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Kyle Shanahan defends Trey Lance’s decision to run on 49ers big fourth down

The 49ers head coach defended Trey Lance’s decision to run for the endzone on a big fourth down in Sunday’s 17-10 loss to the Cardinals.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals Chris Coduto-USA TODAY Sports

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan was asked several questions about quarterback Trey Lance’s performance in the team’s 17-10 loss to the Cardinals during his media availability on Monday.

While most of the questions focused on Lance’s knee sprain and whether the rookie played well enough to surpass Jimmy Garoppolo as the Niners’ permanent starter, Shanahan was also asked about Lance’s decision on a failed fourth-and-goal at Arizona’s one-yard line.

Trailing 7-0 early in the second quarter, the 49ers opted to go for the endzone on fourth-and-goal from the one. Lance rolled to his right off a fake handoff and opted to run for the goal line, where he was stopped inches short by Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons. Asked if Lance should have taken a longer look at his receivers, Shanahan defended the rookie’s decision.

“I think it’s a little Monday morning quarterbacking. You run the play, and the first thing you try to do is hit the half back in the flat right away and they’ve got a guy outside there. And the design is to try to hit Juice [FB Kyle Juszczyk] who’s slides in from the backside, which the penetration clipped him a little bit. So he was a little bit behind, but that was an option for Trey to do. If you don’t have the legs, that’s where I would expect him to go, back to Juice. But Trey does have the legs so he kept running. He had a chance to get in there. I think he saw number nine [Arizona Cardinals LB Isaiah Simmons] in front of him and turned it up in there. And he didn’t see number 51 [Arizona Cardinals LB Tanner Vallejo] coming from inside, who I think surprised him. The guys made a hell of a play on the goal line and I’m not sure whether he got in or not. You can never tell, but those two guys made a great play.” -Kyle Shanahan

Lance clearly showed flashes of his elite potential. The result, and Shanahan’s handling of the quarterback depth chart, understandably has many fans frustrated. However, that’s leading to plenty of layman’s overanalysis of Lance’s first career NFL start. The rookie saw a gap to the endzone on a pivotal fourth-down near the goal line and Arizona’s linebackers made a fantastic play to stop him inches short.