SANTA CLARA (CBS SF/AP) — With injured starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo watching from the sidelines, the San Francisco 49ers offense never found its stride behind back-up Nick Mullens Sunday night and fell to the Philadelphia Eagles 25-20.
Mullens completed 18-of-26 passes for a touchdown, but it was his second interception of the game that sealed the 49ers fate. With San Francisco trailing 18-14 with 5:42 remaining, Mullens fired a pass that was easily picked off by Alex Singleton, who returned it 30 yards for a touchdown.
“I just wasn’t as accurate as I needed to be,” Mullens said. “I felt like we could have taken advantage of some opportunities that were there. … I just need to execute better.”
He committed three turnovers, including losing a fumble on a strip sack by Cre’Von LeBlanc that Malik Jackson recovered to set up the go-ahead score.
“We had plenty of opportunities. I really just didn’t execute,” Mullens said. “The way I’m feeling is pretty black and white right now. I just didn’t execute. That’s what it comes down to. Three turnovers, 14 points off turnovers. That’s really about it.”
The 49ers woes began on the opening drive when Mullens badly overthrew two receivers that were wide open.
“I was expecting us to come out and play good,” said 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan. “Missed a few at the beginning, just a couple of opportunities. When we did get it going finally and I thought we had kind of a bump there when we had the turnover in the red zone on that pick.”
Shanahan pulled Mullens after this third giveaway, replacing him with C.J. Beathard, who completed 14 of 19 passes for 138 yards and led San Francisco to a touchdown. He then got the Niners to the Eagles 33 before his desperation heave fell incomplete in the end zone on the final play.
Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz had hit Travis Fulgham on a 42-yard touchdown pass with 5:50 remaining to put the Eagles up 18-14. The Eagles were backed up with a second-and-18 from the 42 after Jalen Hurts botched a shotgun snap. But Fulgham got past backup cornerback Dontae Johnson and Wentz delivered a perfectly placed pass for the score.
“It’s a huge relief. Big team win,” Wentz said. “It’s fun to see these young guys step up and make plays in big moments like this.”
Wentz came into the week with the lowest passer rating and most turnovers in the NFL. But he ran for an 11-yard TD and threw for 193 yards and a score to move the Eagles into first place in the hapless NFC East with their first win of the season.
“First place sounds really good, but we have a long way ahead of us,” coach Doug Pederson said. “Only the first quarter of the season is done. We got a long road ahead. These guys don’t quit. It’s a resilient group.”
The Niners are expected to get Garoppolo back next week from an ankle injury that has sidelined him for two games.
Getting their starting quarterback back on the field will be a big boost to the defending NFC champions, who have lost their first two home games of the season.
They have been hampered significantly by injuries, with season-ending injuries to defensive linemen Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas.
Garoppolo, George Kittle, star cornerback Richard Sherman, No. 1 receiver Deebo Samuel, running back Raheem Mostert and edge rusher Dee Ford are among the other key players who have missed time this season.
“I don’t feel that we’re playing to our standard that were capable of playing,” said defensive lineman Arik Armstead. “But it’s a long season. It’s just the first quarter of the season. We have a lot more games and I’m excited to continue this journey and get better. I feel like when we get our guys back at full strength, we’ll be in a good place.”
Kittle returned to the lineup after a two week absence because of a knee injury to have a career-high 15 catches for 183 yards and a score to lead the Niners.
TAKE IT AWAY
The Eagles got their first defensive takeaway of the season thanks to a poor decision by Mullens. With the Niners in the red zone, Mullens threw a ball up for grabs while under pressure and Rodney McLeod came up with it. They added two more in the fourth quarter. Philadelphia’s only takeaway coming into the game came on special teams.
Wentz threw his NFL-worst seventh interception on Philadelphia’s second drive of the game. His pass was deflected by Javon Kinlaw and picked off by Azeez Al-Shaair. The seven interceptions equal Wentz’s total in each of the past three seasons and are his most since he had 14 as a rookie in 2016. The last Eagles quarterback with at least seven picks in the first four games was Ron Jaworski in 1982.
Eagles: RT Lane Johnson left the game in the first half with an ankle injury but later returned. … LB T.J. Edwards and S Ruby Ford both left the game in the first half with hamstring injuries and didn’t return.
49ers: DL Ezekiel Ansah left the game in the first half with an arm injury and didn’t return. … CB K’Waun Williams left with a knee injury in the fourth quarter.
Eagles: Visit Pittsburgh on Sunday.
49ers: Host Miami on Sunday.