Why didn’t 49ers play Trey Lance in Week 2 win vs. Eagles?
By Peter Panacy
The 49ers went solely with Jimmy Garoppolo in Week 2 against the Eagles, and Trey Lance didn’t see a single snap. What was the reason?
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan didn’t follow suit in Week 2 with what he did with his two quarterbacks, Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance, in the regular-season opener a week ago against the Detroit Lions.
In that game, Lance saw just four offensive snaps but managed the Niners’ first points of 2021 on a touchdown throw to wide receiver Trent Sherfield.
In Week 2 against the Philadelphia Eagles, however, it was entirely the Garoppolo show under center. Lance saw precisely zero snaps in the 17-11 win.
49ers could have used Trey Lance to provide offensive spark
San Francisco started Week 2 with three consecutive 3-and-out offensive drives, a first during Shanahan’s tenure and the first time the 49ers achieved this lowly feat since 2016.
And on one 3rd-and-long play later in the game, Garoppolo simply handed the ball off for an inside run in what arguably Shanahan’s most questionable play call. Or, perhaps, a sign of little confidence in Jimmy G.
Garoppolo wasn’t good early. And while he finished the game 22-of-30 for 189 yards and a touchdown, it was pretty clear the Niners offense needed a bit of a spark.
Could Lance have delivered it?
Possibly. We’ll never know. But it’s important to understand Philadelphia’s defense was doing its job defending against whatever San Francisco was trying to do on offense for the better part of the first two quarters.
49ers likely felt lack of run game would have hindered Trey Lance
At this point in his early, early development, perhaps Lance’s biggest strength will be playing off the 49ers run game.
The Niners eventually finished Week 2 with 117 rush yards, but the offense managed only 3.1 yards per carry. And for the first two quarters, there was hardly anything going on the ground anyway, thanks largely to the Eagles’ stout defensive line.
Philly edge defenders like Josh Sweat and Derek Barnett regularly crashed off the outside throughout the game. And despite no Eagles defender recording a sack on Garoppolo, the outside lanes weren’t openly available until later in the game when Philadelphia’s defense began to wear down.
This likely would have eliminated the effectiveness of any would-be run-pass option plays Lance could have used, and it’s also likely Shanahan doesn’t yet trust Lance to play the standard regimen of drop-back passes when the running game isn’t working too well.
Still, more misses from Garoppolo through the air should make fans wonder if not playing Lance at all, even for a handful of snaps for that spark, was the correct move by Shanahan. And the head coach’s comments to the media on Monday didn’t do much to answer any questions:
"It’s always an option throughout the game. It’s been two games and I’ve never had [Lance] in the openers and I’ve never had him as a designated time. I plan on doing that week-to-week and whenever I feel like putting him in. You saw when I did in Week 1 and I never got that urge in Week 2."
Shanahan will likely stick with the “that’s just how the game played out” kind of comments when asked why Lance didn’t see the field.
Either way, it’ll likely be a question no one will be able to answer but will hopefully be forgotten when Lance begins to play more.