Lance Leads 49ers to Victory!


The 49ers search for a quarterback exemplifies how difficult it is to find the right signal caller to lead your team. Jimmy Garoppolo is good but not great. Injury and mistake prone, he can help you win most of the time, but he can also lose you the game. Trey Lance is woefully inexperienced but has all the talent in the world. Sunday was Trey Lance’s second NFL start. Trey’s issue is that he is always looking for the big play because that is how he primarily made things happen for North Dakota State. His search for the big play can be a good thing at times, however it can also be a detriment. Patrick Mahomes suffered through this issue as well. It wasn’t until this year that Mahomes really began to understand and execute the check down game. Mahomes learned and grew from his experiences. He learned it’s not a bad thing to take what the defense is giving you.

Meanwhile, Trey is struggling to learn that lesson now. Trey must also learn to grip it and rip it with his down the field reads. The NFL throwing windows are very tight. Covered in college football might be open in the NFL, especially with players like Deebo Samuel and George Kittle. As we all watched Trey’s performance on Sunday, we could see his natural incremental steps move forward. Without them, Houston would have notched their 5th win of the season and could have hurt the 49er’s playoff hopes.

The first half of the game was frustrating to watch. The 49ers punted three times, turned the ball over on downs, and threw an interception while the defense gave up only one touchdown. Still, lightning appeared to be caught in a bottle in the final 38 seconds of the first half. Lance, while feeling the pressure of the half closing around him, finally decided to grip it and rip it, completing multiple passes to Deebo, and Brandon Aiyuk to put the 49ers in field goal range. In the words of Dan Marino sometimes you just have to “pick a guy and let it fly.” Trey Lance certainly did so at the end of the first half. These were not pop passes either. They were big boy throws in gotta have it situations. As half time started, hope glimmered.

As the second half got underway, that glimmer of hope started to turn into a ray of sunshine, especially when Lance connected on a short middle of the field pass to Aiyuk who turned an 11-yard catch into a 43 yard play. Unfortunately, the drive was subsequently stunted and the Niners turned the ball over on downs four plays later, adding a little shade to the ray of sunshine. Then Marcell Harris snatched an interception giving the ball back to Trey Lance and the offense who promptly scored four plays and 58 yards later, which illuminated hope for success all over Levi’s Stadium. In fact, both 49er touchdown drives were only 4 play affairs. The first touchdown drive moved 37 yards due to a defensive pass interference penalty. The second drive ended with a 45-yard touchdown strike to Deebo Samuel. In the whole game, the 49ers sustained only one drive longer than 70 yards and that ended in a field goal.

The takeaway from this game is that Trey Lance has a lot of growing to do, but his maturation process is underway. His wait for the big play paid off with the strike to Deebo, yet you could tell that he was learning to move the ball around the field. He connected with eight different receivers for 241 yards and two touchdowns. Three running backs caught five passes including a touchdown reception by Elijah Mitchell. Lance targeted Kittle twice, resulting in an interception and then a 29-yard reception. Kittle was open at other times but Lance must learn to trust him. Lance connected with Aiyuk the most and Juan Jennings was targeted for two key 3rd down conversions. It was a rocky start for Lance and I don’t think it was all his fault. Coach Shanahan must learn to just let the rook throw the ball instead of trying to force the QB run game for many reasons. First, it bangs Lance up. Second, it doesn’t allow him to get into a throwing rhythm. Young quarterbacks like Lance need to get the feel of the game and the only way they can do that is to sling the rock, not run it.

The defense performed admirably. Josh Norman was penalized a few times for pass interference, aggravating Coach Shanahan to the point that he called a defensive time out to switch him out for Dontae Johnson, who promptly committed a defensive pass interference penalty as well. It is no secret that the 49ers defensive weakness is its cornerbacks. Still, the younger players show promise. Ambry Thomas almost had a pick. The defense only allowed one touchdown the entire game. Even though Nick Bosa didn’t record a sack, his presence was felt all game, especially when he secured a holding call against a Houston Lineman after Davis Mills connected a 50-yard pass to Brandon Cooks putting Houston inside the red-zone. Premier pass rushers may not always get the sack, but they will get holding calls if the referees are paying attention! Three sacks and eight quarterback hits were recorded by 49er defenders. Arden Key was responsible for four of those hits and one sack. The Niners defensive line lived in Houston’s backfield all game, giving Trey Lance as many chances as possible to lead the offense.

Overall, the offensive game plan was sound. 37 run plays to 23 pass plays sounds about right when fielding a promising rookie quarterback. Elijah Mitchell broke the 49er record for most rushing yards by a rookie for the season. On Sunday he rushed for 119 yards on 21 carries. He has 878 yards rushing for the season. Under Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers are 21-1 when they rush the ball 30 or more times in a game. The recipe for winning and formula for success for San Fran under Shan is clear. It remains to be seen if Trey Lance starts next week against the Rams, but I would bet that he will. The Niners still hold the keys to their post season fate. If they win at Sofi they are in the tournament. Simple as that. If they lose, then they need help from the Saints or the Eagles. The final game of the regular season is really the start of the playoffs for the 2021-2022 San Francisco 49ers. Beat L.A.

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