Mul­lens to share stage with Man­ning when 49ers host Gi­ants

Imperial Valley Press - - SPORTS - BY JOSH DUBOW AP Pro Foot­ball Writer SPLEN­DID SAQUON PRES­SURE POINT KITTLE’S CATCHES STRUG­GLING FRAN­CHISES

SANTA CLARA— Nick Mul­lens re­mem­bers get­ting the phone call from Archie Man­ning invit­ing him to the pres­ti­gious Man­ning Pass­ing Academy two summers ago.

Mul­lens sa­vored the chance to take part in the four-day clinic run by Archie and his two NFL quar­ter­back sons, Eli and Pey­ton. Mul­lens es­pe­cially rel­ished the op­por­tu­nity to watch Eli Man­ning take part in some of the drills.

“To see how he moves in the pocket, he has very quick feet and is just very smooth,” Mul­lens said. “I def­i­nitely re­mem­ber just sit­ting there and watch­ing him throw. I took that all in.”

Mul­lens now will get an­other chance to see Man­ning up close when he makes his sec­ond ca­reer start for the San Fran­cisco 49ers (2-7) on Mon­day night against Man­ning and the New York Gi­ants (1-7).

Mul­lens is com­ing off a scin­til­lat­ing de­but, com­plet­ing 16 of 22 passes for 262 yards, three touch­downs and no in­ter­cep­tions for a 151.9 passer rat­ing in a 34-3 vic­tory over the Oak­land Raiders. That’s the high­est rat­ing since the merger for a player in his de­but with at least 20 at­tempts.

Things might not be as easy now that the Gi­ants have an idea of what Mul­lens can do.

“I think they’re go­ing to be like, ‘Oh crap. This guy is good,’” run­ning back Matt Breida said. “I think they’ll put more peo­ple back there to cover be­cause of the throws he made and can do.”

While Mul­lens is just get­ting started, Man­ning is near­ing the end of his ca­reer as he plays his 15th sea­son for a team that is strug­gling might­ily. New York has lost five straight games and the ques­tions are mount­ing about how much longer the twotime Su­per Bowl MVP Man­ning has as quar­ter­back.

“I think there’s ur­gency to get things go­ing, for sure,” Man­ning said. “We got to get some wins. We got to get go­ing, and ev­ery­body wants it. The team needs it, for the morale and for just the hard work and ev­ery­thing we put in. Just need to reap the ben­e­fits of the work, and feel good about what we’re do­ing.”

Here are some other things to watch:

Rookie Saquon Barkley has been a rare bright spot for the strug­gling Gi­ants, top­ping 100 yards from scrim­mage in seven of his first eight games. Barkley has been a bit hit and miss with 16 runs for neg­a­tive yards, tied for fifth worst in the league, and 11 plays that gained at least 20, which is tied for sec­ond most among run­ning backs. Barkley is just the ninth player to gain at least 1,000 yards from scrim­mage in the first eight games of his rookie sea­son.

“I’m not one of those guys that says, let me see my stats, let me see how much I ran for this or that. I just play,” he said. “I’m not go­ing to stand here and lie, I am very ac­tive on so­cial me­dia, so there’s fan pages of me and I can go on In­sta­gram or even on my ex­plore page and they just hap­pen to pop up. I’ve seen predictions of what I’m ca­pa­ble of do­ing, but it means noth­ing to me.”

The strug­gling pass rush for the 49ers broke through in a big way last week with eight sacks against Oak­land. Cas­sius Marsh led the way with a ca­reer-best 2 ½, and Dekoda Wat­son had 1 1/2 in his first game af­ter com­ing off IR. San Fran­cisco had eight sacks in a game only once in the pre­vi­ous two decades, do­ing it against the Rams in 2009.

San Fran­cisco tight end Ge­orge Kittle has been a big-play threat all sea­son. He had a 71-yard catch and run last week against the Raiders, mak­ing him the first tight end since Rich Caster in 1972 to have two 70-yard catches in the same sea­son. Kittle ranks sec­ond among all tight ends with 692 yards re­ceiv­ing and is sec­ond to Barkley among all play­ers with 496 yards af­ter the catch.

Twenty-eight years af­ter these fran­chises met in the best matchup in “Mon­day Night Foot­ball” his­tory, they now play in one of the worst. Back in 1990, the 49ers beat the Gi­ants 7-3 in a matchup of 10-1 teams that pro­vided the high­est win­ning per­cent­age ever for a Mon­day night game played af­ter Hal­loween. The teams come into this meet­ing with a com­bined win­ning per­cent­age of .176, the sec­ond low­est for a Mon­day night game played Nov. 1 or later. The low­est com­bined win­ning per­cent­age is .167 for a matchup of the New York Jets (3-9) and the Charg­ers (1-11) in 1975 that fea­tured Hall of Fame QBs Joe Na­math and Dan Fouts.

In this Nov. 1 file photo, San Fran­cisco 49ers quar­ter­back Nick Mul­lens throws a pass against the Oak­land Raiders dur­ing the first half of an NFL foot­ball game in Santa Clara. AP PHOTO/BEN MAR­GOT

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