What we learned as Lance struggles in brutal 49ers loss appeared first on NBC Sports Bayarea
CHICAGO — The first game of the 49ers’ Trey Lance era wasn’t exactly a masterpiece.
Obviously, there were always going to be ups and downs as the 49ers make the transition to a new quarterback. And that’s exactly what happened Sunday on a dreary day along the shores of Lake Michigan.
The 49ers, favored to win by a touchdown, struggled against the Chicago Bears, who were expected to be one of the worst teams in the NFL.
The Bears scored 19 unanswered points in the second half en route to a 19-10 victory over the 49ers at Soldier Field.
On paper, this should have been one of the easiest games on the 49ers’ schedule. But playing without Pro Bowl tight end George Kittle, the offense could never find a foothold.
Here are three takeaways from the start of the 49ers’ 2022 season:
Lance hit and miss
As advertised, Lance can throw the football. And he can run.
Lance showed both of those traits as he officially took over for Jimmy Garoppolo as the 49ers’ starting quarterback on Sunday.
On the down side, Lance also missed some big opportunities when he misfired on some of his attempts. He also threw an interception in the fourth quarter when the 49ers were already down 13-10.
Lance completed 13 of 28 pass attempts for 164 yards with one interception. He also ran the ball 13 times for 54 yards.
Lance could have thrown his first touchdown pass of the season in the first quarter when Tyler Kroft got behind the defense. But Lance’s pass sailed wide when he could have left the ball more towards the middle of the field.
Later, Lance showed off his unique arm talent with laser-like passes to Brandon Aiyuk, Ray-Ray McCloud and Jauan Jennings.
Depth at running back
The 49ers depth at running back will be tested again this season.
Elijah Mitchell, the team’s leading rusher in 2021, was ruled out for the game in the second quarter, suggesting he suffered a major knee injury in the 49ers’ season opener.
Mitchell had an injury-plagued rookie season, but still led the 49ers in rushing with 963 yards and five touchdowns.
Jeff Wilson and undrafted rookie Jordan Mason are next on the depth chart for the 49ers. Third-round draft pick Ty Davis-Price was inactive for the game, but now appears to be eligible for games while Mitchell is out.
The 49ers have continued to use their wide receivers as part of the running game as this season has opened.
Coach Kyle Shanahan called the run play for All-Pro wide receiver Deebo Samuel on back-to-back plays after the 49ers reached the Chicago 4-yard line. Samuel lost 2 yards on the first run down the left side. He then found a crease and scored on a 6-yard run to give the 49ers a 7-0 lead in the second quarter.
Hufanga comes to play
There was no doubt that Talanoa Hufanga would be in the starting lineup after earning that role with a strong training camp.
What was surprising, however, was that veteran Tashaun Gipson stepped in after signing late in training camp. Gipson took over as the starter ahead of Tarvarius Moore and George Odum.
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The team’s regular starter, Jimmie Ward, opens the season on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. Ward must sit out at least the first four games of the season.
Hufanga was all over the field in the season opener with a first-quarter interception of Bears quarterback Justin Fields. He also recorded eight tackles, including one for a loss.