After losing (yikes) to winless Eagles, 49ers face (yikes) winless Dolphins

© Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Art Spander

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Having flopped against the previously winless Philadelphia Eagles, the 49ers now get a chance to flop against the still winless Miami Dolphins. Ain’t the NFL just one laugh after another?

What the Niners are hoping is that it won't be one defeat after another.

We had it all figured out. The Niners would come home after all those injuries and a couple of victories on the bad turf at MetLife Stadium and, in order, zip past Philly and Miami and boost their record to 4-1. Yes, we erred.

So did the Niners on Sunday night — well, quarterback Nick Mullens was the errant one, but nobody outside of fans, gamblers and sportswriters lays the blame on an individual in a team sport.

Before he was done (yanked in favor of C.J. Beathard), Mullens had thrown two of those dreaded pick-sixes in the final 10 minutes, and an apparent San Francisco win became a 25-20 defeat.

Mullens was starting a third straight game because the guy who was the first stringer — and if healed will again be the first stringer, Jimmy Garoppolo — was injured in the season opener, a high ankle sprain.

That didn’t seem to matter until Sunday against the Eagles. Some people even were suggesting Mullens would be taking over from Garoppolo. Then, whoosh, Beathard took over for Mullens.

For a few plays.

“He missed both those passes,” conceded Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan of the two returned for touchdowns.

He also missed his first two of the day, but those were merely incompletions.

This is no knock on Mullens, but there’s a reason coaches make decisions on who starts. Usually the main man makes fewer mistakes.

Mullens not only threw the two interceptions, he lost a fumble when he was sacked. Three turnovers. One defeat.

When asked after the game what happened, Mullens had a direct if unfulfilling response.

“That’s a good question,” he said. “And I’m kind of wondering myself. We had plenty of opportunities, and I really didn’t execute.”

You can argue that, with starting defensive linemen Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas out for the season, the 49ers were unable to hold leads, which would have eased the burden on Mullens. Still, you’ve got the lead and the ball, and you’re facing a bad team.

Yes, this is the NFL, that every given Sunday stuff, and everyone screws up every once in a while, including coaches. The Niners went to the Super Bowl last season. They got the breaks. Now they’re getting disappointment.

The game on Sunday, as all others, was played in a stadium full of empty seats. There was the national anthem on the sound system. There was a flyover by four military jets before kickoff — who pays for the fuel? — and there were messages and replays on the two big Levi’s Stadium scoreboards.

A lot of contrived excitement and one massive letdown of a football game, almost from kickoff, which the 49ers, after winning the coin toss, deferred to the Eagles.

It was mentioned to Shanahan, in all his bearded glory, that Mullens was erratic from start — failing to connect with Kyle Bourne — to finish, the interception returned 30 yards for a TD with 5:42 remaining.

“It seemed that way a little,” said Shanahan. ”Especially the second play. It seemed good in pregame warm-ups. But that happens. You start the game with two passes and miss both of them.

“Thought we’d give him a chance to get going and get in a little bit of rhythm.”

Too late. Where he’s going now, presumably, is back to the bench. The Niners don’t dare lose to another winless team.