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49ers 3 & Out: Untimely injury the only damper on an otherwise perfect Week 9 performance

It’s hard to have a more dominant performance than the one the 49ers put on the Raiders last Thursday.

Sure, they beat a Raiders team that looks like it’s already checked out for the winter, but a win is a win. Especially when you have a quarterback making his first career start — on national TV at that. Add in the fact that San Francisco hasn’t been that much better than Oakland anyway, and the 34-3 dismantling is definitely worth it’s weight in pride.

Here are the SFBay’s three key takeaways from the 49ers’ second victory of the season:

They’ll be sackin’ round the QB when they come

The Raiders entered Week 9 with a middle-of-the-pack 18 sacks allowed. The 49ers took Derek Carr down seven times on Thursday.

Getting Dekoda Watson back meant having a fully-intact defensive line for the first time all season. Head coach Kyle Shanahan spoke about Watson’s importance on Friday:

“Dekoda has probably got our best speed off the edge. Just coming off the ball fast and he can turn it into power very quickly. So, having that speed on the edge that Dekoda brings, and also the bull rush that he has condenses the pocket. [It] got him some production, but also helps other people around him.”

DeForest Buckner made a similar comment Thursday night, saying Watson’s impact a key to the overall ability for the line.

Another first — a substantial lead to defend — gave the healthy front-four an opportunity to showcase its capabilities. Once Jimmy Garoppolo and Jerick McKinnon return and San Francisco can play to its offensive expectations, this defensive line will get even more chances to rush the passer.

In the mean time, this young group will have an excellent opportunity to build on this game with the hopeless New York Giants visiting Levi’s Stadium for a Monday Night matchup in Week 10. They’ve allowed a second-worst 31 sacks on the season. I’m sure Eli Manning can’t wait.

Kittle Corn starting to pop

There is only one tight end among the top-10 receiving yards leaders right now. Can you guess who it is?

Yes, second-year pro George Kittle is currently ranked seventh in the league in receiving yards with 692. Not only is that impressive for any tight end but when you see who he’s in the company of — Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams, A.J. Green — you’ll notice that those receivers all have good-to-great quarterbacks throwing to them. Kittle has had three different people throw him the ball through just nine weeks. Along with that, he’s been the focal point of most passing defenses with basically every 49ers wide receiver missing time this season.

A couple of other interesting Kittle statistics: he has the best yards-per-catch average of anyone in the top-10 (16.9) and he absolutely blows everyone out of the water with a whopping 407 yards after catch. To put that into perspective, the three top-25 receivers or tight ends closest to Kittle’s total are Travis Kelce (274), Antonio Brown (273) and Adam Thielen (268). To go even further,  Kittle is the only receiver or tight end out of the top-40 receiving yards leaders with even 300 yards after catch. The only pass catcher with more YAC than Kittle is Giants running back Saquon Barkley (491) who catches the majority of his balls near the line of scrimmage.

With Garoppolo coming from the New England School of Gronk, Kittle is likely going to have an incredible season next year and vie for that top tight end spot.

Hold the Mostert

Raheem Mostert’s broken arm shortened what was finally a breakout year for the fourth-year pro out of Purdue.

Matt Breida has been the starter in the backfield all season, but I believe Mostert was getting ready to seize that title from him within the next couple of weeks. After great games against Detroit and Kansas City in Weeks 2 and 3, respectively, Breida hasn’t looked very impressive since. On the other hand, Mostert had been doing a lot with a little over the past four weeks.

Mostert had out-rushed Breida 250 to 162 during the past four games, while getting 28 carries to Breida’s 47. That amounts to a yards per rush advantage of 8.9 to 3.4. What that means is that Mostert has been better at either getting consistent chunk runs or breaking big runs.

He had his best game of the season on Thursday with 86 yards on seven carries, anchored by a 52-yard touchdown run. I definitely saw him getting a lot more playing time soon, but I think his small production window will allow him to legitimately compete with Breida next offseason for the backup spot behind McKinnon.

There is an obvious omission: Nick Mullens.

The rookie out of Southern Mississippi, making his first NFL appearance was incredible, finishing 6.4 point shy of a perfect 158.3 perfect passer rating tossing for 262 yards and three scores. While that performance does encourage excitement for what could me, it is important for the 49ers to tame their hopes. After all, he was facing a team that has problems in the secondary all season and a coaching staff that has done a poor job of gameplanning with no time to put a defensive package in place to counter his skills.

When San Francisco hosts the Giants next Monday, it will give the 23-year-old signal caller a golden opportunity to prove that his success in game one wasn’t a fluke.

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