How Trey Lance’s performance in his first home start was reminiscent of Colin Kaepernick

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (5) runs against Houston Texans middle linebacker Christian Kirksey (58) during the second half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn)

The performance by Trey Lance in his first career home start over the weekend was reminiscent of the one made by Colin Kaepernick.

On Sunday at Levi’s Stadium, Trey Lance completed 16 of 23 attempts for 249 yds., two touchdowns, one interception and a quarterback rating of 116.0.

Colin Kaepernick made his first 49ers home start on Nov. 9, 2012, against the Chicago Bears. On that night Kaepernick completed 16 of 23 attempts for 243 yards, two touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 133.1.

In their first home starts both quarterbacks were able to display the ability to make big plays through the air that their predecessors either couldn’t make or weren’t willing to try.

Kaepernick was on the money right from the start, connecting with tight end Vernon Davis on a deep throw down the left sideline on the first possession of the game. The next time San Francisco had the ball, Kaepernick hit Kyle Williams deep down the right sideline.

The aerial fireworks from Kaepernick would continue after halftime, as he would find Mario Manningham for 37 yards on his second throw of the half before finding Michael Crabtree in the endzone to put the 49ers up 27-0.

It took Lance a few series to get himself comfortable. That began to change in final moments of the first half. 

Taking possession with only 38 seconds left to play before halftime Lance would get the 49ers offense rolling, finding Deebo Samuel running a quick slant on the right side for a gain of 17.  Two plays later Lance made his best throw of the first half, seeing an opening in the Texans zone coverage and trusting Brandon Aiyuk to make the adjustment. The second year wideout did just that and the 27-yard gain set San Francisco up in field goal range leading to their first offensive points of the game.

Lance was just getting started.

On the opening possession of the second half for San Francisco, the rookie thread a pass between Texan defenders over the middle to Brandon Aiyuk for a gain of 43 yards. San Francisco was unable to score, a sign of things to come.

On the first play of the next possession, Lance unleashed a deep throw down the middle to Aiyuk once again. This time, the Texans secondary interfered with Aiyuk, giving San Francisco a gain of 37 yards.

Later, Lance took a deep shot once again, this timing hitting Samuel for a 45-yard touchdown pass. Samuel was running the same deep route as Aiyuk earlier and the rookie quarterback pulled the trigger on the deep route both times, something Garoppolo has failed to try all season when that play has been called.

One last piece that ties this all together, Lovie Smith. Smith was the head coach for the Chicago Bears during Kaepernick’s first start. On Sunday he was the defensive coordinator for Houston.

Defense stout once again

The 49ers defense played another strong game on Sunday, limiting Houston to only seven points.

Over the second half of the season San Francisco’s defense has allowed more than 23 points in a game only once, the outlier being the 26 points scored by Minnesota in week 12.

This strong stretch of games from the defense started with allowing only 10 points to the Los Angeles Rams in an upset victory in week 10.

The 49ers will need another strong performance if they are going to reach the playoffs, and reinforcements could be on the way. During his Monday conference call with Bay Area media, Kyle Shanahan said he expected cornerback Emmanuel Moseley and linebacker Dre Greenlaw could have a chance to return from injury and play against Los Angeles. 

Rest for the Rams?

Don’t expect Los Angeles to rest its starters or relax this week. While home field advantage is out of reach for the Rams, the NFC West title, and a home game for the first round of the playoffs is still up for grabs. 

While the 49ers are in control of their own destiny for a playoff berth, the same is true for Los Angeles and their division title hopes. A win on Sunday would secure the NFC West crown for Los Angeles and may also send San Francisco home for the postseason depending on the outcome of the game between New Orleans and Atlanta.

This is going to be a wild week as the four members of the old NFC West battle it out with playoff implications.

Injury update:

Trent Williams suffered a sprained elbow against Houston and is listed as day-to-day.

Marcell Harris is dealing with a stinger from yesterday. He will continue to be monitored.

Jimmie Ward, Dontae Johnson, K’waun Williams, and Raheem Mostert have been placed on the reserve/Covid-19 list. As was the case last week when punter Mitch Wishnowsky was placed on the list, Johnson and Williams still have a chance to play on Sunday.

This article has 32 Comments

  1. “Trey Lance isn’t polished, but he changes the ceiling for the 49ers offense” – Jacob Hutchinson / KNBR

    “We’ve already learned one thing about young Trey Lance – he’s no Jimmy Garoppolo” – Dieter Kurtenbach / KNBR

    “Trey Lance makes 49ers’ offense more dangerous than Jimmy Garoppolo” – Rohan Chakravarthi / 49ers Webzone

    “Should Trey Lance Have Started from Week 1?” “Trey Lance looked better and improved as the game went on, why couldn’t he have done that from Week 1?” – Ben Meyerson / SI

  2. There was no question Trey has great arm talent. He has the potential to make all the throws.

    The big thing with him that I worry about is not standing in the pocket to make the play. There were times yesterday when he could have stepped up in the pocket and instead escaped out of the pocket. You like the scrambling ability as the modern day QB has shown its valuable. So similar to Kaepernick I am worried he gets in the habit of reading one side of the field and then running if it’s not there.

    The other thing is his ball is ugly. Hopefully he can find the touch and spiral like Allen did.

    1. This is the biggest key to his success. very few make a living in the NFL running around. He needs to be able to shift around within the pocket, keep eyes downfield and make confident throws. Hopefully he has that ability. He’s shown that ability in Div 2 college but the NFL is totally different and sometimes not playing for over a year can ruin your confidence and feel for the position.

      1. Ya and in college I think he only had like one hundred and something attempts. Yesterday he had his best completion percentage which is a good sign. Before that I’m the pre season and regular season his completion percentage was low 50’s.

  3. I hope comparing Lance to Kaepernick isn’t the kiss of death for Lance. Kaepernick never progressed after those early successes.

    1. I would say there is more differences than similarities. It’s too early to judge Lance obviously. I think if Kaepernick came out now he would have had a better shot at a longer career minus the off the field stuff messing with him.

      1. Kaepernick was just exposed after his initial success. Much like a pitcher just called up from the minors who no one has seen before, but gets shelled in subsequent outings. Defenses had time to prepare for him going into his second full year and it showed real quick. He never improved himself to keep ahead.

        One thing Lance has going for him is that he is highly intelligent and able to work on things the coaches give him. I’m afraid Kaepernick was just a one trick pony and the ability to work on his craft wasn’t quite there.

        According to management and the staff, Lance was deemed highly coachable when they drafted him and through training camp.

        We shall see.

        1. I’ll add that when the 49ers announced they drafted Lance I was ecstatic doing cartwheels because I did NOT want them to draft Jones and I felt Lance had the best skills in all areas to be a top flight quarterback and perhaps even challenge Lawrence for the best QB in the draft. I was NOT high on Justin Fields, at all. Mac Jones simply didn’t have the arm strength and we know what we have with Jimmy in terms of inability to make certain throws. Jones does make up for his lack of strength with great timing though.

          After seeing Lance yesterday I came away a bit disappointed. I’m still holding out hope that he’s just rusty. I expected him to be much farther along in his development and thought he would have showcased more natural ability even without the game experience. Still hoping he’s the star of the QB class in a year’s time.

          1. You LIE – No way you were excited about the draft and you were disappointed after watching this game – go re-watch the highlights on YouTube (its free)

            If you are still hoping you are f…kin LIAR –

            He played better than CJ/Mullens combined……

            Do you even understand the kid is playing in his 3rd game of the season and played better than JimmyG – how did you perform in the 3rd month at your new job?

            1. Ok.

              You’re a bit socially awkward.

              Your tantrums this year are reminiscent of about 9 years ago when Alex Smith lost his job to Kaepernick and you subsequently lost your $hit.

              Try some yoga or meditation or….. something.

    2. 49ers fans should be excited at the thought of Lance having the same type of start to his career as Kaepernick.

      From there it will be all about his ability to grow. Will be fun to watch.

      1. Hammer,
        Your Trey comparison to Kaepernick’ game against Chicago are very similar.
        And as much as some complained of Keap’ running, I don’t recall anyone criticizing him for running for 181 yrds against the Packers in the playoffs.

        But, Colin regressed after a couple of years and became a liability in the pocket because of awful passing mechanics. I believe that what hurt him the most was his prolonged throwing motion that allowed the pass rush time to get in his face.

        Lance’ passing release is quicker than Kaepernick, but slower than Garoppolo’s. If Trey can develop a faster release to his throwing motion he is going to be a star.

        1. That 181 yards was a thing of beauty! Something we may never see again from a Niner QB especially in the playoff… man we dominated that game and it even started with a pick 6 :)

          To me though, Josh Allen is a better comparison to Lance when it comes to the physical skill sets. It took Allen 3 years to become a star in this league and I would be ecstatic if we get the same or even better results with Lance.

          Yep, CK’s demise was his lack of ability to improved from the pocket and by judging Lance from a small sample size I am willing to bet that he will have much more success in the pocket than CK. Will it be enough to be a star in this league? We shall see…

        2. Kaepernick had all the skills to develop into a solid QB. Probably was never going to be a top 5 passer but he could have been proficient by shortening his delivery and working hard to fix his footwork. In my opinion, the thing that ruined Kaepernick was his celebrity. He simply cared more about the life and commercials than actually working on his craft. That definitely showed up in year 3 and beyond. Kaep has a much lower career completion % than such superstars as Mitch Trubisky, Nick Foles, and Gardner Minshew. It really didn’t need to be that way.

        3. I think Lance throwing motion is fine. He just needs time to diagnose defenses and release quicker. That will also have to be done as defenses adjust to him.

          1. Trey threw a beautiful pass to Deebo for the TD. That pass was more about pure strength vs anticipation.

            Anticipation was never a part of Keap’ passing game.

            I hope that Lance spends hours of watching video of Brady, Rodgers and Brees unique talent of anticipated passes to Receivers before the WR gets to the target area.

            If Trey can learn to do this, SB win #6 is right around the corner.

  4. Oh dear lord, don’t put Colin Kaepernick on this kid. Kaepernick started good but ended his career well below average. Trey is a high draft pick that hasn’t done anything yet. Let him develop.

  5. We can’t beat the rams without Jimmie Ward……didn’t they say you only need 5 days off if you are vaxxed.

  6. Trey Lance’s overall grade is a C or C+ since he won the game. His earned grade is a tale of a two halves. The first half was a D or D-. In a typical Kyle Shanahan game plan, the first series of plays says it all: first down 2 yd run (Mitchell), second down -2 yd run (Deebo), third down pass, but QB run for 6 yd just as I predicted. Fourth down punt. Shanahan will do run, run, pass until it gets stopped. The second half might go pass, run, and if it’s third and four or it’s a pass. If it’s third and short, then it’s a run. That’s why it’s ridiculous when the talking heads say if Jimmy G throws 29 passes or more, then the 49ers lose. Duh, when a run first offense falls behind by ten or more, the head coach panics and he changes the game plan run first to pass first.

    The 49ers had six possessions in the first half. Second possession was eight plays: 3 yd pass, 6 yd run, 2 yd QB run, 13 yd run, 3 yd pass, 5 yd QB run, 1 yd QB run, -3 yd run (turnover on downs). This is a typical Shanahan -run first offense.

    Third possession consisted of ten plays and a punt: 1 yd run, 12 yd pass, 13 yd run, 12 yd pass, 16 yd run and holding penalty -10 yd, 6 yd run, 7 yd run, -1 yd run, -8 yd QB sack, 12 yd pass, punt. Shanahan wants a smash mouth football team – a heavy dose of runs mixed with short passes. It’s no wonder why good defensive teams plays eight in the box against the 49ers.

    Fourth possession is a one play interception. Fifth possession is a three and out: 0 yd run, 1 yd pass, 6 yd pass, punt. Sixth possession had six plays: 17 yd pass, pass incomplete, 27 yd pass, pass incomplete, -5 yd penalty, tipped pass for 12 yd, FG kick is good. Six plays with 28 seconds, and the defense is a prevent defense. When has a “prevent defense” ever worked??? 7-3 Texans lead at halftime. For the first half, Lance’s QB grade is a D, but if it’s Jimmy G, it’s a D-.

    Third quarter seventh possession: run, run, pass, pass, run, run, pass, and turnover on downs. Can you feel the desperation to get the lead? 49ers were down just by four points and they risk a fourth down play at midfield. This is a 4-12 Houston Texans team without Desean Watson and Davis Mills is the QB.

    Here’s the turning point of the game and the 49ers received two ref calls in their favor. Without these two plays and momentum change, the outcome might have been different. 49ers DB Harris intercepts Mills pass and subsequently fumbles the ball and the Texans recover the ball. The refs rule Harris progress was stopped allowing the 49ers to keep the ball. As a 49ers fan, it’s a good call. However, the national media like ESPN and NFL network point out in real time, it doesn’t look like his progress was stopped. In other words, it’s a bad call.

    The first play of the eighth possession was a long pass, and the refs call pass interference on the Texans. 37 yd penalty. The 49ers score in four plays: run, run, pass, TD pass. Ninth possession: 10 yd run, 3 yd run, pass incomplete, 6 yd QB scramble, punt. The 49ers are up 10-7.

    Houston’s next possession included a 50 yd completed pass that would have flipped the field, but the refs called holding on their O-Line. It could have been 1st and 10 at the 49ers 30 yard line. Anyway, the Texans ran eight plays that ended in the fourth quarter with a missed FG. There’s slightly more than 12 minutes left in the fourth quarter, and the 49ers on top 10-7. The 49ers score 13 points in their next three possessions. For the second half, Trey’s grade is a B, but if it was Jimmy G, it would be a B- says those who bash Jimmy G.

    If those three ref calls went the other way, then the outcome might not be as good for Trey. In this type of offense, would Brady be Brady or just a game manager.

  7. Hey Jack, I noticed in the 2nd half the 49ers moved Nick Bosa to rush from the inside. I think they rotated Ekubam, Key, and Omenihu in at DE on passing downs and bumped Bosa inside. This move really seemed to help with their pass rush in the 2nd half. I don’t know if that rotation has been used before or if the 49ers just changed it up to jumpstart the pass rush. I wonder if that was a Kris Kocurek call or a DeMeco Ryans call. Either way, whichever coach made that move deserves some credit. Very good move.

    1. At the same time guys knees/ankles get mangled routinely and more often in a crowded scrum. If this is an occasional thing, fine, but given the 49ers recent history of injuries I’d be happy to see him rushing from the outside where at least there’s a cleaner lane and less traffic than the area where DJ Jones operates. The worst thing I can imagine is a guy falling into the back of his leg in a scrum and I’d bet the chances of that are probably less when not in the middle of the 8 car pileup in the center of the line.

      1. Probably but he constantly gets chipped or double teamed when he’s on the edge. Putting him inside helps with that quite a bit. Then a lot of teams bring a back or TE across the line to cut him. I prefer not having Bosa cut blocked on every other play. That doesn’t happen as often in the middle.

        1. Being chipped or double teamed happens in front of him, not from behind. Getting chop blocked while engaged high with another player shouldn’t happen. I’m not sure that happens that often. It’s a penalty. Occasionally it does. If he’s being chop blocked that shouldn’t happen continuously when he’s engaged with a lineman above the waistline.

          Conversely by default you’re going to get double teamed inside because the center is the extra help. Of more concern, though, is a player on either side falling into the back of your leg unintentionally, which is likely to happen from friendly fire or your opponent inside. That is not a penalty, it’s just the downside of being in the mosh pit.

          Either way, seeing the Bosa Bros. and their talent level you just want them to be as free from the scrum as possible and concentrate on getting to the quarterback.

          1. No one said anything about chop blocks. Chop blocks are absolutely illegal but I’m talking about cut blocks. Cut blocks are perfectly legal in the NFL but they are extremely dangerous – especially for guys coming off ACL surgery. 49ers were not getting pressure on the QB in the first half. Once they moved some pieces around and had Bosa coming from the inside, they got much better pressure in the 2nd half. I’m not in favor of doing that a lot but it was very successful in this game.

            1. Cool. Maybe my understanding is wrong. I thought a chop block was just an illegal form of a cut block. Meaning if the player is engaged with another player, he can’t be cut by an additional player.

              A cut block I thought was just a legal version of the chop block where the difference is the defensive player is not engaged with another offensive player, reducing the risk.

              I also thought cut blocks happen both inside and outside. In a zone running scheme an offensive lineman may shift the opposite direction and chop a defensive end on the back side, legally.

              But the same thing can happen in the middle of the line if you’re running power.

              Maybe we’re saying the same thing. :)

              Nonetheless, if this team could just solve their injury issues, we’d be at the top. 5 pro bowlers and a bunch of pro bowl alternates, but the injury bug keeps getting us at positions of need.

              1. You’re definitions are basically correct. A chop block is when a defender is engaged high and another player blocks the same defender below the waist. A chop block requires 2 blockers. The 49ers broke Tim Krumries leg in a Super Bowl on a chop block. It was banned shortly thereafter. A cut block is where a single blocker comes in and blocks a defender below the waist. It’s a totally different block than a chop block. The only real rule on a cut block is the blocker can not throw the block from behind. The defender must be able to see it coming. Cut blocks are illegal from outside the hash coming in towards the hash. In other words WR can’t cut block on a crack back on a LBer. Cut blocks are also illegal on kickoffs.

  8. After a couple of years of injuries to Jimmy Garappolo, some fans, the press, and management won’t have Jimmy G to kick around and place blame for interceptions or losses any longer. His resume’ as QB is impressive and as good as Steve Young’s. Jimmy G wins 70% of his games (32-14), has a 2:1 TD-Int ratio, avg between 186 (low end) to 251 (high end) yards per game, 67.6% career completion percentage, and a 99.4 career passer rating. We won’t have to hear Jimmy G’s critics say, “Oh, he’s a good QB when he’s healthy.” It’s a good thing Warriors fans or former Warriors coach Mark Jackson didn’t give up on Steph Curry’s reoccurring ankle problems early in his career. Recall his ankle injuries from 2010-2012 where he had two off season surgeries. However, I do remember the press being hard on Steph at that time.

    It’s all water under the bridge and it’s time to move on from Jimmy G to the Trey Lance era. HC Shanahan and GM John Lynch pushed in their chips because they invested three first round picks and a third rounder to acquire the third pick of the 2021 draft for Trey. All 49ers fans can do is say we’re in it too. It’s kind of like when the 49ers traded Joe Montana after the 91 season. We had to root for Steve Young since we still had a championship caliber team built by Walsh. Montana was a hard act to follow because he won four Superbowls in 12 years (1979-1991). The pressure on Trey to perform isn’t as great as Young having to replace the legendary Joe Cool. Jimmy G didn’t win a Superbowl, he only got them there in 2019. The 49ers still have a very good running attack as Jimmy’s 2019 team. The receiving corp is pretty much the same – Kittle, Deebo, and (Aiyuk instead of Emmanuel Sanders). O-Line is almost the same Trent Williams instead of Joe Staley. The defensive front seven is almost the same except Deforest Buckner is gone, but the front seven is just as good as 2019. However, the defensive backfield is in disarray especially without CB Richard Sherman and Robert Saleh is no longer the defensive coordinator. In my opinion, the positioning of the defensive players is the key to stopping offenses much like the positioning of chess pieces in chess. This is a roster that should be competing for the Superbowl. In my opinion, the reasons why they are not are as follows: (1) The mishandling of the QB by management. The QB is the key player on the team and you treat him with kid gloves. QBs like Montana, Brees, Young, Elway, Manning, Brady etc can erase huge leads, and RBs cannot. This is why the NFL is a QB driven league. The GM and HC lost confidence in Jimmy G because they invested a lot to get Trey Lance. For two years, the press has been hard on Jimmy G especially on interceptions and losses. Despite the criticism, Jimmy G has handled it great. (2) Coaching… skills and reading your opponent, player positions, player match up situations, who to play and who not to play matters, offensive and defensive play calling, positioning of players, and when to call timeouts. I remember when coaches saved their timeouts for freezing the kicker, critical third or fourth down situations, end of the half or end of game timeouts to conserve time. Shanahan calls timeouts right before the opposing offense snaps the ball or even before the 49ers offense snaps the ball. (3) the 49ers offensive identity (need to change from a run first offense to a pass first offense). In my opinion, Shanahan resembles a 80s Bill Parcels NY Giants team. 1st down run, and 2nd down run. If it’s 3rd and short, then run. If it’s 3rd and four or longer, then it’s a Phil Simms pass. Solid front seven defense, and if Rice or Taylor smokes the DB, HC Parcels shames the DB by giving him the nickname “toast”.

    The Jimmy G trade, signing, and award of superstar money lay on the shoulder of HC Shanahan and GM Lynch. Aren’t they the ones who brought Jimmy G in and signed him? They blamed him for the losses, but his stats and resume’ mirror Steve Young’s stats. There’s no more excuses now. The Trey Lance era – Like it or not – It’s here. The success and failure of the 49ers of 2021 playoff season is on Trey Lance. Win and you’re in. What’s the chances of the Falcons beating the Saints? Who Dat?

    Even if they make the playoffs, someone in the playoffs will have a good run defense, and force them to pass. They’ll get bounced. The percentage of run first teams who win the Superbowl are less than 40% since 81 (when the 49ers introduced the West Coast offense). Who are those run first teams who won the Superbowl? 85 Walter Payton Bears, 86 and 91 Phil Simms and LT NY Giants, two Baltimore Ravens teams, two Emmitt Smith and Aikman Cowboy teams, and the two Mike Shanahan Terrell Davis Broncos teams. Did I miss any other run first teams? Maybe the two Ben Roethlisberger Steelers teams, but he is a passer.

    In four years of coaching the 49ers, Jim Harbaugh was 44-19-1 with three seasons going to the NFC Championship game and one Superbowl appearance. He did not have a losing season and was fired for having an 8-8 season. Clearly, Trey Lance needs to perform and it’s on the shoulders of HC Shanahan and GM Lynch.

    This is probably my last post because I don’t see the 49ers going any further. I’m a lifelong 49ers fan and grew up reading Lowell Cohn, Glen Dickey, and Ira Miller covering the 49ers in 70-90s. I shouldn’t be negative, but I don’t like the 49ers offensive identity as run first team.

    1. Thanks WW for showing some sanity.
      JG was brought in as the messiah and he turned out human. Showing his record wont get you sympathy here.
      Who else can they blame? (some will go for York as if he ever was on the field)
      He never lived up to other people’s dreams.

      I saw Trey do – good Trey/bad Trey – last week, against a bad team.
      How long will he get before he too will be nailed to team’s crossbar?

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