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Trey Lance excels in Jimmy Garoppolo’s stead, leading to questions for the San Francisco 49ers

San Francisco 49ers rookie quarterback Trey Lance made his second NFL star Sunday against the hapless Houston Texans.

Lance got the start for an ailing Jimmy Garoppolo (thumb injury) in a game that the 49ers needed in order to remain in playoff contention.

The former North Dakota State standout struggled initially, including throwing a first half interception in a game the 49ers were trailing 7-3 at the half.

However, Lance picked it up big time in the second half — throwing two touchdowns en route to helping San Francisco to a 23-7 win.

  • Trey Lance stats: 16-of-23 passing 249 yards, 31 rushing yards, two touchdowns, one interception

The breakout play of the game was this 45-yard touchdown pass to stud wide receiver Deebo Samuel.

All said, San Francisco gained a whopping 278 yards in the second half alone. With this performance comes more questions than answers for the 49ers heading into Week 18.

Related: Updated NFL Playoff and Super Bowl predictions

San Francisco 49ers in must win mode with Trey Lance situation up in the air

san francisco 49ers qb trey lance
Jan 2, 2022; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (5) runs the ball against the Houston Texans in the first quarter at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

It’s obvious that Garoppolo would have started Sunday if he were 100% and ready to go. Reports earlier on Sunday indicated that Garoppolo likely needs surgery, which would put an end to the debate.

The backdrop here being the 49ers controlling their own destiny in the NFC Wildcard race. A win over the Rams, and they’ll be playing postseason football. If not, San Francisco will have to rely on either the Philadelphia Eagles or New Orleans Saints to lose.

The question now becomes whether Shanahan will run with Lance is Garoppolo is ready to go. Based on what we’ve seen from the embattled head coach, that seems unlikely. He didn’t really add much more to the mix in his post-game press conference.

“I think he (Lance) did some real good things. Other than the bad interception, he protected the ball real well,” Shanahan said of the rookie quarterback.

It’s not an ideal scenario for the 49ers. Objectively, this team boasts much more upside with Trey Lance under center compared to Garoppolo. It’s not even close.

For his part, Shanahan will be judged by this decision. With the Rams likely having something to play for Sunday, the starters will take to the field. Los Angeles has also lost five consecutive games to the 49ers. The team will want to change that at home come Week 18.

If Garoppolo starts and struggles while not being anywhere near 100%, it will lead to an off-season of questions surrounding a head coach in Shanahan who just clinched only his second winning season in San Francisco.

It’s certainly a storyline to follow in Northern California moving forward.