Come-from-behind touchdown thrown…
The San Francisco 49ers hosted the New York Giants at a smoke-filled Levi’s Stadium for “Monday Night Football” to close out NFL Week 10.
It was a game that came down to the wire, with the outcome not being determined until the final whistle. The Giants eked out their second win of the season, thanks to a fourth-quarter, come-from-behind touchdown thrown by Eli Manning to Sterling Shepard. The final score was 27-23 in favor of the road team.
These were the biggest winners and losers from the action.
Winner: Eli Manning and Co. came through in the clutch
Eli Manning had a few of his “what are you doing?” moments in this game, mostly having to do with some seriously underthrown balls on plays that could have been touchdowns. But when it mattered, he delivered.
The veteran completed 19-of-31 passes for just 188 yards. Not anything to write home about. But Manning also threw three touchdowns, and he didn’t turn the ball over once. The final touchdown proved to be the game-winner to Sterling Shepard with just 53 seconds left on the clock, capping off a 75-yard drive that saw Manning complete a few clutch passes and a few others that resulted in defensive penalties to keep the drive alive.
It wasn’t the prettiest win Manning has ever led, but it was sweet.
Loser: Nick Mullens threw the ball away on Hail Mary
The final play of the game was about as anticlimactic as they come. Nick Mullens and the 49ers were at the Giants’ 21-yard line with a second left. They should have had a few more ticks on the clock if Marquise Goodwin hadn’t tried to run around after making a big catch on the previous play. But I digress.
Then, after New York took a timeout, Mullens took the snap, looked around, danced in the pocket and delivered a pass that went well out of the end zone. Nobody had a chance to catch it. It was the worst possible way to end what had been an entertaining game overall.
Overall, Mullens struggled through a difficult night. He completed 27-of-39 passes for 250 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
Winner: George Kittle puts in another Pro-Bowl effort
To the surprise of nobody who’s paid attention to George Kittle this year, the dynamic tight end had another huge game. He was the main weapon for Nick Mullens in the passing game, catching nine passes for 83 yards on 10 targets.
This guy keeps showing up, week in and week out, and now has 50 catches for 775 yards and three touchdowns on the season.
Kittle’s rise, along with the continued decline of Rob Gronkowski, has the 49ers tight end pushing toward top-3 status among NFL tight ends.
Loser: 49ers receivers had a rough night
It could be argued that both of Mullens’ interceptions on Monday night were at least partly the fault of his receivers.
On the first one, Kendrick Bourne failed to aggressively come back to the ball and was out-hustled by Janoris Jenkins on the play. On the second interception, Marquise Goodwin confused Mullens by stopping, then starting his route back up.
Aside from the turnovers, 49ers wide receivers were generally just ineffective. Goodwin, Bourne and Dante Pettis combined to catch 12 passes, but the only gained 114 yards, averaging 9.5 yards per catch and couldn’t get into the end zone.
Winner: New York’s offensive line was much improved
It’s no secret that the G-Men have featured one of the league’s worst offensive lines (once again) this season. Coming into Monday night’s game, the Giants had given up 31 sacks, tied for the fourth-worst mark in the NFL.
Additionally, it’s been rough sledding on the ground all year for Saquon Barkley, who has been hit in the backfield far too many times before he ever had a chance to make plays. Barkley didn’t have a banner day on the ground, but he was effective. Even better, Manning only took one sack and was hit just four times throughout the game.
That’s some outstanding progress.
Loser: Landon Collins got roasted in coverage
Far too often on plays where Kittle found an opening in New York’s defense, he had just victimized Landon Collins. The safety just could not keep up with him, neither in terms of pure speed or his ability to explode laterally.
Time and time again, Kittle roasted Collins in coverage. It’s been a common theme all year for the safety, who does much better down in the box than he does out in space. It feels like Colins’ 2016 campaign — many argued he deserved to be the Defensive Player of the Year — was eons ago.
Winner: Matt Breida is special
Next year figures to be a ton of fun for 49ers fans. Along with the emergence of George Kittle, former undrafted free agent Matt Breida continues to show he’s capable of playing at a very high level on a weekly basis. Throw in Jerick McKinnon and Jimmy Garoppolo next season and you have the makings of a very potent offense.
On Monday night, Breida made huge plays both on the ground and through the air. He tallied 101 yards on 17 carries and rushed in a score in the first half. He also caught three passes for 31 yards and scored again on a gorgeous reception in the second half (watch here).
The future is bright for these young Niners.
Loser: 49ers’ pass rush was lacking
Last Thursday night, the 49ers racked up eight sacks and 11 quarterback hits against the Oakland Raiders. On Monday night, they struggled to get any pressure whatsoever on Eli Manning.
It’s been a weakness for this defense most of the season, and coming into the year it was well known that San Francisco was lacking edge rushers. Still, given the high draft picks invested in the defensive line, and given the promise of DeForest Buckner, it was pretty stunning to see them come up almost completely empty on Monday night.
Winner: B.J. Goodson was in the right place at the right time…twice
The San Francisco offense coughed up two turnovers on Monday night. The first was an interception in the first quarter that led to New York’s first touchdown. Nick Mullens threw late to the outside, and his ball floated, allowing Janoris Jenkins to bat the ball into the air.
The second turnover occurred in the second half when Marquise Goodwin and Mullens had a miscommunication on a route over the middle of the field. The ball ended up being thrown behind Goodwin, and the ball was batted into the air.
On both plays, Giants defensive back B.J. Goodson found himself to be right there to haul in the pass, giving him two interceptions on the night. Right place. Right time.