Shanahan pulled Mullens due to injury, not turnovers originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
Nick Mullens was pulled late in the 49ers' 41-33 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, but not necessarily due to his poor play up to that point. Rather, replacing him with C.J. Beathard was an injury-based decision.
49ers coach Kyle Shanahan explained following the loss that Mullens was pulled because he lost feeling in his arm -- not because he had committed three very costly turnovers.
After a three-and-out on the 49ers' first offensive possession, Mullens wasn't any better on the second. He didn't protect the ball and fumbled on third down, giving the Cowboys the ball at San Francisco's own 24-yard-line. Five plays later, Dallas led 14-0.
Then, in the second half, Mullens threw not one, but two interceptions with the game hanging in the balance. He was replaced by Beathard on the possession following his second interception, and while Shanahan said he made the correct reads, he also further emphasized how detrimental turnovers can be.
Beathard was far better than the man he replaced, albeit in very limited action. He completed 5-of-7 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown, the vast majority of which came on a 49-yard hail mary touchdown pass to Kendrick Bourne as time expired.
When asked if Beathard's late success gave him the upper hand to start the 49ers' game against the Arizona Cardinals next week, Shanahan was noncommittal.
"We'll see," Shanahan said. "I haven't thought about that. I'll definitely let Nick and C.J. know first, though."
With the 49ers all but mathematically eliminated from playoff contention following Sunday's loss, guessing who will be under center for the final two games is about the only mystery remaining for San Francisco.