GLENDALE, Ariz. — Coach Kyle Shanahan said on Friday if Jimmy Garoppolo were healthy, he would have started Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.
Garoppolo’s calf injury opened the door for rookie Trey Lance to make his first NFL start. The 49ers fell three games behind the unbeaten Cardinals with a 17-10 loss — their third consecutive defeat after starting win road wins at Detroit and Philadelphia.
Lance did not look overwhelmed and he made plenty of plays. Yet, it remains to be seen if he did enough in the eyes of Shanahan to earn the right to remain as the starter when Garoppolo is cleared to play.
Lance is the future of the 49ers. And keeping him in the starting lineup is worth considering as the 49ers take a break for their bye.
The 49ers will return from their bye week to face the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday Night Football on Oct. 24.
Here are the takeaways from the 49ers’ Week 5 game against Arizona:
Highs and lows of Lance's starting debut
On his first snap as a starting quarterback, Lance scrambled 14 yards for a first down. But his first possession ended with a high throw that resulted in a turnover. The Cardinals cashed in on that miscue, scoring a touchdown for an early 7-0 lead.
That was the one thing the 49ers were hoping to avoid as they took the field without Jimmy Garoppolo. The 49ers were going to have a difficult enough time with the Cardinals without giving them additional scoring opportunities.
Lance was not helped by his pass-catchers, either, as there were three dropped passes in the first half. Mohamed Sanu could not hang onto a pass on a third-and-11 play near midfield.
Lance completed 15 of 29 passes for 192 yards. He didn't throw any touchdowns and was intercepted once in his first NFL start. He also gained a team-high 89 yards rushing on 16 attempts.
Lance gave Arizona an immediate opportunity on the first series of the game.
He stepped up in the pocket and could have run the ball for a good chunk of yards. Instead, he tried to hook up with wide receiver Travis Benjamin. But his pass sailed high and into the hands of Cardinals safety Budda Baker, who returned it 17 yards.
The Cardinals ended putting together an eight-play, 66-yard touchdown drive to take a 7-0 lead. Lance did not throw his first college interception until his 17th start at North Dakota State.
49ers stopped on fourth-down runs
Shanahan twice decided to go for on fourth-down situations in the first half, and both times Lance tried to pick it up with his legs.
Both times he was denied.
In the fourth quarter, he switched it up with fullback Kyle Juszczyk lining up under center and trying to sneak for the first down. He was stopped short near midfield with 9:18 remaining and the 49ers trailing 10-7.
Two plays later, Dontae Johnson forced a fumble that gave the 49ers possession less than a minute later at the 49ers’ 46-yard line. But, again, a fourth-down attempt failed when J.J. Watt deflected Lance’s pass at the line of scrimmage.
Early in the second quarter, the 49ers drove 93 yards on 12 plays. Rather than sending out new kicker Joey Slye for a short field goal, Shanahan opted to utilize Lance’s skills as a runner.
Lance rolled right and made the move upfield. He appeared he had an opening at the goal line, but Arizona linebacker Isaiah Simmons and Tanner Vallejo met Lance at the goal line and delivered huge hits to keep him out of the end zone. Simmons and Vallejo were credited with a half-sack apiece because Lance looked as if he was initially looking to pass.
The 49ers’ previous possession also ended when they turned the ball over on downs. Lance was stopped for a 1-yard gain on fourth-and-2 from the Arizona 34. Shanahan opted to pass up the opportunity for a 52-yard field goal attempt.
The 49ers were 1-for-4 on fourth downs. In the third quarter, Lance hit Sanu for 6 yards on fourth-and-5. However, that play did not lead to any points for the 49ers.
Sloppiness on both sides of the ball
The 49ers did not put together a crisp game to give the rookie quarterback much help.
There were too many dropped passes and too many missed tackles, though the defense stood as the bright spot for most of the game.
The 49ers stalled on a third-quarter drive after holding penalties by left tackle Trent Williams, right tackle Mike McGlinchey and wide receiver Travis Benjamin.
The problems continued on the next drive with Williams and McGlinchey getting flagged again for holding. McGlinchey also was called for a false start. But all was forgiven when Deebo Samuel capped a six-play, 59-yard drive with a 13-yard touchdown run.
Through it all, the 49ers remained in striking range against the Cardinals, who entered Week 5 as the NFL’s only unbeaten team.
The defense put on a fantastic effort from the start of the second half against Kyler Murray and the explosive Cardinals’ offense to give Lance and his offensive teammates the opportunities to rally.