Trey Lance showed tighter mechanics, aired out the football more than usual for a 49ers’ game, and he came away with his first win as a starter Sunday.
What did that earn him Monday?
Coach Kyle Shanahan did not signal an encore start for Lance, nor prescribe a second straight week of rest for Jimmy Garoppolo’s sprained thumb.
Shanahan, to no surprise, was not compelled to reveal who’ll quarterback the 49ers (9-7) in Sunday’s bid for a wild-card berth, which can be gained with a win at the Los Angeles Rams.
“We’ll put together a game plan for both and hopefully he’ll be able to practice on Wednesday,” Shanahan said.
The 49ers can clinch the NFC’s sixth of seven seeds by beating the Rams, otherwise their wild-card berth must come via a New Orleans Saints’ loss at Atlanta.
Lance certainly didn’t emerge with a sense of entitlement after Sunday’s 23-7 win over the Houston Texans, saying: “If Jimmy’s healthy, he’ll be the guy. And if not, I’m going to do whatever I can to kind of fill my role.”
Shanahan reiterated that Garoppolo does not need immediate surgery and the 49ers are hoping the more rest he gets, the better shot at his torn ligament “relatching.”
As for Lance, Shanahan said Monday’s film review didn’t spark any revelations, though one could infer that one compliment could hint at an encore assignment in a pressure-packed finale at L.A.
“He was thrown in a real tough situation, in terms of where our team was at and how big of a game that was, basically it being a playoff game,” Shanahan said. “He went in and handled the pressure real well.”
The 21-year-old Lance’s deference and respect for his elder has been present from the day the 49ers drafted him at No. 3 overall, a day in which Garoppolo promptly texted to congratulate his understudy and newfound competitor.
The 49ers have avoided a quarterback controversy this season — Lance’s only two starts came with Garoppolo injured — and that should remain the case this week with a wild-card berth on the line.
“It helps they genuinely like and respect each other, and they’re two good guys,” Shanahan said of the quarterbacks’ relationship. “They’re not hating on each other or do anything shady to one another.
“They spend a lot of time together. I knew Jimmy before I knew Trey, and Jimmy has been the same guy all along and continues to be, and Trey’s handled it very well, too.”
Lance relayed after Sunday’s game that Garoppolo was frustrated last week about an inability to play through injury. That didn’t stop Garoppolo from being a sounding board during the game.
“I know he’s got my back on the sideline,” Lance said. “Whether on a good play or bad, he’s the first one that is talking to me and making sure that we’re seeing things the same way. So it’s a huge help to me. Huge confidence booster.”
Shanahan noted that the Texans’ defense came out with a surprising look, in which they crowded the line of scrimmage even more and safety Justin Reid’s roaming ability complicated matters.
Lance’s aerial display was greater than any 49ers quarterback over the past three seasons, at least in terms of “air yards” on his throws. He averaged 11.5 air yards per attempt and produced 205 of his 240 yards through the air (rather than catch-and-run yards), according to NFL’s NextGen Stats.
WARD, CORNERS ON COVID LIST
Defensive backs Jimmie Ward, Dontae Johnson and K’Waun Williams went on the COVID reserve list, along with injured running back Raheem Mostert.
The 49ers went five months without any player going on COVID reserve, then punter Mitch Wishnowsky went on it last Monday for a five-day stint before getting cleared under the shortened protocol to play in Sunday’s game.
All but one unidentified player is believed to be vaccinated. Three players — Jaquiski Tartt, Jauan Jennings and Emmanuel Moseley — opened training camp on COVID reserve, and no one went on that list until Wishnowsky last week.
Johnson played the final 21 defensive snaps Sunday once Shanahan benched Josh Norman, who had drawn his sixth pass interference penalty this season.
Norman has started 14 games but Shanahan did not guarantee him that spot this Sunday. The 49ers hope to have Johnson available, along with rookie Ambry Thomas and, in a possible big return, Moseley, who is slated to practice Wednesday for the first time since an ankle injury put him on injured reserve a month ago.
TRENT WILLIAMS’ INJURY
Left tackle Trent Williams’ sprained elbow will be monitored throughout the coming week. Shanahan said it is not as severe as last December’s torn elbow ligament in the 49ers’ penultimate game. Williams missed three snaps Sunday. An ankle injury kept Williams out of an October loss to Indianapolis; rookie Jaylon Moore started in his place.
ELIJAH MITCHELL REVIEW
Elijah Mitchell did not suffer any setback to a knee that kept him out the previous three games, though Shanahan said he emerged as sore as any running back would be after a 21-carry, 119-yard outing, not to mention one that had a go-ahead touchdown catch.
“He missed the first run of the game, and he doesn’t miss many, and there are obvious reasons why — he hadn’t been out there a month,” Shanahan said. “He ran hard, broke tackles like he always does. He missed that one. But he had a real good game.”
OTHER HEALTH UPDATES
Linebacker Dre Greenlaw (groin) is expected to practice this week. He’s appeared in only two games, having pulled a groin muscle in the season opener.
Defensive tackle Maurice Hurst (calf), wide receiver Mohamed Sanu (knee) and safety Tavon Wilson (foot) will return to practice Wednesday, thus opening a three-week window to come off injured reserve. Running back Trey Sermon (ankle) is entering his third week in that IR window.