Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

49ers and Trey Lance Have Some Work to Do

Chris Beno
Jan 4, 2022 at 7:12 AM--

Rookie quarterback Trey Lance got his second career start Sunday against the Houston Texans and came away with a convincing win. Lance was selected third overall in the 2021 NFL draft and is the heir to the throne as the future leader of the San Francisco 49ers.

Sunday's matchup started a little rocky for the 49ers. It seemed there was a slight disconnect between Lance and head coach Kyle Shanahan early on.

Houston's defense sold out early on to stop the run, often loading the box and forcing Lance to beat them with his arm. Lance was 5-5 before throwing an interception in the first half. Following the interception, the 49ers offense found a new life.

One of my biggest fears following the interception was that Shanahan would take the ball out of Lance's hand and rely solely on the run game to win. That wasn't the case. Instead, Shanahan allowed Lance to air it out and even called an aggressive drive to get into field goal range right before halftime.

Lance finished the game 16 of 23 for 249 yards, two scores, and an interception for a passer rating of 116.0. In the second half, Lance took the passing game to a whole new level, spreading the ball all over the field.

The chart from Next Gen Stats shows how Lance was spreading the ball around.

In his usual way, Shanahan spoke highly of the rookie's second start without giving him too much praise.

Lance stepped up in a must-win game, and he could be asked to do the same again when the 49ers face the Los Angeles Rams on the road this Sunday. The 49ers have beaten the Rams the last five times they've played each other. However, beating any team twice in one season is hard to do.

The 49ers need to win this game to make the playoffs. If the 49ers lose and the Saints win, San Francisco will be watching the playoffs from their couch. The Rams need to win this game to win the division and keep the second seed in the NFC. With this game also being a bit of a revenge game for the Rams, relying on a rookie quarterback to go out and win is a big ask.

Should the 49ers lose this game, no one will talk about the games the 49ers should've won this year. The games that got away from them. The games Garoppolo threw the team out of. They will only talk about the fact that Lance didn't get it done when it mattered. If that is the case, that could be devastating for a young player's confidence.

A healthy Garoppolo would give the 49ers the best chance to win against the Rams. However, anything less than that is a liability. Garoppolo has never been a player who can play through injuries and be successful. Give me a 100% Trey Lance over a 90% Jimmy Garoppolo any day.

If the 49ers plan to win this Sunday—and especially in the playoffs—there are a few things they need to fix before then.

George Kittle

There is no reason why one of the most prolific offensive weapons on the 49ers only got two targets against the Texans on Sunday. Kittle wears a lot of hats for the 49ers, but the ball needs be in his hands. Help out your rookie quarterback and force-feed your playmakers. Kittle will always make noise in the blocking game, but get him involved in the passing game and the running lanes begin to open.

Early Play Calling Rhythm

The play calling early on against the Texans was just weird. Although Lance wasn't playing poorly, the offense just had no life. The run game consistently got shut down on early downs forcing 3rd and longs for Lance. I believe as the game went on, Shanahan found more of a rhythm for what Lance is capable of doing in live games. Once Shanahan allowed Lance to air the ball out, Houston didn't have an answer. If the 49ers can build on that success and develop a better early game script for Lance, then this team will beat the Rams and make noise in the playoffs.


Veteran cornerback Josh Norman got pulled in the fourth quarter against Houston after yet another defensive pass interference penalty. Norman was replaced by veteran corner Dontae Johnson, who immediately got flagged for a defensive pass interference call before making a key pass breakup to seal the game. With Emmanuel Moseley possibly coming back into the lineup from injury (high ankle sprain), the 49ers need to decide who will start opposite of him. With rookie corner Ambry Thomas making vast improvements every game in his four starts this year, that decision becomes a little easier. Norman has been the Achilles heel of the secondary all season. Not because he's necessarily out of position but because of the costly penalties he gets in key moments of the game. If the 49ers can shore up the secondary, who have quietly been the strength of the defense, then they have a good shot at slowing down the Rams' potent offense.

The last time the 49ers played the Rams, the former won 31-10 after forcing Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford into throwing two interceptions. Garoppolo finished that game 15-19, for 182 yards passing and two touchdowns. That same level of efficiency will be needed to beat the 12-4 Rams on the road. If Lance can get in a rhythm early and take care of the football, the 49ers should win.

Unlike Garoppolo, Lance is a little more reluctant to hit the check down option on routes. Lance will hang in the pocket a little longer and let the deeper routes develop. I would like to see him get rid of the ball a little quicker, even though he has the athleticism to escape if the pocket breaks down. Lance's accuracy on shorter routes into the flat needs improvement as well. Either way, Lance pushes the ball downfield in a way this team hasn't seen in quite a while, which will prevent defenses from selling out to stop the run over time. It will create a balanced offense that will be tough to defend.

The saving grace for the 49ers is that Lance is relatively un-scouted, with very little tape to study before the game. Whoever wins the turnover battle will win this game.
  • Chris Beno
  • Written by:
    Coming from Elk Grove, California I grew up a Bay Area sports fan. I've been cheering for the 49ers for as long as I can remember. In 2005 I joined the Army when I was 18 and got stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. I just kind of hung around here. I've always enjoyed writing and have typically focused on writing music. I am truly blessed to get to cover the 49ers, and have my articles published on the 49ers Webzone. I didn't realize it was something I wanted to pursue as a career, but am now focused on doing just that. I appreciate all of the Faithful that take the time to read the articles people put out there.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.
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