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Trey Lance displays resiliency before leading two touchdown drives vs. Chargers

The former North Dakota State quarterback shows off his mental toughness during Sunday’s preseason game.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Chargers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Depending on when you started watching the game, you would’ve either thought that Trey Lance wasn’t deserving of being the No. 3 overall pick in this past NFL Draft or that he should be the starter for the 49ers come Week 1.

Following a Jimmy Garoppolo interception on the opening possession, Trey Lance was inserted into the first-team offense by Kyle Shanahan. Lance hit Deebo Samuel for a first down, but the drive stalled when he couldn’t complete a third-down throw to the same wideout.

It didn’t get any better for the first-round pick, as his next two offensive possessions ended up in an interception and a punt. Then, all of a sudden, Lance looked like he was really struggling to make accurate throws to his receivers.

In the same way, Garoppolo has often been lauded for his ability to quickly recover from mistakes or shaky offensive drives; Lance quickly flipped a switch before the end of the first half. He led a touchdown drive in the two-minute drill, taking the ball 70 yards on six plays, including a huge throw down the right sideline between the safety and the corner (aka the honey hole).

It didn’t stop there for the former North Dakota State quarterback, who also led a touchdown drive in the second half spanning 73 yards on 11 plays. By the end of the night, Lance’s stat line was 8-of-14, 102 yards, two touchdowns, one interception, with a passer rating of 89.9.

The most impressive part of Lance’s performance wasn’t the velocity he threw his fastball or the aggressive mentality he displayed as he continued to push the ball down the field; it was his ability to persevere through adversity.

Lance could’ve easily used the shaky offensive line play or the inconsistent hands of the wide receivers as excuses for his poor performance, but he turned it around after two shaky drives, and that builds a lot of confidence and character for a rookie quarterback.

While Kyle Shanahan still hasn’t changed his stance on who his current starting quarterback is — it’s Jimmy Garoppolo — he’s still leaving the door open for naming his Week 1 starter. Garoppolo has not done enough yet to convince the coaching staff that he deserves to be the Week 1 starter, but Lance needs more offensive drives as he had in the second half on Sunday to make it a true competition.

It’s clear why the 49ers spent three first-round picks drafting the North Dakota State product — he’s got the physical arm talent, the mobility to extend plays, and the poise to make any throw from the pocket. Of course, it’s still quite raw right now and needs time to develop, but the resiliency and mental toughness that Lance displayed on Sunday was a step in the right direction.