SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP)As disheartening as the start of their two-game trip East was for the San Francisco 49ers was, the finish was just a satisfying.
After losing several key players to significant injuries in a win over the New York Jets, the Niners showed there’s plenty of talent left on the roster of the defending NFC champions in a 36-9 victory over the Giants on Sunday.
The Niners managed to regroup in the week between the games while practicing in West Virginia and recover from the emotional hit from so many injuries.
”I think it was good for camaraderie,” coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday. ”Players get to spend a little more time together, especially with the shorter training camp and not having an offseason with quarantine and everything, I thought it was even more important for us this year. … I think it helped us.”
The Niners lost defensive linemen Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas to season-ending knee injuries against the Jets and also saw quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, running backs Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman, and linebacker Dre Greenlaw also get hurt, leading them to miss the second game of the trip.
With All-Pro tight end George Kittle, star cornerback Richard Sherman, edge rusher Dee Ford and No. 1 receiver Deebo Samuel among the players already sidelined, San Francisco had to go deep into the depth chart against the Giants.
Nick Mullens threw for 343 yards and a touchdown in his first start in nearly 21 months, rookie receiver Brandon Aiyuk gained 101 yards from scrimmage and scored a TD, Jeff Wilson Jr. had two TDs and the defense shut down Daniel Jones and the Giants.
”He was very efficient and made all the plays that were there and then made a number of plays that weren’t there,” Shanahan said. ”Extended a few. Had a few big third downs, a few big second-and-longs. He kept us on the field for a while and played tough. I was very impressed with him. Each time I watched it, I feel stronger about that.”
Mullens struggled in relief of Garoppolo last week but was extremely efficient after a full week of practice. He completed 25 of 36 passes for 343 yards with a 19-yard TD pass to Wilson. Mullens is averaging 291.1 yards passing in his nine career starts with 8.5 yards per attempt in those games.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Running game. The Niners missed Mostert as backups Jerick McKinnon and Wilson combined for 53 yards on 26 carries. They did score three TDs but weren’t nearly as successful as Mostert at breaking off long runs.
Aiyuk. After a spotty debut in Week 2, Aiyuk showed why San Francisco traded up six spots in the first round to draft him 25th overall. He caught five passes for 70 yards and also ran for 31 more, including a 19-yard TD on an end-around.
Kyle Nelson. The usually reliable Nelson had several poor snaps on extra points and field goals and was eventually pulled from the game for Justin Skule on the final extra point. Nelson apologized to Shanahan on Monday for the poor performance. Shanahan said the team will likely bring in some long snappers to work out this week.
”He understands this business,” Shanahan said. ”He understands how the league works. We’re going to bring in some guys tomorrow, work them out, see how they look and we’ll decide what’s best for us going forward.”
Garoppolo, Kittle and Mostert will be evaluated again on Wednesday to determine whether they can return to practice and possibly play this week. … TE Jordan Reed sprained his MCL and will likely miss six to eight weeks. … Samuel is set to return to practice Wednesday for the first time this season after breaking his foot in June. … Ford is still sidelined by a bad back and could go on short-term IR. … LB Mark Nzeocha (quadriceps) is likely headed to IR. … LB Dre Greenlaw (quadriceps) will miss a second straight game. … McKinnon (ribs), CB Emmanuel Moseley (concussion) and CB K’Waun Williams (hip) also got hurt in the game and will be evaluated again Wednesday.
39:44. The Niners had their most time of possession in a game in nearly two years thanks to an efficient ball-control performance. They had 29 first downs, tied for their second most since 2010, and didn’t have to punt even once.
The Niners return home to host Philadelphia on Sunday night.
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