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 clinching a playoff berth.
Lance was impressive in the victory. He started slowly but finished the day completing 16 of 23 passes for 249 yards passing, two touchdowns and an interception. His biggest highlight was a long touchdown strike to Deebo Samuel.
Lance also used his legs to make plays throughout the day and ran for 31 yards on eight carries.
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All told, Lance looked a lot different than Jimmy Garoppolo, who has been the normal starter for the Niners this season. The 49ers’ offense looked more explosive with the rookie in charge, and that led to some questions about whether Lance would remain the starter even when Garoppolo, who is out with a torn ligament and chipped bone in his right thumb, is able to return.
However, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan left no doubt that Garoppolo would be the starter moving forward — provided that he can get healthy.
“I mean, if Jimmy’s 100 percent healthy and could do everything like perfect, then I would definitely go with Jimmy,” Shanahan told reporters at a postgame news conference. “I’m not just gonna throw a guy in after one game like this when Jimmy has been doing it for us all year.”
That said, Shanahan conceded that it might be difficult for Garoppolo to get fully healthy.
“I think it’s gonna be hard for Jimmy to be 100 percent. That’s how most people are right now 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 feel Jimmy can go and play confident, then Jimmy will be out there.”
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Garoppolo had been listed as doubtful entering Week 17 as a result of the injury. Shanahan said that Garoppolo didn’t throw on Saturday and he wasn’t sure the veteran threw on Sunday either, as the team already knew that Lance was likely to start.
While Shanahan wouldn’t rule out anything for Week 18, he didn’t sound overly optimistic that the veteran would play either.
“I had a pretty good idea with that we weren’t gonna even push it today,” Shanahan said of starting Garoppolo. “I think we’ll be able to do it this week. Still that’s just me giving you guys 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 win-and-in contest for San Francisco, though they could still get into the playoffs with a loss and a loss by the Saints.
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