good plays for us today."

9. San Francisco's defense came up big with a fourth-down stop for the second-straight week. On 4th-and-1, the Giants attempted a quarterback keep as Azeez Al-Shaair and Jason Verrett stuffed the quarterback just ahead of the first down marker.

Speaking of Verrett, the 49ers were already down Richard Sherman (calf) and Ahkello Witherspoon (hamstring) heading into Sunday. Emmanuel Moseley left the game in the first half while being evaluated for a concussion. Verrett and Dontae Johnson took part in limiting the Giants receivers to under 100 yards on the day. Sunday marked his first live snaps since Week 3 of the 2019 season.

"I was so happy for Jason Verrett. I mean, Jason Verrett is a stud," Shanahan said. "He's been a great player in this league and he's been through more, maybe even more than Jet has in the last couple of years. I was so glad that he came back with our team. He played great in camp then had that hamstring that last week (of training camp) that set him back. He got his opportunity today."

10. The 49ers capitalized off of the turnover on downs with another score, this time, from Jeff Wilson Jr.. The running back caught a screen pass from Mullens and went virtually untouched for 19 yards to the end zone. He also rushed for the 49ers final score of the day, finishing the game with 69 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns.

Other Notes...

  • The 49ers didn't punt once the entire day. The last time the 49ers didn't have a single punt was Week 16 of the 1993 season – a 55-17 win over the Detroit Lions.
  • Jordan and Kerry Hyder Jr. recorded sacks against Jones. Rookie Javon Kinlaw patted down a pass and also recorded a run stop.
  • The 49ers defense managed to keep the Giants out of the end zone the entire contest. In nearly back-to-back weeks, San Francisco has held opponents out of the end zone for three-straight quarters.
  • Linebacker Mark Nzeocha left the game with a quad injury.
  • Sunday was the first time there has ever been a score of 36-9 in NFL history.

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