Trey Lance made his second career start for the 49ers in Week 17 and earned his first win. San Francisco beat the Texans 23-7 to improve to 9-7 and is now one step closer to securing a playoff spot.
Lance was impressive in the victory. He started slowly but ended the day completing 16 of 23 passes for 249 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. His biggest highlight was a long touchdown to Deebo Samuel.
Lance also used his legs to make plays throughout the day and rushed for 31 yards on eight carries.
Altogether, Lance looked very different from Jimmy Garoppolo, who has been the Niners’ normal starter this season. The 49ers offense looked more explosive with the rookie in charge, and that raised some questions about whether Lance would remain the starter even as Garoppolo, who is out with a torn ligament and a chipped bone in his right thumb, may return.
However, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan left no doubt that Garoppolo would be the starter going forward, provided he can bounce back.
“I mean, if Jimmy is 100 percent healthy and could do everything perfectly, then he would definitely go with Jimmy,” Shanahan told reporters at a post-match press conference. “I’m not going to pitch a guy after a game like this when Jimmy has been doing it for us all year.”
That said, Shanahan admitted that it could be difficult for Garoppolo to make a full recovery.
“I think it will be difficult for Jimmy to be 100 percent. That’s the way most people are at this time of year,” Shanahan said. “Trey did a good job so if Jimmy can go we won’t hesitate at all [to start him]. But if we think Jimmy can play confidently, then Jimmy will be there. “
Garoppolo had been listed as doubtful to enter Week 17 as a result of the injury. Shanahan said Garoppolo didn’t pitch Saturday and he wasn’t sure the veteran would pitch Sunday either, as the team already knew Lance was likely to start.
While Shanahan didn’t rule out anything for Week 18, he also didn’t seem overly optimistic that the veteran would play.
“I had a pretty good idea that we weren’t even going to push today,” Shanahan said of Garoppolo’s start. “I think we’ll be able to do it this week. Still, it’s just me giving you an honest guess. Hopefully I’ll have a better idea by Wednesday.”
If Garoppolo can’t play in Week 18, Lance would get the nod against the Rams in a game that would decide the 49ers’ postseason fate. That game is a competition that San Francisco wins and enters, although they could still make the playoffs with a loss and a loss to the Saints.
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