The week nine Thursday night primetime game versus the 49ers only took one turn, and that was a turn for the worse.
As was the case last week, there are several plays that are worthy candidates for the week nine honor. After a thorough breakdown of the game it was clear there was one play that truly stood out as a turning point.
On the 49ers opening possession of the second half, already leading 17-3. George Kittle took a pass over the middle from Nick Mullens and went 71 yards straight through the heart of the Raiders defense. Kittle would eventually be brought down from behind by Gareon Conley at the Raiders six yard line.
The knockout punch. Mullens to Kittle for 72 yards. pic.twitter.com/llvMB1dmlb— Evan Groat (@Egroat5) November 2, 2018
Although, Kittle did not score on this particular play, he would find the end zone two plays later to make the score 24-7.
The play was demoralizing for many reasons.
First, the 49ers had three receivers all running routes in the same congested area and the pass was still completed, despite the fact there seemed to be a miscommunication by the offense.
Second, Mullens took a huge risk by attempting the throw. He made the throw under pressure off his back foot.
Third, and you have to give credit to Kittle but it was a miraculous one-handed snag. And finally, Tahir Whitehead demonstrates how bad in coverage he is and Erik Harris whiffs on the tackle.
Here is a better angle at the coverage or lack there of by Whitehead and the great catch by Kittle.
Whitehead continues to be a liability in coverage. Nice grab by Kittle. pic.twitter.com/rYDvwvKFo4— Evan Groat (@Egroat5) November 2, 2018
According to Pro football focus, Whitehead has surrendered a perfect 158.3 passer rating when targeted this season. Against the 49ers four targets were completed for four receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown.
Despite the numbers, Gruden continues to defend his linebacker.
“You know what, he’s been a good linebacker. He’s been a good nickel linebacker in the league for a long time. I think when you look at the kind of throws that have been complete, you have to sometimes take a look at them,” said Gruden.
The reality of the situation is there is nobody else to take Whitehead’s job. Sure Jason Cabinda and Nicholas Morrow will see increased time but if Whitehead is healthy he will continue to play.
“I like Whitehead. I like Whitehead a lot,” Gruden continued. “If you’re listening, Tahir, I think you’re one heck of a linebacker. But we have to do a better job. We have to do a better job stopping the run, stopping the pass. We have to do a better job collectively, coaches and players, figuring out our defense.”