Despite the efforts of his young signal caller, who had only received situational snaps sparingly throughout the first four weeks of the season, Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters that Lance will be headed back to the sideline as soon as veteran QB Jimmy Garoppolo recovers from a calf contusion that kept him out Sunday, October 10.
The team enters its bye week Monday and will not return to the field of play until Sunday, October 24, which will give Garoppolo two more full weeks to recover. Garoppolo told reporters following last week’s game against the Seattle Seahawks, during which he sustained the calf injury, that he expected to miss “a couple weeks.”
Cam Inman, of the Bay Area News Group, took to Twitter with comments Shanahan made following the game against the Cardinals detailing the Niners’ current situation at quarterback.
“#49ers Kyle Shanahan disputes any notion that Trey Lance is assured of staying in the starting role, not if Jimmy Garoppolo calf heals after next week’s bye,” Inman tweeted. “‘Nothing’s changed. It’s just one game. Was tough loss. Will talk to whole team and see how we can get our whole team better.'”
Lance Dominated Niners’ Offensive Usage vs Cardinals
Sunday on the road in Arizona against the NFL’s last unbeaten team was Lance’s first start, and perhaps his last for the foreseeable future, but the coaching staff wasted little time throwing him directly into the fire.
The 21-year-old rookie fought hard but ran into his share of struggles as the Niners fell to the Cardinals 17-10. Lance was 15-of-29 through the air for 192 yards with 1 interception and zero touchdown passes, earning a QB rating of 58.3. It was just the second INT of his entire playing career since enrolling at North Dakota State University, where he played for two years.
However, Lance also led the Niners in rushing, carrying the ball 16 times for 89 yards, according to ESPN. The rest of the offense accounted for just 12 attempts and 63 rushing yards.
Shanahan acknowledged the good and the bad of Lance’s NFL premiere in the media session after the game. David Lombardi, of The Athletic, posted some of the head coach’s comments online Sunday afternoon.
“Shanahan on Trey Lance: ‘I thought he did some really good things. Definitely wasn’t perfect, but no one ever has been,'” Lombardi tweeted. “‘Overall, I thought we could have done better around him. I thought he played well enough to win.'”
Lance’s Value as Big QB in Short Yardage Situations Absent Sunday
Two of the primary reasons the Niners traded away three first-round picks to move up and select Lance with the third overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft are his size and ability to run with the football. More importantly, it is how those two traits can add layers to what San Francisco is capable of calling and achieving on offense.
Lance’s strength and size should also prove valuable for the team in short yardage situations. However, that did not prove the case Sunday against the Cardinals. The Niners attempted five fourth-down plays throughout the game, failing to convert on four of them — one of the biggest contributing factors to the team’s eventual loss.
Not all five of those attempts involved a rushing attempt from Lance. One was a pass from the rookie QB that was tipped at the line of scrimmage, while another was a run by fullback Kyle Juszczyk that failed to reach the first-down marker.
However, Lance did come up short on a 4th and goal play that could have made a difference in the game’s final outcome.