Trey Lance, backups struggle as 49ers drop first preseason game to the Raiders

Aug 13, 2023, 4:33 PM

Quarterback Trey Lance #5 of the San Francisco 49ers scrambles against the Las Vegas Raiders in the...

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - AUGUST 13: Quarterback Trey Lance #5 of the San Francisco 49ers scrambles against the Las Vegas Raiders in the second quarter of a preseason game at Allegiant Stadium on August 13, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

For Trey Lance and the 49ers, the first preseason game of 2023 couldn’t have gone much worse. 

The San Francisco 49ers will leave Las Vegas with their first loss of the preseason, falling to the Raiders, 34-7. In a game of two halfs, neither Lance nor fellow quarterback Sam Darnold made a significant mark on the game. Additionally, the 49ers’ backup defense struggled to contain, giving up big drives all day long.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan gave Lance the keys to the kingdom to start the day, playing the entire first half. Unfortunately, the third-year QB couldn’t capitalize, looking uncomfortable and pressured throughout the contest. 

His day started with a sack on the first play, with pressure coming from all sides in the pocket. From there, he hit tight end Ross Dwelley on a play-action pass for seven yards. That was all the success the team had to start, with Lance taking another sack on third down. 

San Francisco punted the ball; a three & out to start the day.

On the flip side, the Raiders got off to a hot start, as rookie QB Aidan O’Connell diced up the 49ers’ backup defense. Driving down the field with command & poise, the Purdue alum led a 10-play, 68-yard drive, capping it with running back Zamir White taking the ball in from one yard out.

7-0 Las Vegas within minutes.

Sadly, Lance & the 49ers were unable to counter right away, giving up two more three & outs to end the first quarter.

The North Dakota state alum has his best series of the game in the second quarter. Leading the 49ers on a seven-play, 61 yard drive, Lance began to get more comfortable in the pocket as the game progressed. On the drive, he made throws to tight end Troy Fumagalli and wide receiver Willie Snead to get his team in the redzone.

The QB finished the drive with sheer luck, firing a missile towards WR Chris Conley on play action. The pass was a bit late, allowing Raiders cornerback Duke Shelley to deflect the pass. Unable to secure it, the player hit the ball in the path of TE Ross Dwelley, coming down with it for six points. 

Touchdown 49ers on a wild play, 7-7.

That would be Lance’s only successful drive of the game, stalling out on almost every other possession of the first half. In total, the QB took four sacks on the day, unable to get into any sort of rhythm. However, he did led the 49ers down the field with less than two minutes to go. The drive almost stalled out right away, with a raiders defender dropping another would-be interception from Lance.

However, the QB got San Francisco in field goal range, where rookie kicker Jake Moody hooked it left from 40-yards out to end the half.

On the other end, O’Connell & Co. managed to put seven more points on the board, making the score 14-7 at halftime. The Raiders rookie would finished his day going 15 for 18, 141 passing yards and one TD.

After the break, Sam Darnold took the helm for the 49ers. It didn’t get much better for the team unfortunately.

While Darnold was more decisive with the football, San Francisco struggled to stay consistent, making mistakes left & right. 

The former third overall pick had a few shining moment though, including his first official throw of the game. Seeing rookie WR Ronnie Bell on the go route, Darnold fired a strike perfectly for a 37-yard gain. The best throw of the game for the 49ers, and one that gave a little confidence to the team. The veteran made two more throws to pass catchers, getting the 49ers on the other side of the 50-yard-line.

That’s where the 49ers’ drive again stalled, going for three run plays that got stuffed at the line of scrimmage. Using Darnold for fourth down QB sneak, SF couldn’t convert, giving the ball back to the home side with nothing to show. 

The 49ers’ defense came to life for a moment, forcing a three & out to get the ball back to the offense. But then, disaster struck for the visitors. With Darnold back in, he found rookie TE Cameron Latu over the middle. Struggling to secure the football, the Raiders defense forced a fumble by the rookie, giving the ball back to the home side inside the redzone. 

A few plays later, Las Vegas got their third TD score of the day, making it 24-7. The home team would put up 10 more points on the 49ers before the day was over, making the final score, 34-7.

All in all, it was a disastrous day for the visitors, getting outclassed in every facet of the game. The QBs were the real story of the day, struggling to get any rhythm on the road. Lance finished with the best QBR of the day (111), but struggled the most, with two near-INTs in the first half. Of the three signal-callers, Darnold played the best, showing elite arm talent on a few throws. 

“I think at the end of the day, as a team, you just need to play better. As an offense we need to operate a little bit better. And yeah, you put a lot of that on yourself as a quarterback. So yeah, we just need to play better,” Darnold san after the loss Sunday.

Of the other positions, rookie wideout Ronnie Bell had a nice showing. He finished his first NFL exhibition game with a team-high three catches for 58 yards. He also saw time on special teams, returning kicks with Ray-Ray McCloud injured.

“I thought Ronnie did some really good things,” Kyle Shanahan said afterwards. “In the return game, had that good jet sweep, made some good [catches]. The best route was the one [Darnold] served up to him [before] the pick and that was unfortunate. But, [the wide receivers] did some show some good things.”

Defensively, rookie linebacker Jalen Graham made some splash plays, including a good tackle for loss on running back Sincere McCormick. He finished the game with six combined tackles. Additionally, cornerback Ambry Thomas had a solid day, finishing with two tackles and two pass breakups.

Those bright spots were few & far between however, with the 49ers heading back to California after a tough loss. Shanahan & the coaching staff will be searching for answers this week, not wanting a repeat against the Denver Broncos Saturday.

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