I probably shouldn’t have expected the 49ers to beat the Giants on Sunday. New York has a ton of talent, although their record obviously does not show it. However, we all saw last Thursday what happens when a team with some spirit still left in them faces a team who has completely given up. I had a feeling it was going to be a similar situation on Monday: young team with new QB trying to prove something, playing against a team full of veterans who clearly do not want to be there anymore. However, that is not how it turned out, as although the 49ers competed until the very end, they could not quite get over the hump, eventually falling to New York 27-23. There were a couple big plays that ended up deciding this one, but what I found somewhat troubling is the same issues that have persisted with this team all year still appear to be present.
Nick Mullens actually played a very good game for a young guy making his second career start. His final stat line looked like this: 27-39, 250 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions. the second of those interceptions was because of an extremely easy catch being bobbled up in the air by Marquis Goodwin. Mullens had good command of the huddle, and again, did not look nervous or like the moment was too big for him; rather, he looked poised, and still offers a lot more of a chance to win than CJ Beathard had been this season. This is what makes me concerned. Our main issue all year has been bad quarter back play, so when we finally have someone who looks capable, we should be able to beat the worst teams in the league, right? Not so fast.
The secondary, who has struggled mightily all season, once again looked lost. They completely lost Odell Beckham Jr. in coverage in the first quarter, which led to an easy touchdown for him. Then later, in the 3rd quarter, the Giants ran a play from the 20 yard line and had OBJ go deep. They tried it, and he was open, but Elie Manning missed him. The Giants then had him run the SAME exact route, and the 49ers made the same exact mistake. No safety help, OBJ had an easy catch for his second touchdown of the day. At some point, Robert Saleh has to be held accountable for the defense’s mistakes. If a guy keeps getting burned, you bench him. But when there is a season long trend of missed assignments and confusion in the secondary, something more has to be done, and I do believe we need a new defensive coordinator next season. Shanahan, being a young head coach, would be wise to look for an older, more experienced mind on the defensive end to take some pressure off oh him. If he is not able to get someone who demands respect and can get this unit turned around, I do honestly believe Shanahan will be on the hot seat next year.
In all, it was one of the better games the team played since Garopollo went down, and Mullens does indeed look like a solid, capable quarterback. However, the defense is NOT good. Aside from Richard Sherman, the secondary, as I have stated before and has only been reaffirmed, needs a complete overhaul. Robert Saleh should not be here next year, as our personnel just does not match up with what he would like to do. The 49ers need a lot of new pieces this offseason, and I am a little worried that just the draft may not be enough. Big splash free agency signings don’t always pan out, but the 49ers undoubtedly will need to make good, key signings this year on the defensive side of the ball (and they need a receiver!) if they want to compete for a playoff spot in a tough NFC West next season.