For the 49ers, bad turf and bad vibes

© Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Art Spander

Their quarterback surely will be out a game or two. Their best defensive lineman will be out for the season. Bad luck or, as some of the 49ers contend, a bad field?

Whatever, for the 49ers, a team trying to get to a second straight Super Bowl, certainly bad vibes.

“Next man up” is the mantra of the NFL. But what’s next after that next man steps up? “How does it affect you emotionally?” wondered head coach Kyle Shanahan of the change.

The question will be answered on the field. Unfortunately for a second straight week, the field on which the Niners will play is at Met Life Stadium, across the Hudson River from New York City, which may be the problem.

Yes, the 49ers beat the Jets, 31-13, Sunday, and now are 1-1. They won a game, which was important, and also lost players, which was no less important. There were complaints that the artificial turf was “sticky and grabby.”

Next man up? “If he was good, as good as the starter,” John Madden would advise about a backup when John was coaching the Raiders, “he would be starting. Besides, who replaces the backup when he replaces the starter?”

It’s probable that no one can adequately replace pass rusher Nick Bosa, who in his rookie season, 2019, made the Pro Bowl. He incurred the dreaded “knee,” an anterior cruciate ligament tear.

Jimmy Garoppolo played for a while after suffering a high ankle sprain in his right leg, and those things seem to last for a week or two. Nick Mullens took over for Garoppolo.

Also injured was the recently re-signed Raheem Mostert, who very early on took a pitchout and ran 80 yards for the opening touchdown.

The Niners already were without star tight end George Kittle, although his backup, Jordan Reed, caught a couple of touchdown passes.

Defensive lineman Solomon Thomas also left with an injured knee, but Shanahan thought the injury might not be as serious as Bosa’s.

New field turf was installed over the summer at MetLife, shared by the Jets and New York Giants, and to which the Niners return Sunday to play the Giants after spending a week practicing in West Virginia.

Because of the the COVID-19 pandemic, no preseason games were played anywhere in the NFL. The Giants played there a week ago. Otherwise the new surface at MetLife was virtually untested.

On the road, at Chicago’s Soldier Field, the Giants lost to the Bears and most likely lost great running back Saquon Barkley with a torn ACL.

It’s a rough league, the NFL, and perhaps at MetLife too rough. Two Jets on Sunday also had knee injuries.

"I know that's as many knee injuries and ankle stuff and people getting caught on the turf as I have ever been a part of," Shanahan said. "From what I saw, the other team did, too. I know our players talked about it the entire game, just how sticky the turf was. ... It was something our guys were concerned about right away and the results definitely made that a lot stronger."

Mullens did well enough after an interception, considering backup quarterbacks get few snaps in practice. Last season he played occasionally but usually late in games, never recording a completion.

But as with every contending team, the Niners' strength is defense. You’ve read and heard the truism: if the other team doesn’t score, you’ll never get worse than a 0-0 tie. Until late in the game, the Jets were limited to two field goals.

“Nick is the cornerstone of this team,” the Niners' Trent Williams said of losing Bosa. “It’s heartbreaking. He’s part of the nucleus. He’s a shining star on the field.”

But he’s gone for the season. Next man up.

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