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SANTA CLARA, California – After a slow start, San Francisco 49ers rookie quarterback Trey Lance found his jogging and helped keep his team’s playoff hopes alive for another week.
And after Sunday’s 23-7 win over the Houston Texans, no time was wasted wondering what comes next for the Niners at the game’s most important position. That’s because the 9-7 Niners need a win against the Los Angeles Rams (or help) next week to secure a spot after the season.
So, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, will it be Lance or veteran Jimmy Garoppolo under center in the all-important game?
“If Jimmy is 100% healthy and knows everything, perfectly, then we will definitely go with Jimmy,” Shanahan said. “We’re not just going to throw a guy in after such a fight when Jimmy has been doing it for us all year. I think it’s going to be hard for Jimmy to be 100%, which I think is how they “Most people are at this time of year, but Trey did a good job. If Jimmy can not go, we will not hesitate at all, but if we feel Jimmy can go and play confident, then Jimmy will be out there.”
It looks to be another interesting week around the 49ers quarterbacks as they try to figure out their best option for the final week of the season.
As Shanahan pointed out, Garoppolo will resume starting tasks if his right thumb is healthy enough for him to handle the ball and throw it without major problems. The torn ligament in Garoppolo’s thumb makes it certain he will not be back in full force next week.
But the Niners purposefully kept him out of training last week with an eye toward a potential return to the Rams. Even after Shanahan said on Friday that Garoppolo would test his thumb by throwing on Saturday or Sunday, it never happened.
Because Garoppolo did not try to throw this week, the Niners are optimistic that he can test the lead into the Rams game, but when that happens remains to be seen.
“As long as I talked to him yesterday, I had a pretty good idea that we would not even push him today,” Shanahan said. “I think he will be able to do it this week, but it just gives me an honest guess. Hopefully we have a better idea by Wednesday.”
When Shanahan was asked if Garoppolo should be “100%” to be able to start next week, Shanahan said no and acknowledged that few players are so healthy so late in the season.
“If Jimmy feels 100% and you know it on a Monday, then it makes it very simple,” Shanahan said. “I do not think that will be the case. We have to see how he plays during the week and we have to be ready for both, just like we were this week.”
If Garoppolo can not go, Shanahan and the 49ers will at least go into the Rams game with strengthened confidence in Lance. With his second NFL start and first since Oct. 10 against the Arizona Cardinals, Lance started the win against the Texans a little shaky.
While Lance did OK with the throw below, he hit some bumps as he tried to push the ball down the field. At one point in the first half, all five of his imperfections had come after throwing 15 plus yards down the field, and he threw an interception on a submissive ball for tight-end George Kittle.
When the Niners got the ball back in a two-minute drive before halftime, Lance began to put in quick strokes to receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk to set a field goal.
“He just felt it a little bit after that,” Kittle said. “I thought he did a really good job.”
In fact, Lance continued to go 6-of-10 in 144 yards and two touchdowns in the second half. It included a 45-yard scoring attack to Samuel in the fourth quarter that effectively made the game cold.
Lance finished 16-of-23 for 249 yards with two goals and a pick for a rating of 116.0.
“I think he did some really good things,” Shanahan said. “Besides that, bad interception, I thought he protected the ball really well. It was a great thing to go into this match and he did a good job on all of them except a single game. I think he was very effective, just looked at his numbers and that sort of thing. “
After his first win as a starter, Lance said he did not know until Saturday that he would definitely start against the Texans. The will-he-or-will-not experience should only help in a week that seems to unfold in the same way before the team’s biggest game of the season.
“I’m obviously with Jimmy every day and asking him how he’s feeling and everything in that style,” Lance said. “And he made good progress, I know, at the end of the week, so I know he was frustrated that he was not able to go. It’s a kind of thing where I’m always ready to go. That’s my job. So if Jimmy is healthy, he’s going to be the guy. And if not, I’ll do what I can to fill my role. “