San Francisco 49ers’ rookie quarterback Trey Lance saw his most action of the season, when, after Jimmy Garoppolo was sidelined with a calf injury, he started the second half of Sunday’s, 28-21, loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
The 49ers’ offense which started out strong on its opening a drive, a drive that ended in a Jimmy Garoppolo 21-yard touchdown pass to tight end Ross Dwelley. But it was on that drive that Garoppolo hurt his calf. Though the severity of the injury is not yet known, the 49ers QB1 was emotional after the game.
“I mean, just in between series, I could feel it tightening up and everything,” Garoppolo said. “Thought I could get it out. I tried to for the first half, but it’s just tough, man. I don’t know. I’ve been in the situation too many times and it’s getting real old. So it’s just one of those things, but a part of the business though.”
The injury is to Garoppolo’s right calf, which is the same leg on which he sustained two high-ankle sprains in 2020.
After that initial drive, the 49ers offense struggled. Though the 49ers ended the first half with 219 yards to Seattle’s 80, San Francisco had only seven points to show for it.
“I was disappointed,” said 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. “I think it was like 220 yards to 80, so when it’s like that you definitely want to have more points to show for it. And I think we missed a field goal on one, and then we had an interception on one drive and then we stalled out on, I think, our final three drives. But when you’re moving the ball like that, you definitely want to have more points than seven.”
Garoppolo wasn’t the only player who left and couldn’t return. Left tackle Trent Williams went out late in the game with a shoulder injury.
“I’m concerned for Trent to leave with a shoulder injury and not return,” Shanahan said. “I hope it’s it’s all right, but that’s all I know about it.”
Lance came in to a 7-7 score against quarterback Russell Wilson, who is now 16-4 against the 49ers in his career. The rookie had taken seven total snaps before today, and there were some obvious jitters to start.
“He went in there unexpected and he competed,” Shanahan said. “Trey’s a football player. You guys can see that at times throughout that game. Regardless of what’s happening, he’s always got a chance to make a play and that’s why I think he did. It was good for him to take us down on that scoring drive there at the end. But it takes some time to play in this league as you guys have seen throughout. It’s about knowing where to get rid of the ball, when to try to make those plays, when to check it down, have other guys do it for you, when to hang in the pocket, when to escape the pocket, and he got a lot of real NFL game experience with that today. Hopefully he’ll get better from it.”
Lance knew Garoppolo was hurt, but he didn’t know the extent.
“Jimmy battled through a lot last week, so I have a ton of confidence in him and hope he can be back as soon as possible because he does a lot for me personally on-and-off the field and as a team,” Lance said. “But yeah, he battled through it the whole first half and at halftime, obviously with the muscle thing like that, like he said, I mean, I’m not going to speak for him and how he’s feeling, but it’s really tough when you sit down or get still. The muscle gets tighter and tighter.”
Lance’s first throw was short to tight end George Kittle, while his second was short to wide receiver Deebo Samuel.
“I kind of know what it feels like to be thrown out there,” Samuel said. “That is kind of what happened to me when I was a rookie, but you just have to go out there. Like I told him, I said ‘you have to go out there and get that first drive out of the way. Go out there and be yourself, you know that we have your back’ and that is what happened. As you can see, he made a couple plays for us and gave us a chance to come back in the game.”
Ultimately, Lance finished the game 9-of-18 for 157 yards and two touchdowns. The first was a 76-yarder to a very wide open Deebo Samuel, while the second came on an eight-yard pass to Samuel with 1:20 left in the game. Lance ran in the two-point conversion.
“I think there were plays, good and bad, throughout the half,” Lance said. “Missed some big ones, missed some easy ones, missed some check downs. Just definitely a few plays that I want back. But like I said, going to go back and watch it tonight and I think I’ll learn a lot from that.”
Samuel continued his fantastic start to the season with an eight reception for 156 yards and two touchdowns day.
If Garoppolo can’t go next week, it will be up to the rookie to step in and lead.
“If that’s the case, it’s next man up, whether it’s at his position or another position,” Shanahan said. “We’ve been playing with rookie running backs since the second play of the first game. And we’ve got a rookie quarterback right now and hopefully Jimmy’s better and not as bad as we think, but Trey is here for a reason. You want to give him the time. You want him to be fully ready, but you don’t always have that luxury. That’s what we’ll find out in the next couple of days.”
Not-So Special Teams
The normally efficient and effective 49ers’ special teams unit had a difficult day. Kicker Robbie Gould incurred a pregame groin injury, which meant punter Mitch Wishnowsky became the kicker and fullback Kyle Juszczyk to the holder. Wishnowsky missed a 41-yard FG and an extra point, but again, he’s not the kicker.
After the Seahawks took a 14-7 lead, Trenton Cannon fumbled the ensuing kickoff. Well, first he muffed the catch and recovered and the fumbled. Seattle recovered and before you could say Russell Wilson, the Seahawks score again and it was 21-7.
Coming into the game, the 49ers had committed the most defensive pass interference penalties in the NFL with seven. Well, you can make it eight, as cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, who had an otherwise solid game, committed one on a fourth-quarter third down play. Earlier in the drive, Dee Ford was called offsides on a third-down play. The Seahawks ended up scoring on that drive. Not ideal.
“It’s a critical time, so you never want to be that guy to cost your team,” Ford said. “That was a very important time of the game, so I just have to be better moving forward. I wasn’t sure if I even saw where I was on that particular play, but you can’t cut it close. You can’t put the game in the ref’s hands at that time of the game, so I have to be better moving forward.”
For Shanahan, it was a frustrating series of plays.
“You fight really hard to get to there and guys are competing and I didn’t get a chance to see whether [Ford] was offsides or not,” Shanahan said. “The guy’s [official] right there, so I don’t know how you can mess that up, so I’m sure he was. The P.I. was real frustrating though.”