In San Francisco’s 34-7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium, both 49ers quarterback Trey Lance and Sam Darnold experienced a mix of ups and downs.
Lance, who started the game and played the entire first half, completed 10 of 15 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown. Darnold took over in the third quarter, going 5 of 8 for 84 yards before fourth-string quarterback Brandon Allen (5 of 8 passing, 36 yards, INT) entered the game.
The 49ers’ offense faced a sluggish beginning, enduring three consecutive three-and-outs in the first quarter. Lance, however, managed to execute an unconventional touchdown pass to tight end Ross Dwelley early in the second quarter, leveling the game.
Post-game, Coach Kyle Shanahan attributed the team’s challenging start to the offense as a whole rather than singling out Trey Lance. He explained,
He expanded on the matter, stating, “The start proved difficult for everyone, marked by three successive three-and-outs encompassing the entire offensive unit It’s not solely on Trey. The entire offense seemed shaky initially.”
Reflecting on his performance, Lance expressed his eagerness to return to the field after his ankle injury ended his 2022 NFL season.
He conveyed, While there were instances of both strengths and areas for enhancement, the primary significance was the experience of being back on the field. Excited for the upcoming week and the chance to progress alongside my teammates. For me, the primary satisfaction came from getting back out there, playing real football, and competing once again.”
As the game advanced, Lance found his rhythm in the second quarter, feeling more comfortable against the Raiders’ defense. He attributed his confidence to insights gained during joint practices earlier in the week, saying, “I had a better understanding of their strategies, and opportunities were opening up, especially following our joint practices.”
Entering the field after halftime, Darnold adapted swiftly compared to Lance. Despite his efforts, the 26-year-old veteran couldn’t lead a scoring drive for the 49ers. However, he did manage a successful deep pass to wide receiver Ronnie Bell along the sidelines.
Shanahan lauded Darnold’s performance, considering his situation of working mostly with second and third-string units.
He commented, “His performance in the second half was impressive, collaborating with the second and third-string offensive line and receivers.” We wanted to be cautious with Sam for that reason, but we also wanted him to play. It was good to give Trey the entire first half and provide Sam with some playing time. Hopefully, Sam will see more action next week.”
Assessing his own display, Darnold felt he managed the situation well but acknowledged the need for better collective performance from the offense, starting with him.
With Brock Purdy securing the starting role as the second-year quarterback, the competition for the backup position remains between Lance and Darnold. Sunday’s game suggested that the decision might be closely contested as the season progresses.