Trey Lance gets his groove back while leading 49ers to pair of late scores

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — “Let it rip.”

That was the often-repeated phrase from Kyle Shanahan this week as far as what he liked to see from his quarterbacks. And it’s what Trey Lance did late in the fourth quarter Saturday when he connected on a dart across the middle to rookie receiver Ronnie Bell. The 43-yard catch-and-run was the longest play of the contest for the San Francisco 49ers and set up Jake Moody’s game-winning 32-yard field goal as time expired.

The throw was what the 49ers, trailing the Denver Broncos by two points with 1:37 remaining, needed at the moment.

More than that, it was what Lance needed.

He was the subject of scathing national reviews throughout the week following a lackluster game in Las Vegas on Sunday. And it took him nearly three quarters to even enter the contest Saturday.


49ers projected 53-man roster: Where does Trey Lance stand after shaky preseason opener?

When he finally got his chance, he got off to one of his typically slow starts. On his fourth dropback, he tried to set up a delayed screen to running back Jeremy McNichols. Broncos defensive linemen Matt Henningsen, however, reached up, deflected the pass and another defensive lineman, Elijah Garcia, made a diving interception.

Lance said he had to find a way to get the ball over the defense, though Shanahan described it as a terrific play by Henningsen and one the 49ers tried to overturn on review because they thought the ball hit the ground.

“I thought we were gonna reverse but it was inconclusive on some of the shots,” Shanahan said.

Lance’s second drive seemed more promising, especially when he escaped the pocket to his left and gained a first down on the Denver 13-yard line. That play, however, was called back because of a holding penalty on guard Nick Zakelj, a game-long theme for both Lance and Sam Darnold.

Both teams committed nine penalties and the 49ers’ pass protection was poor, especially when Darnold was in. He was sacked twice and had a 21-yard pass to Jauan Jennings called back because of holding against center Jon Feliciano, who had a rough outing in pass protection.

“I think we got a little bit of a better rhythm for him,” Shanahan said of Lance. “But it still took a while to get going — not just him but the whole group. I thought we were a little sloppy throughout the whole game. Way too many penalties. It felt like whenever we did get something going, especially in the second quarter, we had another penalty and missed assignments.”

Lance started to find his rhythm late in the fourth quarter with the Broncos leading by eight points. He was 5-of-6 on the drive, mostly on the types of short passes he’s had trouble consistently hitting in practice. His seventh throw of the possession was the longest. He saw Cameron Latu break open near the goal line and then connected with the rookie tight end — who’d been prominent for dropping passes in practice — for a 22-yard score.

Like Lance, Latu took a step toward redeeming himself Saturday. He caught three of the four passes that went his way, two from Lance and one from Darnold, and finished with 43 yards.

The team’s star pass catcher, however, was Bell, who also was looking for a bit of redemption after allowing a Darnold pass to slip through his hands and turn into an interception, the second straight game in which that’s occurred.

Lance’s game-winning drive began with a screen to Bell, who, in Deebo Samuel fashion, broke two Broncos tackle attempts and gained 14 yards. On the next snap, Lance again looked in Bell’s direction with the sort of plant-and-fire throw across the middle that Shanahan loves. Bell again was strong after the catch on that play, gaining 27 yards after the reception and bringing the ball to the 21.

“The tackles he breaks — it’s real impressive,” Lance said of Bell. “He’s a guy who competes his butt off every single time he gets the ball in his hands, every single time he touches the field. He comes to work every single day with that mindset.”

A 15-yard run by Tyrion Davis-Price and three kneel downs by Lance set up Moody’s winning attempt.

Lance’s end-of-game heroics are unlikely to settle the competition for the 49ers’ No. 2 role.

Darnold, who entered the game with 3:37 to go in the first quarter and played through most of the third quarter, also had some impressive throws.

His best one, the 21-yarder to Jennings, didn’t count. On first down in the second quarter, linebacker Josey Jewell was unblocked off the edge and had a free run at Darnold. The quarterback couldn’t step into the throw but somehow was able to flick a deep ball that hit Jennings in stride. Darnold also had a strong throw at the sideline to receiver Dazz Newsome for a first down and an easy 11-yard touchdown pass to rookie fullback Jack Colletto.

He finished 11-of-14 for 109 yards and a 93.2 passer rating. Lance’s rating was a fraction lower. He was 12-of-18 for 173 yards and a 93.1 passer rating.

He may not have silenced his critics. He was a No. 3 pick playing against rookies and journeyman veterans, after all. But leading his team to two scores and a win seemed to relieve some of the pressure he was under entering the game.

“It was awesome being able to see him finish and put a game-winning drive together to set up Moody for the game-winning kick,” Brock Purdy, one of Lance’s closest friends on the team, said afterward, “Yeah, we all want to see him succeed and be great. He put together two great drives at the end. It was awesome to see. Really excited for him.”

(Photo of Trey Lance: Loren Elliott / Getty Images)

“The Football 100,” the definitive ranking of the NFL’s best 100 players of all time, goes on sale this fall. Pre-order it here.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top