Trey Lance: Impartial assessment of 49ers QB’s efforts vs. Packers

Trey Lance #5 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Trey Lance #5 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

Trey Lance saw just three snaps during the 49ers’ Sunday Night Football bout against the Packers yet added a touchdown. Let’s break it down, whatever we can.

The San Francisco 49ers continue to use rookie quarterback Trey Lance sparingly, and that trend continued during the Niners’ Week 3 Sunday Night Football loss to the visiting Green Bay Packers at Levi’s Stadium.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan inserted Lance into Sunday night’s game a total of three times. This, after Lance saw only four offensive snaps back in Week 1 and none whatsoever in Week 2, further pushing the narrative of Lance not yet being in a position where Shanahan feels comfortable swapping the No. 3 overall NFL Draft pick out for the incumbent starter, Jimmy Garoppolo.

Of those three plays, though, Lance’s 1-yard end-around rush for a touchdown will the one that’ll garner the most attention.

So, let’s start there and break down what can be taken away from the rookie’s second game of regular-season action at the NFL level.

Trey Lance touchdown takeaway in 49ers game vs. Packers

There’s always the clear element Lance will have that Garoppolo doesn’t: speed.

Sure, it’s easy to point out how Lance’s rushing touchdown late in the first half was indicative of the 1,100 rush yards he had back at North Dakota State in 2019. And while it’s a mere yard in the books, Lance’s ability to get to the edge and find an opening in a goal-line situation is noteworthy:

If you watch running back Trey Sermon in motion, though, you’ll see the Packers defense, in zone, not fully reacting to the tailback. No, their eyes are still fixated on Lance.

While Lance used his speed, left tackle Trent Williams’ lead block was devastating and opened up the door for the quarterback’s touchdown. Yet it’s center Alex Mack’s block on the weak-side linebacker, even just the modest bump, that should also stand out. This likely afforded Lance the slight edge needed to avoid being tackled just short of the goal line.

Trey Lance on the field for a direct snap to Kyle Juszczyk

In one of the more creative plays from Shanahan on Sunday night, early in the third quarter, Lance was on the field in a shotgun formation before fullback Kyle Juszczyk rushed over to take the direct snap, rushing forward for a 2-yard gain on 3rd-and-1.

Green Bay’s defense didn’t do too much to react, although it seemed poised to think Lance again would rush, as has been the case for all but one of his passing attempts this season up to that point.

Although there was a Packers linebacker cheating to the same side where Lance rushed for his touchdown.

Trey Lance’s lone pass attempt resulted in a Packers holding call

At the 7:57 mark of the fourth quarter, Lance attempted something he hadn’t done since his Week 1 touchdown: attempt a pass.

On a 2nd-and-goal play, Lance was able to roll out to his right on what might be the most information-determining play of his young career. Four Packers defenders are effectively chasing Lance to guard against what could have been a bootleg touchdown rush, yet Lance tossed a low pass in the direction of wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk that fell incomplete.

Tight end George Kittle, however, drew a pass-interference call on the play, and it’s possible to see how the Green Bay player defending him, Chandon Sullivan, who got caught up in the melee trying to both worry about Kittle and Lance at the same time.

While Lance effectively had a wide-open Aiyuk, the chaos Lance created on the play was enough to suggest more passing could help wreak havoc on opposing defenses in the right situations.

What to make of 49ers’ usage of Trey Lance so far?

Shanahan wants to bring Lance along slowly, and that’s still fine. Even if the fanbase might be growing impatient with the process.

What became more apparent in Week 3, however, is Lance will need additional passing opportunities to both further his development and create situations where San Francisco’s offense can benefit.

Read More: How 49ers will use Trey Lance has become clearer

The Packers clearly respected Lance’s ability to run for sizable pickups, evidenced both by his touchdown scramble and the non-play incompletion to Aiyuk. And while Lance’s on-the-run miss to Aiyuk was a small misstep on the quarterback’s part, his ability to draw four defenders over to his side should create additional opportunities, like the one where Aiyuk suddenly found himself open in the end zone.

The 49ers need to feel comfortable letting Lance throw just a bit more, particularly on plays where opposing defenses are thinking he’ll take off and run.

And considering the Niners’ next opponent, the Seattle Seahawks, have struggled defensively over the first three weeks of the season, giving Lance those additional attempts through the air to complement his rushing prowess would be the next wisest step in his maturation process.

49ers' 15 best first-round NFL Draft picks of all time. dark. Next