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Eagles ride unknown WR Travis Fulgham, Nick Mullens mistakes to stunning win over 49ers

Jason Owens
·5-min read

For most of Sunday night, the San Francisco 49ers looked ready to survive a battle of attrition against the Philadelphia Eagles.

But backup quarterback Nick Mullens made one mistake too many, and the Eagles capitalized late courtesy of a big play from an unknown wide receiver to stun the 49ers, 25-20.

The Eagles started the night with a depleted offensive line and a wide receiver corps missing Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. So when Carson Wentz needed a play to take a fourth-quarter lead, he dialed up a guy named Travis Fulgham.

Eagles look to unlikely hero

Facing second-and-18 with 5:56 remaining, Wentz looked deep down the left sideline to find Fulgham streaking past cornerback Dontae Johnson. Fulgham hauled in the pass and rolled into the end zone to secure an 18-14 lead for Philadelphia.

Mullens threw a pick six to Eagles linebacker Alex Singleton on the next San Francisco play from scrimmage, and Philadelphia fended off a late 49ers rally to secure the unlikely win.

With their first victory of the season, the 1-2-1 Eagles now take over first place in a downtrodden NFC East.

Who is Travis Fulgham?

The go-ahead touchdown arrived on the second catch of the night for Fulgham. It was also the second catch of his career. The second-year receiver out of Old Dominion saw a total of three targets in three appearances during his rookie season with the Detroit Lions in 2019. He didn’t catch any of them. The Lions released him in August.

The Green Bay Packers signed Fulgham off of waivers. They released him a week later.

The Eagles signed Fulgham and promoted him off their practice squad this week as they continued to lose players to injury. They didn’t even add him to their official depth chart prior to Sunday’s game.

But when his number got called in a critical late-game situation, he answered. His two catches for 57 yards and a touchdown were good enough to lead the Eagles in a game where their offense was inept for most of the night.

Travis Fulgham catches a touchdown pass in front of Dontae Johnson.
Travis Fulgham introduced himself to the NFL on Sunday. (Jed Jacobsohn/AP)

Rough night for Nick Mullens

Philadelphia was alive to take the late lead thanks mostly to Mullens.

Mullens was making his second straight start for the 49ers after starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a sprained ankle in Week 2 against the New York Jets. It was very likely his last.

Mullens’ late pick six to Singleton wasn’t his first mistake of the night. With 2:40 remaining in the first half, the 49ers drove to the red zone while trailing 8-7. Mullens faced pressure on second-and-7 from the 14-yard line and threw a soft, ill-advised floater into the Eagles’ zone that Rodney McLeod intercepted to ensure that Philadelphia would carry its lead into halftime.

After San Francisco took a 14-11 second-half lead, Mullens made another costly turnover, holding on to the ball too long on a dropback that ended with a fumble forced by cornerback Cre'Von LeBlanc.

That fumble set the Eagles up for their go-ahead touchdown to Fulgham.

Each of those turnovers was preventable and could have been the difference in the game. But neither was as bad as Mullens’ pick six in the fourth quarter.

That decision and throw on first down were the last of the night for Mullens, whom head coach Kyle Shanahan replaced with C.J. Beathard for the remainder of the game.

Did Beathard move past Mullens on depth chart?

Beathard made the most of his appearance, moving the 49ers 75 yards on 12 plays on a drive that ended with a 1-yard Jerick McKinon touchdown drive run to cut the San Francisco deficit to five with 2:02 remaining.

But it was too little too late as the 49ers came up short on their next and final possession when Beathard’s Hail Mary fell incomplete in the back right corner of the end zone as time ran out.

Garoppolo’s status for Week 5 against the Miami Dolphins is unclear. But it seems unlikely Mullens will get another chance if San Francisco’s starter remains sidelined. Mullens completed 18 of 26 passes for 200 yards with one touchdown and the three turnovers.

Bad loss for 49ers

It added up to a costly loss in a winnable game that dropped San Francisco to 2-2, which is now good for last place in a stacked NFC West. The 49ers outgained the Eagles 417 yards to 267 and kept regular pressure on Wentz despite a depleted defensive line missing Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas.

But they couldn’t overcome their mistakes on offense or prevent a guy named Fulgham from introducing himself to the NFL.

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