Trey Lance, Jimmy Garoppolo 49ers passing charts say everything


Kyle Shanahan’s game plan at the start of the 49ers’ Sunday game against the Houston Texans didn’t come as much of a surprise: The coach was conservative, leaned on the run game and didn’t ask much from a 21-year-old rookie quarterback making his second NFL career start.

As the game went on, you could see Trey Lance grow just as Shanahan’s playbook did. It doesn’t take Shanahan, 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans or anyone on Houston’s coaching staff to conclude what a difference Lance made for the 49ers compared to veteran QB Jimmy Garoppolo. That’s especially true when it comes to the Texans having to game plan for an even-more-dynamic Shanahan offense.

The numbers back that up, too.

Lance averaged the most air yards per attempt (11.5) and threw for the most yards on 10-plus air yards passes (205) by any 49ers quarterback in a game over the last three seasons, according to Next Gen Stats.

Garoppolo entered Week 17 leading the NFL in yards gained per pass completion. Much of his yardage comes from quick throws in the flats or even passes behind the line of scrimmage. Want to see how much Lance changes both the 49ers and opposing defenses compared to Garoppolo?

Just look at their passing charts from their last starts. The differences are both glaring and jarring.

Lance’s 45-yard bomb to Deebo Samuel highlights the impact the QB’s skills had on the game. But it’s more than just that, and started far before the TD.

On his third pass attempt of the day, Lance stepped up and avoided the defense by moving to his right before hitting Brandon Aiyuk for a 12-yard strike. Right there and right then, it was evident what Lance could do for this offense and, again, what Garoppolo can’t.

 

Then, there’s this 12-yard pass to Trent Sherfield with Lance rolling to his left at the end of the first quarter.

Take a good look at the dots from the above passing charts. Not only is Lance airing it out, which also led to a key defensive pass-interference penalty later against the Texans when he took a deep shot, he’s attempting and completing passes all over the place. He’s challenging the defense on the sidelines and making them move. Garoppolo is letting them wait in the middle, knowing he can’t hit on passes outside the hash marks.

“I think he did some real good things,” Shanahan said of Lance after Sunday’s game. “Besides the bad interception, I thought he protected the ball rell well. That was a big thing going into this game. He did a good job on all those except for one play. … That big play at the end was huge, and for the most part, he made some pretty good decisions.”

Lance did make a big mistake with a bad interception, and missed wide-open Kyle Juszczyk on the other side of the field. But the play design leads to Kittle being the primary option. Lance believed he had an open…



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