Mullens puts up historic numbers in 49ers debut
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Without any real practices and after finding out he was starting just hours before Thursday night’s game against the Oakland Raiders, all San Francisco 49ers QB Nick Mullens did was put together one of the best statistical debuts by a quarterback in league history.
Mullens, who replaced an injured C.J. Beathard in the starting lineup, was unfazed by his prime-time debut, calmly directing the Niners to touchdowns on the first two drives of his young career and going on to post the best passer rating by a quarterback in his first start since the merger in 1970.
With Mullens at the helm, the 49ers blew out the Raiders 34-3 in what was the final “Battle of the Bay” before the Raiders relocate to Las Vegas.
By the time Mullens’ first regular-season playing experience was done, he was 16-of-22 for 262 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 151.9. And he let his emotions show when speaking to Fox about his performance after the game.
“I am calm, cool and collected until I have to bring my emotions out, and they’ll come out,” he said. “I just love football. I have grown up playing since second grade and this is why you play, for something like this.”
With each completed pass, Mullens seemed to reach another historical benchmark.
Mullens’ passer rating of 151.9 was the best by a quarterback making his debut with at least 20 attempts since 1970.
Mullens joined Marc Bulger, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Marcus Mariota as the only players over the past 25 seasons to throw for three or more touchdowns in their first game, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Mullens is the first player since Carson Wentz to throw a touchdown in his first career game on the team’s opening drive and one of four to do it in the past 15 seasons, along with Wentz, Mariota and Matt Ryan.
Mullens is the first player in 49ers history to throw three touchdowns in his first game with the team, according to Elias Sport Bureau.
The last time a 49ers quarterback threw two touchdown passes on the first two drives of a game was Week 4 of 2016 (Colin Kaepernick). The last time the Niners scored a touchdown on their first two drives of a game was Week 14 of 2016.
Things went so well for Mullens on Thursday night that his previously unverified Twitter account was granted a blue check mark — during the game.
All of that added up to the Niners’ second win of the season in one of the biggest blowouts by a team with just one victory this late in the season in the Super Bowl era. The Niners’ 31-point margin of victory is the second largest in that category.
“I have been in the organization for two years, just trying to learn as much as I could every week and this week was my week,” Mullens said. “So, you just have to take advantage of opportunities when they come and they came.”
The 49ers signed Mullens in 2017 as an undrafted free agent out of Southern Miss, where he was the most prolific quarterback in school history, surpassing Brett Favre along the way and ultimately shattering Titans quarterback Austin Davis’ records.
Before Thursday’s game, Favre tweeted good luck to Mullens, which may have helped his case for verification on the social network.
In the days leading up to Thursday’s game, Mullens prepared as though he would start, but the Niners held nothing but walk-throughs because of the short turnaround from Sunday’s loss to Arizona.
With Beathard attempting to recover from his injury, the Niners weren’t even sure who would start Thursday night until hours before the game. Beathard, who is dealing with injuries to his right wrist and thumb, was healthy enough to serve as the backup, but coach Kyle Shanahan gave Mullens the nod.
The 49ers don’t play again until Nov. 12 on Monday Night Football against the Giants. The question is whether Mullens will get a chance at an encore performance of Nick at Night.
“It’s everything I dreamed of,” he said, “but it’s only one game though, which is very important.”
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