4 challenges Trey Lance will face vs. Rams (if 49ers start him)

Trey Lance #5 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Trey Lance #5 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /
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Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (5) Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /

51. 42. Fox. Sunday, Jan. 9. 12-4. Rams -4. 4:25 p.m. ET. 9-7

It’s not yet clear if the 49ers will roll with Trey Lance over Jimmy Garoppolo against the Rams. But if Lance is the guy, these challenges are at hand.

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan remained typically elusive when asked whether or not quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo would return to his starting duties over the rookie, Trey Lance, in time for the Niners’ regular-season finale against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 18.

Shanahan’s precise quotes about Garoppolo, who missed Week 17’s win over the Houston Texans with a thumb sprain, were almost contradictory in nature:

"If Jimmy’s a hundred percent healthy and could do everything, like perfect, then I would definitely go with Jimmy. I’m not just going to throw a guy in after one game like this, when Jimmy’s been doing it for us all year. I think it’s going to be hard for Jimmy to be a hundred percent, which is how most people are right now at this time of year. But Trey did a good job, if Jimmy can’t go, we won’t hesitate at all. But if we feel Jimmy can go and play confident, then Jimmy will be out there."

When asked if Garoppolo had to be 100 percent to start, Shanahan’s reply was simple: “nope.”

In fairness to Shanahan, he doesn’t have to nor should he fully reveal the intention for Week 18, meaning Los Angeles would have to game plan for two quarterbacks instead of just one.

However, if Shanahan either picks Lance based off the rookie’s strong outing against Houston or decides Garoppolo isn’t healthy enough, the Rams are going to present a much tougher challenge for the No. 3 overall pick from the 2021 NFL Draft than what he faced against the Texans.

Here are four specific challenges Lance will face if he starts in Week 18 at SoFI Stadium.

No. 4: Rams can make 49ers offense one-dimensional

When San Francisco walloped Los Angeles earlier this season, it was based on two interceptions by safety Jimmie Ward and the fact the 49ers were able to completely control the clock, sparked by elongated and lengthy offensive possessions that tired out a stout LA defense.

Maybe that’ll be the approach again, yet the Rams are still perfectly equipped to limit what opponents want to do with any element critical to a young quarterback’s development: the run game.

Los Angeles gave up 156 yards to the Niners back in Week 10, but it’s only surrendered two 100-yard run games in the weeks since, and the Rams are now allowing an average of just 3.9 yards per rush against entering Week 18, fifth best in the entire league.

Lance might not have the same benefit of utilizing play action, which to date has accounted for 20 of his 71 passing attempts on the year.

Additionally, Lance’s own rushing prowess might be put into check by LA’s stout defense, too, possibly taking away that element of his game.