The San Francisco 49ers dropped their third game in a row this Sunday, falling 17-10. In his starting debut, Trey Lance proved his formidability as a rusher, notching 89 yards on 16 carries. As a passer, he was decidedly less threatening, completing 15 of 29 passes for 192 yards with an interception. In a quarterback draft class whose early taste of the league has ranged from uneven to brutal, Lance’s showing against Arizona was roughly equivalent to the output of his classmates thus far. For a quarterback drafted on the basis of upside, Lance’s modest production is hardly a cause for concern.
Trey Lance Starting Debut Shows Development in Progress
49ers Defense Shines In Loss
Facing an explosive Cardinals offense, the Niners defense fared reasonably well. Arizona had scored at least 30 points in each of their first four games, but was held under 20 on Sunday. The defensive outing was arguably the lone bright spot in the contest for San Francisco.
While the Niners did not quite derail Kyler Murray’s early MVP candidacy, holding the Cardinals to just two scores until late in the fourth quarter was impressive nonetheless. Nick Bosa, who briefly exited with a mild injury, was responsible for one of the team’s two sacks on the afternoon. Murray, one of the best dual threat quarterbacks in the league, managed only one rushing yard. Even with an early offensive no-show, the game remained within reach until a late Arizona touchdown.
Losing Streak Interrupted With Bye Week
The 49ers entered the season as a projected contender in the NFC, but their three-game slide has raised questions if reaching the playoffs might be a lofty expectation. The team’s inadequacy at the quarterback position relative to other favorites is evident and alarming. Jimmy Garoppolo has failed to recapture the competence that helped San Francisco to a Super Bowl appearance just two seasons ago. Trey Lance’s prophesied leap to superstardom is likely at least a year or two away. The Murray-led Cardinals improved to 5-0 on the season with their win. The Cardinals are just a week removed from a blowout of the previous divison favorite Los Angeles Rams. They now have a three-game lead on the 49ers, who dropped to a losing record Sunday.
The Niners now enter their bye week. The bye makes a convenient appearance in the schedule with tight end George Kittle on the injured reserve. Shanahan has professed his faith in Garoppolo as the starter going forward. The Niners coaching staff’s true intentions for the quarterback position for the remainder of the year are unclear. Their caution and patience with Lance’s development will likely allow Garoppolo to return to the starting job when healthy. The offense, and especially the quarterbacks, have been liabilities to contention thus far.
Matchups with the Indianapolis Colts and Chicago Bears will round out the month. Neither are particularly formidable opponents. A rematch with the Cardinals sits on the schedule immediately after. The next three weeks offer a chance for the Niners to regain their early-season momentum and will perhaps provide some answers as to the true prowess of the 2021 team.