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San Francisco 49ers

49ers vs. Cowboys: San Francisco Preseason Game Balls & Highlights

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San Francisco 49ers Preseason Week 1 Dallas Cowboys game balls Nick Mullens Richie James
© Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

We hand out two game balls to the San Francisco 49ers from the Niners’ first game of the 2018 NFL Preseason, a 24-21 victory over the Dallas Cowboys.

On Friday’s Locked On 49ers Podcast, host Brian Peacock provided “stock up” and “stock down” analysis for players in key positional competitions — and handed out a pair of game balls — after the San Francisco 49ers’ exciting fourth-quarter comeback win over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 1 of the 2018 NFL Preseason:

QB Nick Mullens

With starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo playing just one drive, and backup QB C.J. Beathard being mostly ineffective, the 49ers turned to their third-string quarterback Nick Mullens to lead the team in a late-game comeback. Mullens brought the 49ers into Dallas territory on his first two drives, but each ended via turnover — the first, a questionable fumble by running back Raheem Mostert, and the second, an interception on a pass tipped at the line of scrimmage.

With eight minutes remaining — and down by two scores — Mullens took the 49ers on an eight play drive, resulting in a short touchdown run by running back Jeremy McNichols. After the 49ers’ defense forced the Cowboys to punt, Mullens was given the ball at the 49ers’ 26-yard line with no timeouts and two minutes left on the clock, needing a touchdown to win.

In hurry-up mode, Mullens led the 49ers down the field with five-straight completions — using some of head coach Kyle Shanahan’s favorite route concepts — before a short pass interference penalty allowed the quarterback to pause and call a play from the huddle.  Shanahan dialed up a man-beater route combination, with wide receiver Richie James running a slant pattern behind tight end Ross Dwelley, who motioned across the formation. With a defender in his face, Mullens fired a bullet to James, who caught the pass for the game-winning score.

Aside from the tipped interception, Mullens threw only one incomplete pass in the contest, ending the game with an impressive stat line of 11-for-13 for 141 passing yards — and a come-from-behind win:

 

WR Richie James

In his first NFL action, James — a Locked on Podcast favorite — looked more like a seasoned veteran than a seventh-round rookie. Along with his game-winning score — which required the wideout to extend his body for the reception, and then maintain possession after taking a big hit from Cowboys safety Tyree Robinson — James showed flashes throughout the contest.

In the 49ers’ opening drive, James played the “Trent Taylor” role from the slot on third down, and caught a difficult pass from Garoppolo to extend the drive. James also showed off his short-area quickness on a 21-yard screen pass from Beathard, and demonstrated his potential value on special teams with a 33-yard kickoff return.

James finished the game with four catches on five targets for 44 yards and a score. James’ Preseason Week 1 performance certainly shook up the 49ers’ wide receiver depth chart; if the rookie continues to play at this level, he is a lock to make San Francisco’s initial 53-man roster:

 

Check out what Locked On 49ers host Brian Peacock had to say about the San Francisco 49ers’ preseason matchup with the Dallas Cowboys — including “stock up” and “stock down” player analysis — on Friday’s Rapid React podcast:

Chris Wilson is the Lead Writer for Locked on 49ers, a FanRag Sports network partner. You may have seen Chris’ work on NFL game theory, statistical analysis and film breakdowns at FanSided, NinerNoise, 49erswebzone, Insidethe49 and others. Follow Chris on Twitter @cgawilson.

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