Kudos to the 49ers defense, who held the Texans to nine yards on the drive and gave the ball back to the offense. Kyle Shanahan drew up a trick play, but Trey Lance locked onto George Kittle, which was a bad idea. Houston smelled the “leak” play and had Kittle triple-covered. That poor decision led to a Lance interception. That’s a play where you throw it into the 12th row of the stands.
The Texans marched 14 plays to go 80 yards on a drive that took over seven minutes off the clock on their fifth drive. Houston converted four third downs on the drive, including the touchdown, where Davis Mills threw a perfectly placed back-shoulder to Brandin Cooks. Fred Warner was in position, but there was no defending that throw.
The 49ers were scoreless before their final drive of the half. Lance found Aiyuk for a gain of 27 and 12 on the drive, which led to a Robbie Gould field goal from 37 yards out to make the score 7-3.
San Francisco had the ball to start the second half and found themselves in another fourth-down situation. On 4th & 1, Shanahan elected to roll Lance out and give him an option to run or pass. However, Justin Reid didn’t allow Lance to run, and his pass was too high for Samuel and Aiyuk.
That was Lance’s seventh fourth down attempt on the season. The offense has only converted one with him under center.
Mills was fortunate not to throw an interception earlier in the game to Ambry Thomas. He didn’t escape misfortune on the first drive in the third quarter as Marcell Harris stepped in front of one of his throws for an interception.
Harris fumbled and appeared to give the ball back to the Texans. Instead, the referees ruled Harris’s forward progress had stopped, which was music to the 49ers' ears. The 49ers would score four plays later, thanks to a 37-yard pass interference call Aiyuk forced. Lance found Mitchell on an 8-yard touchdown to give the home team a 10-7 lead.
The Texans had plenty of fight in them. They figured out the 49ers' weakness. Aren Key had a roughing the passer penalty. Ambry Thomas surrendered an explosive play but was lucky Nick Bosa drew a holding call to negate the big play.
Josh Norman gave up a pass interference to give Houston a first down. He was benched. Unfortunately, Dontae Johnson, Norman’s replacement, picked up a defensive pass interference on the next play.
Thanks to the pass rush, the 49ers forced the Texans into a longer field goal, which they eventually missed. Houston had another drive when they made it into Niners' territory but punted from San Francisco’s 41.
Texans punted seven times, turned the ball over twice, and only had one touchdown on 11 drives. I cannot speak highly enough about DeMeco Ryans. The Texans averaged 2.9 yards per play, and the 49ers don’t have any cornerbacks.
We saw a glimpse of the future when Lance threw the ball across the field and 45 yards down the field to Samuel. The crowd erupted to give the 49ers a 17-7 lead. Jauan Jennings bailed out Lance on another throw to give the offense the first down.
Then, Lance found George Kittle for the first time, who made a spectacular one-handed grab. Elijah Mitchell followed that up with a 37-yard run. Lance would have run in a touchdown, but Aiyuk was flagged for holding. A field goal from Gould made it 20-7, and Gould would make another field goal toward the end of the game to make it 23-7.
It wasn’t always pretty, and the running game could have been better. But Lance finished with a 44% success rate, and 41% of his throws went for first downs. Lance’s 0.36 EPA per play is higher than Garoppolo’s 0.20 on the season. I’m not saying what you think I am. This is a Kyle Shanahan offense.
When they hit explosive plays, this offense is tough to stop. It took them a half to get going, but the 49ers had drives of 65, 58, and 71 in the second half. The Rams are next. Win, and you’re in the playoffs. Simple.