Lance showed Texans 'really great potential' in 49ers' win


Trey Lance's second career NFL start was far from perfect, but there were flashes of greatness -- more than once, too -- and the rookie quarterback ended Sunday with the most important stat of the day: A 23-7 49ers win over the Houston Texans. 

"He played well enough for them to win today," Texans head coach David Culley said Sunday to reporters when first asked about Lance's performance. 

The 21-year-old completed 16-of-23 pass attempts for 249 yards and two passing touchdowns. He was intercepted once, and also carried the ball eight times for 31 yards. When listening to Culley, it was clear what a difference Lance made when it came to trying to game plan for the dual-threat QB. 

It clearly made a difference on the field, too. 

"The thing about him is, he's very mobile," Culley said. "He keeps plays alive, he ended up making some throws outside the pocket that kept the drive alive. He played well today."

Lance was able to find his second, third and fourth reads at times while extending plays with his legs and making throws on the run. He hit receivers on the sidelines, over the middle and took shots down the field. That's something that has been missing from the 49ers' offense for quite some time. 

His only real mistake was his interception, intended for tight end George Kittle. 

However, while people complained about a wide-open Kyle Juszczyk on the other side of the field, the play was deigned to go to Kittle and is a play that has worked multiple times in the past. The problem is, cornerback Desmond King II read the play design and Lance's underthrown pass was picked off. 


"I saw Kittle coming from the front side," King explained. "It was a drawn up play. It was a play that they definitely drew up and wanted to get the ball in Kittle's hands. He's a very big impact guy for their offense.

"I just seen him coming back from the other side, and something just told me to look back once I ran with him and the ball was coming."

While King had a strong performance himself with eight tackles, two passes defensed and the interception, the six-year pro saw in Lance what the 49ers saw in the North Dakota State product before trading up to the No. 3 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft: The sky is the limit. 

"Second half, he showed some resiliency just coming back out in the second half and taking care of the ball and making the right choices and decisions out there at quarterback," King said. "He has really great potential. Just looking forward to seeing what he got coming over the next years."

Lance threw for 115 yards and two TDs with no interceptions in the second half. As the game went on, he looked more and more comfortable -- just as Kyle Shanahan opened up his playbook. 

Sunday was the first time that Lance made a pass attempt and had significant snaps since Week 5. That was on Oct. 10, nearly a three-month drought. While he was the No. 3 pick in the draft, and the third QB taken, he has received far less playing time than his counterparts, including third-round pick Davis Mills, who started Sunday for the Texans and threw for 163 yards with one TD and one interception. 

But Lance's growth from going against the 49ers in practice and earning rave reviews was obvious. Just look at his passer rating in his second career start compared to the other QBs from this rookie class. 

There still is plenty of room for Lance to correct, and even more to improve. He of course wishes he could get a few throws back, but didn't dwell on them after the game. Instead, he was poised talking about the interception and felt if he made a better throw to Kittle that we wouldn't be questioning his decision. 

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He's right, and after Sunday -- at least for now -- those on the outside can take a break from questioning if the 49ers made the right decision in the draft. 

Don't fret, plenty of questions will be back in no time when Shanahan has to choose between Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo before the season finale against the Los Angeles Rams, with the playoffs on the line.

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