Nick Mullens committed three turnovers that led to 17 points, including two interceptions in the fourth quarter, which began with the game tied. Two other ill-advised throws were near-INTs before his final giveaway. RT Mike McGlinchey, again, had too many big-moment breakdowns: He allowed the pressure that caused a Mullens fumble and had two whiffs on run blocks inside Dallas’ 5-yard line in the first half. The weekly bit of good news for fans: rookie WR Brandon Aiyuk (9 catches, 73 yards, TD)
The 49ers allowed 15 first downs, 291 yards and … 41 points? That oddity reflects how the offense and special teams put the defense in unenviable situations, as the four turnovers led to 24 points on scoring drives of 22, 24, 0 and 46 yards. The Cowboys managed just one scoring drive of more than 50 yards. Still, the defense barely registered when it came to big plays: They had no takeaways and two sacks, neither in the second half.
The unit set the tone when Richie James lost a fumble three minutes into the game that led to a 22-yard TD drive. And they finished things off by allowing a 47-yard kickoff return for a TD on an onside kick. They also allowed a 13-yard average on two punt returns and a 33-yard kickoff return thanks to a slew of missed tackles. Robbie Gould making his only attempt, a 41-yarder, can’t save them from the empty chair.
It would be unusual for a coach to yank his QB after he threw an early fourth-quarter INT in a close game after playing capably for three quarters. But Mullens’ recent history of back-breaking turnovers should have prompted Kyle Shanahan to bench Mullens, who proceeded to throw a game-sealing pick minutes later. Shanahan’s fourth-down call in the second quarter — a pitch pass to Aiyuk that led to a walk-in TD — was pretty.
A loss filled with injuries and turnovers was an appropriate way to unofficially end the season. It would have been more fitting if the locale was Glendale, Ariz., the temporary home of a relocated team that was handed more adversity than it could overcome.
— Eric Branch