Long before Nick Mullens took the field as an NFL quarterback, he prepared for the moment he’d play in a loud road stadium by downloading crowd noise and blaring it on his headphones as he practiced calling out plays in his apartment.
That preparation will be put to the test this week when Mullens makes his second career road start for the San Francisco 49ers at Seattle in front of the loudest road crowd in the league.
“I’ve played in a lot of the most prominent stadiums in the country as far as college football goes,” said Mullens, who pointed to games in college at Nebraska, Alabama and LSU as the most challenging crowds he’s faced.
“Obviously, it has the reputation that it has in CenturyLink, and it’s going to be cool to play there.”
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Mullens’ first road start for the 49ers (2-9) wasn’t a successful one. He went 18 for 32 for 221 yards with one touchdown, two interceptions and four sacks in a 27-9 loss to Tampa Bay last week. There were a handful of issues with hearing the play call from coach Kyle Shanahan in his helmet headset and Mullens had to rush to the sideline once to get the play and burn two timeouts on other occasions.
Mullens had his lowest marks in yardage, completion percentage and passer rating out of his three career starts as the Niners struggled to get much of anything going against a defense that has been the worst in the league at defending against the pass.
“It was very frustrating,” Mullens said. “We just never got on a rhythm. But, you watch the film and you see where you can improve and that’s why we’re so excited about this week.”
Mullens had a record-setting debut against Oakland when he joined Hall of Famers Jim Kelly and Fran Tarkenton as the only players with at least 250 yards passing, three touchdown passes and no interceptions in their first career game. He also had the most efficient debut since the merger for a player with at least 20 attempts, posting a 151.9 rating in the 34-3 win.
He followed that up by throwing four interceptions and two touchdowns in losses to the Giants and Tampa Bay and now must face a much more difficult defense and a more challenging environment in Seattle.
“I think Nick handles pressure pretty well,” Shanahan said. “He handled it well in Tampa. We just didn’t play very good. So, there’s a difference in that. Nick’s been the same guy since he’s been here. I don’t think he’s going to freak out just because it’s loud. Whether you do good or bad doesn’t mean that you freaked out or you were poised. It’s harder. It’ll be more of a challenge. We’ll practice all week at it. The better he plays, the better we play around him, the easier the challenge will be.”
NOTES: WR Marquise Goodwin remains away from the team to tend to an undisclosed personal matter. … C Weston Richburg (knee) and T Joe Staley (veteran) also missed practice, while DB D.J. Reed (foot) will miss the game this week.