The San Francisco 49ers jumped out to a large halftime lead and ultimately held on for a 20-14 win over the Denver Broncos last Sunday. Jeff Deeney of Pro Football Focus provided grades for members of the 49ers who stood out during Sunday’s contest. Here are eight of San Francisco’s top performers from Week 14.
1. George Kittle
Kittle earned a 92.1 overall grade, the highest grade on the team. He set several franchise records, including the most receiving yards in a single season by a tight end. Kittle registered seven receptions for a career high 210 yards and a touchdown and averaged 7.78 yards per route run in the first half. His 1,103 receiving yards through 14 weeks makes Kittle the first member of the 49ers to reach 1,000 receiving yards in a single season since Anquan Boldin in 2014 (1,062 yards).
“The thing that he’s doing better, that I can say he’s done better than any tight end I’ve ever had, is what he’s doing after the catch,” Kyle Shanahan said post game. “He does a good job beating man coverage and does a good job in his routes and does a great job blocking. But, when that ball is in the air, the play is just starting. He’s trying to catch it and he runs angry and he runs confidently that he expects to score on every look. I think that’s why it’s been easier to get him the yards he has.”
Kittle’s monster showing earned him a spot on PFF's Team of the Week. He was the third-highest graded performer in Week 14 behind only behind Derick Henry (95.1) and JuJu Smith-Shuster (92.4). Kittle’s 705 yards after the catch on the season is nearly 200 more than the next tight end (Travis Kelce – 512) and more than double any other tight end (Jared Cook – 337).
2. Joe Staley
Staley allowed just one quarterback pressure in 41 drop back passes against the Broncos. His Week 14 performance earned him an overall grade of 80.0 and made him the second member of the 49ers to land on PFF’s Team of the Week. Sunday marked Staley's ninth game this season allowing two or fewer quarterback pressures. Staley also caught a batted down pass for his first reception of 2018 and the third of his career.
3. Nick Mullens
Mullens earned the seventh-best grade among quarterbacks in Week 14 with a 76.6 overall mark. The second-year quarterback completed 20-of-33 attempts for 332 yards and two touchdowns for a passer rating of 102.1. On throws of 10 or more yards downfield, Mullens was 7-of-9 for 208 yards and a touchdown for an impressive quarterback rating of 155.8. Mullens is the first undrafted 49ers quarterback to throw for 300 or more yards in consecutive games since Jeff Garcia in 2000.
“Nick has shown that he can play quarterback in this league,” Shanahan said. “He did a very good job in this game playing within himself, playing in a tight pocket. He made some really good throws with people around him."
4. D.J. Jones
In his first NFL start, Jones earned the top grade on defense at 89.8. Shanahan stated he wanted to get a look at the young players on the roster which gave Jones the nod ahead of starting nose tackle Earl Mitchell. Jones tallied a quarterback hit and hurry on Case Keenum and also earned a 90.3 grade against the run.
“Having Earl up throughout the year is why D.J. hasn’t been up very much,” Shanahan said. “But, it came a time and had to sit Earl down and tell him it was nothing against him but we needed to see what D.J. can do."
5. D.J. Reed Jr.
In place of injured nickel corner K’Waun Williams, Reed Jr. recorded a team-high seven stops, 12 total tackles and a forced fumble in Sunday's victory over Denver. He also registered a quarterback hurry and his first-career sack on Case Keenum, earning him an 87.9 overall grade. Reed Jr. is also up for Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week honors from his Week 14 performance.
“D.J. did have a very good game. I was very excited to see him do some of the stuff he did as the nickel,” Shanahan said. “I think K’Waun has done a hell of a job for us in these two years. So, if K’Waun is healthy, I expect K’Waun to be out there. But if he’s not, D.J. can hopefully do better than he did last week and it would be great to go in with some real good competition with those two next year.”
6. Arik Armstead
The fourth-year defensive lineman was stout against the run earning an 87.4 run block grade. Armstead currently ranks third among all edge defenders against the run behind only Calais Campbell and Jadeveon Clowney. Sunday’s performance earned him a 76.6 overall grade.
7. DeForest Buckner
Buckner totaled six quarterback pressures (one hit, five hurries) for a 76.2 overall grade.
8. Marcel Harris
Harris was coming off of a tough debut in Week 13 against the Seattle Seahawks. He rebounded nicely on Sunday, totaling four stops, including a crucial fourth-down stop of Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay inside the 49ers red zone. Harris did not miss a single tackle in Week 14, earning a 73.6 overall grade.