Trey Lance: Week 17 efforts show why Kyle Shanahan was right all along

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan talks to quarterback Trey Lance (5) Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan talks to quarterback Trey Lance (5) Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports /
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Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers
Trey Lance #5 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

Trey Lance showed his development from Week 5 to Week 17

At first, Lance’s Week 17 start against the Texans appeared to be more of the same. Lance bailed out of the pocket early and did not seem comfortable at all. Then, near the end of the first half, everything changed.

One of the moments that signaled something different was happening was a first-down conversion throw to wide Brandon Aiyuk right in front of the Niners’ own end zone. Lance moved out of the pocket, and instead of immediately running as he had done before, kept his eyes downfield and maneuvered perfectly before delivering a strike to Aiyuk. This play is perhaps summed up by a word that could not have been used to describe Lance in his time with the 49ers so far: poise.

After that, Lance was a different quarterback for the rest of the game. Although he was far from perfect, he looked the part of an NFL quarterback and led the 49ers to a win that never seemed in doubt after he found his rhythm.

Lance finished the game going 16-of-23 passing for 249 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception, along with 31 rushing yards on eight attempts, not including a rushing touchdown that was reversed due to a penalty. This was a marked upgrade on Week 5’s performance, not to mention that it came along with the most important of all statistics: a win.

Additionally, Lance recorded the best passer rating of any 2021 rookie in their second career start, and it wasn’t particularly close.

Sure, some of Lance’s improvement should be attributed to factors like the return of tight end George Kittle, and the fact that the Texans defense is not anywhere near as tough to face as the Cardinals unit Lance saw in Week 5.

The Cardinals are currently sixth in defensive DVOA while the Texans are 18th, per Football Outsiders.

So, some of Lance’s improvement may be due to outside circumstances, but an improvement of this magnitude needs to be credited to Lance as well.

And if Lance has improved, then Shanahan was right that his reps with the scout team and time backing up Garoppolo have helped prepare him to start in the NFL.

And with Garoppolo’s thumb injury potentially keeping him out of future games, we may find out exactly how well Shanahan’s plan went if Lance starts in Week 18’s must-win game against the Los Angeles Rams and possibly the playoffs.

Regardless, Trey Lance’s improved performance in Week 17 shows that Shanahan just might know what he is doing after all.

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