The San Francisco 49ers, coming off a big divisional win against the Los Angeles Rams, were confident that they could beat the Buffalo Bills by running the football. On their first drive, they tried to do just that, as they ran ten times for 41 yards on a 97-yard drive. That drive stalled at the one-yard line on 4th-and-goal, which really set the tone for how much of the night would look.
The Bills were able to dictate the flow of the game for much of the evening, as Buffalo attacked the 49ers through the air. While they have been able to pressure quarterbacks and play solid zone behind their defensive front to a good deal of success this year, that plan didn’t work against Buffalo. Quarterback Josh Allen shredded San Francisco’s secondary to the tune of 375 yards, four touchdowns, and an 80 percent completion rate.
The Bills won 34-24, limiting the 49ers’ top players all throughout the evening. Here’s how our five 49ers to watch fared on Monday night.
QB Nick Mullens
If you look at Mullens’s numbers on the night—26-of-39, 316 yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions—it looks as if the former undrafted free agent had a great night against the Bills’ defense. A closer look, though, shows that the Bills were able to limit Mullens and the 49ers’ offense when the game was still close, letting up only after the result was in little doubt. Through three quarters, Mullens had 171 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. Once the Bills went up 34-17, Mullens threw for 145 yards, one touchdown, and one interception in the fourth quarter. Buffalo’s soft prevent allowed Mullens to rack up some garbage-time stats, but the numbers didn’t do much for anyone other than people crazy enough to start Nick Mullens in a fantasy football game. While they didn’t sack Mullens, they were able to bring enough pressure and do enough things in the secondary to force him into some poor throws.
RB Raheem Mostert
The big, explosive runner was held in check on Monday. Part of that was due to a negative game script, as the Bills continued to apply plenty of pressure by scoring almost at will all evening. In that regard, the game was reminiscent of those Jim Kelly-era Bills, as the team put its defense in the position it wanted to be in—expecting the pass and playing the pass thanks to a big lead—thereby eliminating their opponent’s strength, which is a strong running game. Mostert carried the ball nine times, gaining 42 yards. He caught his only target and gained one yard.
WR Deebo Samuel
Buffalo did a tremendous job nullifying Samuel for the majority of the game, as Tre’Davious White locked him down for much of the evening. In the first half, Samuel was targeted once, and he didn’t catch it. Samuel caught his first pass with under three minutes remaining in the third quarter, and by then, the Bills were in pretty firm control of the game. Even a touchdown at the end of quarter three couldn’t stop Buffalo’s momentum. Samuel finished the night with six catches for 73 yards, but like Mullens, most of his stats were accumulated after the game had essentially been put away by the Bills.
DL Kerry Hyder
Josh Allen was sacked once, but it wasn’t Hyder who did it. Dion Jordan was the one who leveled Allen and forced him to fumble in the third quarter. Hyder had three tackles, including one for a loss, on the night, but he wasn’t able to tie or break his career-high in sacks. He came into the game with 7.5, and that’s exactly where he stayed after the game. Buffalo protected Allen well, but the 49ers held the Bills to just an average of three yards per rush on the night.
CB Richard Sherman
Sherman was the focus on two big plays for the Bills. First, he was called for holding Stefon Diggs when Allen threw an interception to linebacker Fred Warner. Sherman’s penalty nullified what would have been a huge play for the 49ers’ defense. Then, Sherman and his safety seemed to miscommunicate on Gabriel Davis’s 28-yard touchdown. Sherman expected help over the top, and it appeared that the safety thought the veteran would stay with Davis. My guess is that it was the safety and not Sherman who messed up, but I can’t be sure. Sherman finished the night with three tackles.