49ers don’t help Trey Lance in first-start loss to Cardinals

Trey Lance #5 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Trey Lance #5 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /

The 49ers offense didn’t rise to the occasion in support of Trey Lance during his first-ever NFL start against the NFC West-leading Cardinals.

San Francisco 49ers rookie quarterback Trey Lance needed a little help from his friends during their Week 5 NFC West matchup against the still-undefeated Arizona Cardinals.

Well, that didn’t happen.

Lance ultimately suffered his first loss as a starter in the wake of the veteran, Jimmy Garoppolo, missing his first game of 2021 with a calf injury, and the Niners fell to 2-3 after the 17-10 loss at State Farm Stadium on Sunday.

True, Lance was far from perfect in his starter’s debut. The general consensus? The pro game still moves awfully fast for the No. 3 overall NFL Draft pick, and there were plenty of “what could have been?” moments, including Lance trying an end-around run for a touchdown that was stuffed just short of the goal line:

By inches. And if Lance had tried to go high over Cardinals defender Isaiah Simmons, or even just reach with the ball over the line and pull it back, the result might have been different.

There were plenty of other rookie-like mistakes from Lance, too.

Yet those were to be expected. What San Francisco needed was a near-peerless game from its offensive supporting cast, one that was going to be without All-Pro tight end George Kittle (calf) for three games.

Read More: Trey Lance will miss George Kittle in Week 5 vs. Cardinals

In that department, the 49ers fell way short.

49ers fail to help out Trey Lance enough in loss vs. Cardinals

Perhaps it was head coach Kyle Shanahan’s play-calling. Aside from the expected uptick in RPOs and designed runs, Shanahan’s offense didn’t exactly showcase the creativity one might have expected with Lance under center.

Wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Mohamed Sanu also dropped multiple passes at key moments, too. Samuel, the NFL’s leading receiver after four weeks with 490 yards, had only three catches for 58 yards in the game.

Lance was frequently able to get the offense into Arizona territory throughout the game. But drives were frequently stalled or pushed by by offensive-holding calls, especially against right tackle Mike McGlinchey, who was flagged multiple times in matchups against EDGE J.J. Watt.

In total, the red and gold were flagged seven times for 60 yards.

At least Lance and Co. were able to overcome some of those calls late in the third quarter in what turned into their first points of the game, culminating in a 13-yard rushing touchdown by Samuel.

49ers defense did its job against NFL’s No. 1 offense

The Cardinals entered the game with both the No. 1-ranked scoring offense and the No. 1 offense in terms of yards gained, putting even more pressure on the Niners defense to hold its own.

Especially in this highly touted Lance-versus-Kyler Murray NFC West showdown.

Murray went 22-of-31 for 239 yards, one touchdown against zero interceptions with a 104.1 passer rating, yet Arizona still managed only the 17 points and 305 net yards while Murray was sacked twice times during the game.

Entering Week 5, the Cardinals were averaging 441 yards per game.

Keeping it close might be something of a moral victory for San Francisco, although there are still some notable problems, including multiple defensive penalties against 49ers veteran cornerback Josh Norman.

It’s only regrettable the Niners offense couldn’t take advantage.

Trey Lance good or bad in 49ers’ starting debut?

Shanahan’s post-Week 4 comments about Lance, who played the third and fourth quarters in that game, are probably going to apply here, too: “Some good, some bad.”

Lance finished the day going 15-of-29 for 192 yards, zero touchdowns through the air against one interception and with a 58.4 passer rating. He also showcased his rushing talent, of course, picking up 89 yards on the ground and averaging 5.6 yards per run, many of which were designed.

Yet Lance has to learn how to avoid contact rather than absorbing it, and his go-downs weren’t exactly pretty.

Lance’s first-drive interception was a missed opportunity, an overthrow hauled in by Cardinals safety Budda Baker. The read, intended for wide receiver Travis Benjamin, was the correct one. And Lance would have had a huge pickup if he elected to use his legs.

Mistakes like that are likely to be common as he matures, but the hope is he’ll pick up what happened and adjust as needed.

As far as Lance remaining in the starter’s role over Garoppolo after San Francisco’s Week 6 bye?

Well, no conclusion there. Unless you’re looking long term, which is both fine and understandable.

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