By Joe Hawkes
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Running back Raheem Mostert got the 49ers off to a promising start on the day, running for a 80-yard touchdown on the game’s first play from scrimmage and Jimmy Garoppolo tossed a pair of TDs — before the two of them sat out the second half with injuries — as San Francisco picked up their first win of the season holding off the New York Jets, 31-13, at MetLife Stadium as the team was gutted by a rash of injuries on Sunday afternoon.
Facing injury issues entering the game with tight end George Kittle (knee) not making the trip, defensive end Dee Ford (neck) ruled out and cornerback Richard Sherman (calf) and wide receiver Deebo Samuel (foot) both on short-term injured reserve, San Francisco (1-1) lost Garopplo to an ankle injury and Mostert to an injured knee in the first half. Both players left the field shortly before halftime.
Mostert suffered a mild sprain to his medial collateral ligament (MCL), and Garoppolo suffered a high ankle sprain that will likely keep him out of action for a few weeks. According to NBC Sports 49ers Insider Matt Maiocco, Garoppolo isn’t expected to be available for Week 3’s game against the New York Giants at the same venue.
Garoppolo sustained the injury in the first quarter after a sack by defensive tackle Quinnen Williams after his leg got caught in the turf. On the sideline, you could see that Garoppolo was in obvious pain.
Mostert had eight carries for 92 yards and a touchdown before he was injured. His 80-yard TD run on the game’s first play hit a max speed of 23.09 MPH, which is the fastest max speed for a ball carrier on a play from scrimmage over the last five seasons according to Next Gen Stats.
The more serious injuries came along the defensive line, where defensive end Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas were carted off the field after apparent knee injuries that the team “fears” are torn anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL).
With a little more than five minutes left in the first quarter, Bosa was engaged with Jets tight end Trevon Vesco on a running play and his left leg buckled as he attempted to get off the block and tackle running back Frank Gore.
Bosa tried to sit up as a busy 49ers medical personnel came out to check on him. A cart came on to the field and carried Bosa to the locker room. The team would rule out last season’s NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year early in the second quarter.
A few plays later, the 49ers suffered another huge blow to its defense when defensive tackle Solomon Thomas injured his knee. He too was carted off the field and rushed to the locker room. San Francisco ruled him out for the second half.
Even with the team’s injury situation reaching at a critical state, the team didn’t panic against the woeful Jets (0-2).
After the Jets trimmed San Francisco’s lead to 7-3 behind a Sam Ficken 41-yard field goal, a noticeably limping Garoppolo drove the 49ers to another TD, hitting the aforementioned Reed on an 18-yard hookup that put San Francisco up 14-3. Reed’s first score with the 49ers capped off a 14-play, 67-yard drive in 8:44, where Reed leaped over a diving Marcus Maye to get into the end zone.
San Francisco’s defense thwarted a promising Jets’ possession, stopping the Jets on fourth-and-1 from the 49ers’ 20-yard line with linebacker Fred Warner and company stuffed running back Josh Adams for no gain.
Garoppolo would take San Francisco down the field again, capping off a 13-play, 80-yard drive in 3:30 with a 4-yard toss to Reed to put the 49ers up comfortable, 21-3, with 11 seconds in the second quarter. The drive continued after Jets defensive end Henry Anderson was called for a roughing-the-passer penalty where it appeared that the Jets stopped San Francisco on third-and-8.
Garoppolo completed 14-of-16 passes for 131 yards and the two TDs in the first half before backup Nick Mullens took over in the second half.
Mullens, who doesn’t take any first-team reps in practice during the week, looked shell-shocked on his first drive. But running back Jerick McKinnon had a 55-yard run on third-and-31 at the San Francisco 11-yard line. The run would setup a 46-yard field goal by kicker Robbie Gould that gave the 49ers a 24-3 lead in the third quarter.
Per the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time a team converted a third down on that long of a run was Minnesota in 1999 when running back Leroy Hoard rushed for 53 yards on third-and-37 against the Denver Broncos.
Mullens finished 8-for-11 for 71 yards and an interception where the pass bounced off the hands of running back Tevin Coleman that the Jets took back to the San Francisco 22-yard line, but the Jets settled for a 25-yard field goal by Ficken to make the score 24-6.
McKinnon scored his second TD of the season on a 16-yard rush in the fourth quarter that gave San Francisco a 31-6 lead. McKinnon finished with 77 yards on three carries and a TD.
After a horrendous showing on third- and fourth-down last week against the Arizona Cardinals where they only converted 2-of-13 attempts in a 24-20 loss in Week 1, the 49ers went 7-of-13 on third down against the Jets in Week 2. It was a better showing by the 49ers offense that racked up 359 yards of total offense and led in time of possession (32:13 to 27:47) this week against a poor Jets defense.
Even with all of the injuries suffered to its defense in the game, San Francisco limited the Jets to 277 yards of total offense and held them to 5-of-14 on third down.
The Jets added a late TD, when quarterback San Darnold connected with wide receiver Braxton Berrios on a 30-yard completion with 1:23 remaining in the game making the score, 31-13. Darnold finished 21-of-32 for 179 yards and no turnovers.
Instead of flying back to the west coast, the 49ers will be staying at a resort in West Virginia as they prepare to take on the New York Giants.
The Giants (0-2) lost to the Chicago Bears 17-13 at Soldier Field on Sunday, but that’s not the big story. Star running back Saquon Barkley was carted off the field early in the second quarter with an apparent knee injury. Barkley’s status for next week’s game is unclear.
Second-year quarterback Daniel Jones completed 25-of-40 passes for 241 yards and an interception for the Giants. Jones was sacked four times by a stingy Bears defense on the day.