49ers must sprinkle in Trey Lance packages in NFL playoffs vs. Rams

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

6:40 p.m. ET. Sunday, Jan. 30. Fox. 2-0. 51. Rams -3.5. 2-0. 42

The 49ers need to go all out in the NFC Championship game versus the Rams, and a struggling red-zone offense should call for Trey Lance.

The San Francisco 49ers have been kind enough to let rookie quarterback Trey Lance gain some practical on-field experience this season, albeit in a limited fashion and usually only when the starting quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, has been out with injuries.

Perhaps it’s time to let Lance sniff a little more action, this time in the NFL playoffs.

Garoppolo remains the unquestioned starter, and the Niners have managed to pull off back-to-back postseason victories over the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers to earn a trip to the NFC Championship game against the Los Angeles Rams this Sunday.

Yet Garoppolo hasn’t necessarily been the primary X-factor in either playoff game thus far. Playing with a thumb and shoulder sprain hasn’t helped matters, yes, but it still doesn’t cover up the fact he tossed interceptions in back-to-back playoff games and was even only moderately effective in the surprising 13-10 win over Green Bay at a frozen Lambeau Field.

If anything, San Francisco’s defense and run game have been the primary reasons why the team has advanced thus far.

To beat the Rams, though, head coach Kyle Shanahan might need to get a little more creative.

49ers offense has struggled a bit in NFL playoffs, especially in the red zone

One could argue Dallas’ own mistakes warranted the 49ers the chance to advance beyond the Wild Card round, while special teams accounted for all 13 points scored against the Packers.

Perhaps these are anomalies, yes. But there’s an important note to be made about just how much the Niners offense has struggled since the regular season came to a close.

After Week 18, which coincidentally saw San Francisco beat Los Angeles in overtime, the 49ers finished the regular season with the NFL’s best red-zone offense, scoring touchdowns here a whopping 66.7 percent of the time.

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The Niners enjoyed a 1-of-1 red-zone line against Dallas but went 0-of-3 against Green Bay, all for a touchdown success rate of just 25 percent during the playoffs.

It’s a trend that’s carried over from late in the regular season, too, with San Francisco converting red-zone appearances into touchdowns just 37.5 percent of the time over its last five games, including the two recent postseason bouts.

To beat LA, the 49ers may need a bit of a spark.

Trey Lance can help 49ers red-zone woes in NFL playoffs

None of this is to say Garoppolo should be benched. It would be woefully irresponsible for Shanahan to fully swap out his experienced veteran for a still-unpolished rookie.

But that doesn’t mean Lance is incapable of providing another element that could potentially make the Rams game plan a bit harder in advance of Sunday’s tilt.

Particularly on red-zone scrambling plays like these:

At the end of the regular season, the Rams had allowed opponents to score red-zone touchdowns 51.8 percent of the time, which was good for eighth best.

Based solely on the Niners’ recent red-zone woes, it doesn’t look as if it’ll be easy for Shanahan’s offense to automatically get into the end zone like it was so frequently during the regular season, and LA’s potent offense effectively means San Francisco has to capitalize on every red-zone appearance it gets during the NFC Championship game.

Sometimes, the simpler plays that rely more on skill and physical abilities outweigh those where creativity and innovation carry the day, particularly in the red zone.

Lance has those traits, and he might prove to be a difference-maker in certain situations when these two teams kick off in the NFC Championship game with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.

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