- San Francisco 49ers rookie quarterback Trey Lance made his first NFL start in Sunday’s 17-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
- Lance was starting in place of Jimmy Garoppolo who was sidelined with a calf injury.
- Garoppolo is expected to reclaim his starting role once he returns from injury.
Trey Lance might be the ‘quarterback of the future’ for the San Francisco 49ers but in the present he’s still a rookie learning the ropes. Lance made his first NFL start on Sunday and it was far from a coronation. Overall, his performance was a ‘mixed bag’ of good and bad as the Niners lost 17-10 to the Arizona Cardinals. San Francisco has now lost three straight after winning their first two games to start the season and is tied with the Seattle Seahawks at the bottom of the NFC West.
This could be Lance’s last start for the time being–on Friday, head coach Kyle Shanahan re-affirmed Jimmy Garoppolo’s status as the starting quarterback. San Francisco is heading into a bye week and will next play on October 24 against the Indianapolis Colts. The expectation is that Garoppolo will be ready to go by that time. Asked after Sunday’s game if anything had happened to change that dynamic, head coach Shanahan made clear that it had not:
“No, nothing has changed. That was just one game. That was a tough loss right there and I’ll talk to our whole team tomorrow and think about how we can get our whole team better coming back from the bye.”
Shanahan suggested that Garoppolo was close enough to playing against Arizona on Sunday to speculate that he should be available on October 24. He made the disclaimer that calf injuries can be ‘tricky’ but that notwithstanding the hope is that Garoppolo will be ready to go in two weeks. Garoppolo is not the only player dealing with a calf injury–Pro Bowl tight end George Kittle was placed on the IR earlier this weekend meaning he’ll miss at least three games.
Many of Lance’s best moments came when he ran with the football. He led the team with 16 carries for 89 yards, the most by a San Fran quarterback since Colin Kaepernick went for 113 yards in 2016. He left teammates impressed with his toughness but concerned about his penchant for putting himself at physical risk. Here’s what defensive end Nick Bosa said after the game:
“It was fun to watch. He definitely runs the ball hard. He might need to learn how to slide. He might need to work on his juke move a little bit, too.”
Lance’s passing game was mediocre at best. He finished 15-of-29 for 192 yards and an interception, for a passer rating of 58.4. In addition to his interception, the Cardinals batted or tipped four of his pass attempts–the most by a San Francisco quarterback in a decade. His struggles weren’t entirely his fault–his teammates didn’t do much to help. He was under constant pressure from the Arizona pass rush and had trouble finding his receivers when they struggled to get open. He had at least three passes straight up dropped by receivers. San Francisco was also cited for five offensive holding penalties and were 1 for 5 on fourth down. After the game, head coach Shanahan made the obvious point that these self inflicted injuries makes it more difficult to win:
“Those things make it harder to win. We’ve got to find a way to do better and I’ve got to find a way to get us to do better. Going into this bye week 2-3, still a lot of football left to play, but we’ve got to come back and we’ve got to play better than we have.”
Following the bye week, the Niners will host the Indianapolis Colts on October 24 before hitting the road to take on the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on October 31. They’ll then have a pair of home games against the NFC West elite with Arizona on November 7 and the Los Angeles Rams on November 15.