Can Nick Mullens snap 49ers seven-game skid in Seattle?

Linebacker Fred Warner says 49ers are over shock of Reuben Foster's expulsion, attention now on Seahawks

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens (4) throws a pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)
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SANTA CLARA — Nick Mullens takes his shot Sunday at doing what no 49ers quarterback has pulled off since Alex Smith in 2011: win at Seattle.

Colin Kaepernick went 0-4 with eight turnovers. Blaine Gabbert was a predictable 0-2. And Brian Hoyer passed for only 99 yards in last year’s 12-9 loss.

So what gives coach Kyle Shanahan the confidence Mullens, after a poor road debut last Sunday at Tampa, can overcome Seattle and its notorious sound?

SANTA CLARA, CA – NOVEMBER 1: San Francisco 49ers’ Pierre Garcon (15) hands the ball to San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback Nick Mullens (4) after Mullens through a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders in the first quarter at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

“Um, I mean, I think Nick handles pressure pretty well,” Shanahan said. “He handled it well in Tampa; we just didn’t play very good.

“I don’t think he’s going to freak out just because it’s loud,” Shanahan added. “… It’ll be more of a challenge. The better he plays, the better we play around him, the easier the challenge will be.”

Ever since Smith and the 49ers escaped on Christmas Eve with a 19-17 win, the 49ers’ have lost seven straight visits to CenturyLink Field. Their quarterbacks have yet to produce more than 18 points in any trip, including a 23-17 loss in the 2013 season’s NFC Championship Game when the rivalry was at its peak.

Mullens has had two pass intercepted in each of his past two starts. He will draw on his Southern Miss days of playing in noisy college stadiums, specifically Alabama, LSU and Nebraska.

“I’ve played in a lot of the most prominent stadiums in the country as far as college football goes,” Mullens said. “Obviously it has the reputation it has, as far as CenturyLink, and it’s going to be cool to play there. We’re excited.”

Crowd noise, as average as it may have been in Tampa, forced the 49ers offense to call a couple timeouts on garbled calls and it made Mullens run to the sideline once to hear Shanahan’s call. If Mullens can’t hear Shanahan’s calls in Seattle, the 49ers have a set of plays ready to go, said Mullens.

WARNER’S REACTION

Linebacker Fred Warner said the shock has worn off from Reuben Foster’s arrest and subsequent release. As the 49ers defenders turned their focus, Foster got claimed off waivers Tuesday by Washington.

“I’m super happy for him,” Warner said. “Obviously I love Reuben as a person. I got to be in the (meeting) room and off the field a lot.

“I know what he was accused of was very serious, and it’s disappointing he’s not here. But I’m happy for him.”

Warner and his fellow defenders have had to refocus their attention this week on Seattle’s rushing attack, as well as mobile quarterback Russell Wilson. “Being able to escape the pocket and create big plays, that’s what he’s known for. We’re aware,” Warner said of Wilson, who the rookie linebacker has yet to face.

TRADING PLACES

Dante Pettis was among the 68,729 in the CenturyLink stands when the 49ers lost in Seattle’s home opener last year. “It was a cool game and good environment,” recalled Pettis, now a 49ers rookie wide receiver.

Pettis had the 49ers’ only touchdown in Sunday’s 27-9 loss at Tampa as he started in place of Marquise Goodwin, who’s remained on personal leave since Saturday for a family matter.

“We saw (Pettis) make great strides and that’s awesome for him and the whole offense,” Mullens said. “He used his speed well. Obviously on the touchdown he broke the guy off and that’s very impressive in man coverage. So, that’s what we’re counting on him to do, be able to separate in man coverage.”

Shanahan said Pettis “was the main guy who I thought took a step forward in Tampa.”

Pettis’ former team, the University of Washington, will play on the 49ers’ home field Friday against Utah in the Pac-12 Championship. Said Pettis: “I always love the Huskies’ chances. It doesn’t matter who they’re playing.”

SHERMAN SHOW

For the first time since training camp, wide receivers warmed up one-on-one against cornerbacks, and Kendrick Bourne got the best of Richard Sherman in their two encounters.

Sherman, however, has had a strong comeback this season from lower-leg injuries and among those applauding him is his former coach, the Seahawks’ Pete Carroll.

“I’m really fired up he made his recoveries so well and got back to playing so soon,” Carroll said. “It was a remarkable turn for him. I have nothing but really good memories of all of it. It was challenging times we went through together and it was really fun.”

Carroll compared Sherman to former 49ers great Jimmy Johnson in terms of how opposing quarterbacks would rather target other cornerbacks than them. Sherman is expected to address the media Thursday, as he’s done all season as the defense’s vocal leader.

INJURY NOTES

Center Weston Richburg (knee), left tackle Joe Staley (veteran rest day), Goodwin (personal leave) and safety D.J. Reed (heel) did not practice.

Limited were Matt Breida (ankle), Pierre Garcon (knee), Joshua Garnett (thumb), Greg Mabin (thigh), Mark Nzeocha (thigh), Malcolm Smith (achilles) and Jaquiski Tartt (shoulder).

TRIVIA TIME

When is the last time the 49ers beat the Seahawks? (Answer: Dec. 8, 2013 at Candlestick Park; nine losses have followed.)

Who is the last 49ers quarterback to throw a touchdown pass against the Seahawks? (Answer: Jimmy Garoppolo, on the last play of last November’s 24-13 home loss when he replaced an injured C.J. Beathard for the final three snaps.)

 

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