49ers'In a surprise to nobody, the discourse about the offense has taken a turn for the worse. Everyone wants to point fingers, and nobody wants to talk about what happened in the context of the game. When you reach the red area three times and only come away with ten points, it's easy to understand why coaches, players, and fans are frustrated.
Now that we've had a couple of days to take a step back, breathe, and assess what happened, let's look at the big picture. Because if you look at the results from Week 1 in a vacuum, you'll pull your hair out.
The offense is 28th in DVOA and EPA per play with a slightly higher ranking of 23rd in success rate at 40.6%. Not great!
This comes with an asterisk the size of Chicago, as the total rainfall at Soldier Field was up to 5" and fell so fast that the National Weather Service said the downpour rates were similar to those of a tropical storm.
It should go without saying that the ball will be more difficult to hold onto, or, for quarterbacks, it'll be heavier, thus, making passes less accurate. But, then, for blockers, having the proper footing or being able to play at the speed you want is borderline impossible. These are not excuses.
If you look at PFF's grades, the offensive line allowed nine total pressures. There's a weird narrative that the protection was superb all day for Trey Lance based on the individual grades.
Per ESPN's Nick Wagoner, here is how each player upfront fared individually, via pass-block win rate:
G Spencer Burford — 96.2% (15th best among guards)
G Aaron Banks — 80.8% (55th of 61 guards)
C Jake Brendel — 92% (20th of 30 centers)
T Trent Williams — 88.5% (36th of 61 tackles)
T Mike McGlinchey — 84.6% (41st of 61 tackles)
The four other starters finished in the 50th percentile or worse outside Burford. Bears edge rusher Robert Quinn had the second-highest pass-rush win rate at his position.
What's even more telling about the line is how they performed in actual dropback situations. Lance dropped back to throw 35 times. He threw the ball away once. If you take away the quick game (think 1 or 3-step drops, where the ball is coming out, you guessed it, quick) and screen passes, we get down to 16 dropbacks for the offense.
That also includes play-action, where Kyle Shanahan often uses max protection (seven blockers) to allow time for the longer developing routes to get down the field.
So, despite Shanahan doing everything he could to protect his line, whether it meant Lance was playing hot potato with the ball and getting rid of it ASAP or leaving extra blockers in, Lance was pressured on 25% of his true dropbacks.
The part that stung the most was the blown blocks that happened on third down. Jake Brendel was a culprit of a couple, while Mike McGlinchey's sack allowed took the offense out of field goal range.
And it wasn't just the line that was at fault. After the explosive pass to Jauan Jennings and the team was near the goal-line, Aaron Banks and Jennings missed blocks on back-to-back plays that likely were touchdowns.
It's not fair to say the line played poorly but to pretend like Lance had all day in the pocket or the ball-carriers had room to run without Shanahan window dressing couldn't be further from the truth.
Again, the weather played a factor, but for this offense to excel, there can't be breakdowns in high-leverage situations.
Running with Trey isn't risky
Lance had nine attempts for 54 yards, with five coming on designed runs and the other four being quarterback scrambles. Some are concerned that Lance won't hold up for the season as he's running into the teeth of the defense. I could not disagree more.
Lance's legs are a weapon, and ignoring them would be negligent. It's more about when the runs took place. Third and 13? No problem, QB draw. You give the ball to Deebo, then give it to him again, and you have Lance pull it the third time for a first down. How in the world are we complaining when six of Lance's nine attempts went for first downs?
What stood out to me was no defender got square shots on him, even on carries up the middle. Also, a significant part that's being ignored is Lance making defenders miss. He forced three missed tackles Sunday.
The threat of Lance running will be a primary reason San Francisco is among the league leaders in rushing. It'll open up space for the other runners, as defenders must respect the quarterback as a ball carrier. Lance will be a staple of the running game this year.
Lance will learn
Lance missed Tyler Kroft on a "leak" play for a touchdown, threw a jump pass to Jennings that was errant on third down, and was hesitant to pull the trigger to Brandon Aiyuk late in the second quarter. Three mistakes in the grand scheme of a start should not be viewed as a poor start. There were three drops, an interception where the safety made a spectacular play, and just as the Niners needed to throw to win at the end, it began raining cats and dogs.
Peyton Manning had a sharp point when talking about quarterbacks on Monday Night Football. He said quarterbacks need to feel the rush and not see the rush.
On a miss to Jennings, Lance dropped his eyes and overreacted to the opposite color, which had him frazzled in the pocket. The same happened on a would-be throw to Aiyuk, where Lance failed to pull the trigger as a Bears defender flashed in his face.
Lance will learn. I thought the 49ers have the right guy under center because Lance showcased he can win in the pocket. Later in the game, there wasn't a dramatic reaction to pressure on a third-down conversion to Ross Dwelley, where Lance sandwiched a pass between two defenders for the first time.
So, in a quarter, he is already progressing as a quarterback. And speaking of progressing, getting from the first to the second read wasn't an issue. I'd be concerned if Lance looked at his initial read, and if it wasn't there, he tucked the ball to run. That wasn't an issue.
The bigger takeaway than a couple of inaccurate passes due to pressure was where he was throwing the ball. Lance had three attempts over 20 yards and seven attempts from 10-19 yards.
NFL leader in Big Time Throw percentage after one week? That would be Trey Lance at 6.9%. #49ers— Jeff Deeney (@PFF_Jeff) September 14, 2022
His PFF grade was 78 on throws in the intermediate portion. Quick game is the most difficult part of the offense to pick up in the NFL. Everything happens so much faster than these younger players are used to, so it's no surprise that's where Lance had most of his struggles.
His rhythm throw to Brandon Aiyuk on third down that was an out route outside of the numbers seemed like the throw that would get Lance in a groove but was called back for offensive pass interference. Those play-calls haven't been a part of the offense in recent years.
The video below is over 35 minutes detailing Lance, the running game, and everything you need to know, both good and bad, about the offense in Week 1. Check it out and let me know what you think.