Trey Lance deserved better on Sunday. The phrase “he’s not ready” gets thrown around a lot when talking about Lance; however, everyone but him on the offensive side of the ball was not ready. At least not ready to beat the Arizona Cardinals. Lance was let down by his offensive line, veteran receivers, and head coach, who has been the biggest disappointment through five weeks.
As a life-long 49ers fan who is emotionally invested in each decision and the outcome of every game, I did not find myself that upset following the 49ers’ 17-10 loss.
Lance left me feeling inspired and hopeful. What I saw in Lance is a 21-year-old kid who certainly has a ton of room to grow as a quarterback but, most importantly, has every other attribute you’d want your quarterback to have. The size, speed and arm strength are apparent. But that's not what I'm referring to. I’m referring to his heart. His fight. The way he leads by example. Fighting for extra yards without his helmet on. For the youngest starting quarterback in the team’s history to show all of that during his first start was extremely reassuring. Reassuring that the 49ers selected the right quarterback with the No. 3 pick.
Notice how I wrote the 49ers and not Kyle Shanahan. I have a lot of concerns regarding Shanahan. Concerns that he genuinely did want Mac Jones with the No. 3 pick and is feeling some type of way that the organization forced him into taking Lance. Concerns that the pressure of getting back into the postseason is getting to his head. There is an eerie feeling around the 49ers right now, and it isn’t easy to pinpoint exactly what it is.
The reluctance to commit to Lance the rest of the season makes me wonder what world Shanahan is living in. Is he still living in 2019? Does he believe he can squeeze out another Super Bowl appearance with Jimmy Garoppolo? He might. After all, he is Kyle Shanahan. But, he’d be dead wrong.
Why on earth would an organization that traded three first-round picks to draft a quarterback No. 3 not commit to their prized rookie once it became visible that the team is not championship worthy? A few things come to mind, and one of them is that Shanahan is concerned about his job security. He needs to win games, and Garoppolo is his best bet to do so. Another is that Lance is not, nor ever was, his ideal draft pick. The latter, if true, I have a massive problem with. If Shanahan did not want to invest in Lance, he simply needs to go sooner rather than later.
On the other hand, Shanahan could’ve been pounding the table for Lance, and maybe he was his guy all along. And if that’s the case, great. But, to this point, through his press conferences and actions, it certainly doesn’t seem that way.
Studs and Duds:
Dud - Shanahan’s game plan:
“It took 44 minutes just to do this. Like, just pitch the ball to your best player, Deebo. Let him do something with it. Stop the quarterback powers and the sweeps. Just give it to your best player” - Brian Baldinger.
Exactly, Baldy. What on earth was Shanahan calling on Sunday? In the past, he’s made life so easy for Garoppolo. The Sunday Night Football game against the Rams last season comes to mind. The offense killed the Rams with the short passing game. Also, the jet sweeps and tunnel screens that are essentially an extension of the ground game.
Where was that for Trey Lance? Instead of implementing a few “Jimmy Gimmies” for Lance, he supplemented them with designed runs and treated him like a battering ram.
With all the hits Lance took Sunday, it is not a surprise he suffered a knee sprain. Shanahan should limit the collisions the future of the franchise takes.
Shanahan called as many designed runs (nine) for Lance as he did for running back Elijah Mitchell. Lance had more carries (16) on Sunday than the rest of the team combined.
For an “offensive guru,” Shanahan’s point-by-quarter averages over the last four games are terrifying.
Weeks 2-5 points-by-quarter average:
- 1st quarter: 1.75 points
- 2nd quarter: 3.5 points
- 3rd quarter: 5 points
- 4th quarter: 8.75 points
That seat is getting toasty.
Stud - DeMeco Ryans’ game plan:
For the second consecutive week, Ryans’ defense put the 49ers in a prime position to win the game. Also, for the second consecutive week, Shanahan’s offense prevented that from happening.
Going into Week 5, the Cardinals scored at least 30 points in every game. The 49ers defense held them to 17 points -- two touchdowns less than their previous season-low point total (31).
Ryans’ defense has stood out because it's achieving greater success against mobile quarterbacks than any of Robert Saleh’s defenses. Arik Armstead had a fantastic game and often kept his containment, which has been his issue in the past. Nick Bosa had another great game. Bosa and Armstead rank fifth and sixth in Pro Football Focus grades among EDGE players.
Dud- The 49ers’ offensive line:
The offensive line was rag-dolled by the Cardinals’ defensive line, led by J.J. Watt and Chandler Jones. Mike McGlinchey had a very 2020-like game, when he got beat and he hurt the team time and time again. Trent Williams was not much better. Daniel Brunskill is on the verge of losing his starting spot. An all-around ugly performance from the big boys upfront.
Dud- The 49ers’ sloppy play.
I mentioned this earlier, but Lance had very little help from his teammates. They struggled to catch the ball consistently and to avoid infractions. Mohammed Sanu dropped a critical pass on 3rd and long. Deebo Samuel dropped a screen pass on 1st-and-goal, which arguably could’ve been a touchdown had it been caught. The team was penalized seven times for 60 yards. Shanahan needs his team to play more disciplined.
Stud- Brandon Aiyuk
I want to give Brandon Aiyuk a shoutout. For some reason, he is still fighting Travis Benjamin and Mohammed Sanu for snaps. I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors, but on Sundays, it is painfully apparent Aiyuk is superior to Benjamin and Sanu. Both of Aiyuk’s catches were highly contested and came in big moments. Plus, he showcased his exciting play-making ability on his second catch.
Free Brandon Aiyuk. He is a stud.
Follow me on Twitter: @NinerNick_22