San Francisco 49ers

Trey Lance has Jimmy Garoppolo-esque slow start to season in loss vs. Bears

The 49ers were supposed to have a relatively manageable challenge in Week 1 of the NFL campaign, but they lost to the Bears in Chicago, 19-10.

What does this mean for starting quarterback Trey Lance, if anything? When San Francisco re-signed last year’s starting QB Jimmy Garoppolo just before this season began, it led to speculation that Lance would be on a short leash, so to speak.

Considering that it was just one game and it was played during an intense rainstorm, Lance is certainly still in good standing with coach Kyle Shanahan. Add the fact that the 49ers contributed to their own loss with penalties and turnovers (though Lance did throw one interception), and it’s clear there’s no QB controversy in San Francisco, at least not yet.

Here’s a rundown of those mistakes from Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle.

The 49ers had two turnovers, including a fumble at Chicago’s 12-yard line, allowed a sack that took them out of field-goal range, and committed 12 penalties for 99 yards as they lost a 10-point, third-quarter lead and the Bears ended their upset win with 19 unanswered points in the final 20-plus minutes.

Eric Branch/San Francisco Chronicle

For a team with Super Bowl aspirations, the game was far too sloppy for San Francisco — even sloppier than the weather. But that doesn’t mean Lance can’t take his team to the promised land. His start as the 49ers’ unquestioned signal-caller was slow but slightly better than Garoppolo’s season-opening effort from the 2018 campaign.

In 2018, Garoppolo was entering his second year as the 49ers QB but he had limited experience. (Garoppolo was 5-0 as a starter in 2017.) That’s somewhat similar to Lance’s situation, as he’s in his second year after limited action a season ago. (Lance was 1-1 as a starter in 2021.) Lance’s record wasn’t as good as Garoppolo’s to start, but Lance was a rookie in 2021 and looked solid.

Garoppolo, of course, took the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2019, his third year in San Francisco, and reached the NFC Championship game last year.

Can Lance have similar success? I say yes, with a lot of help from coach Shanahan’s scheme. It’s a QB-friendly scheme, in my opinion, using the run game and misdirection to give the signal-caller clear looks downfield. Case in point, Lance’s QB rating was much higher when the 49ers took deep shots down the field, as his receivers were often wide open.

As long as Shanahan sticks with his game plan (which he will), Lance’s future is bright, just as Garoppolo’s was — even when it wasn’t exactly crystal clear he’d eventually lead San Francisco to the Super Bowl. But Lance and the 49ers have to start winning, clearly. They’ll have a chance to notch their first victory in 2022 on Sunday at home against the Seahawks.

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