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49ers backups struggle mightily against the Raiders in preseason loss

That was...ugly. Even if preseason is more about the process than the results, the Niners were outplayed Sunday.

San Francisco 49ers v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Ian Maule/Getty Images

If a preseason game is too fast for a player, then it’s evident that he’s not ready to start. For Trey Lance, that looked like the case out of the gate against the Raiders. As the game went along, Lance looked more comfortable and commanding the offense. The best quarterback on the field was rookie Aiden O’Connell, and it wasn’t particularly close.

But there was plenty to be desired offensively, from the quarterback to the offensive line. Unfortunately for Trey, the 49ers aren’t in a position to give Lance the time he needs to learn the ropes. Instead, he’ll have to continue playing behind backups and learn on the fly.

Lance finished the day 10-for-15, but two of those should have been interceptions, and he had four sacks, which you could argue two of those were his fault. He also had a drop by Jordan Mason and what appeared to be a bit of an alligator arm attempt from Charlie Woerner over the middle. Still, no matter how you slice it, Sunday was more of a dud than anything from Lance.

But Matt Pryor, Nick Zakelj, and Jason Poe all had blown blocks and Zakelj had multiple. It’s difficult to isolate the performance of a quarterback when they’re under pressure every other play. The performance from the second string offensive line today made you cross your fingers that there won’t be any injuries from the starters.

Ronnie Bell received all the reps as the punt and kick returner. He also had a Deebo-esque carry where he bounced off multiple tackles for a first down. Sam Darnold also found Bell for a 37-yard bomb on the first drive of the third quarter. Bell also made a difficult catch toward the end of the third quarter for a first down. A terrific outing for the rookie.

After it looked as if Darnold would lead a scoring drive on his initial drive, he came up short after oddly turning his back on a quarterback sneak, which gave him no chance to convert.

Defensively, Ji’Ayir Brown lived around the ball in the first half. Clelin Ferrell made a couple of plays, including a sack. Both of those players will be contributors this year for the Niners.

Ambry Thomas was active during the first half. He likely earned himself more reps or at least a chance at making the roster. The same cannot be said for Isaiah Oliver, who allowed an explosive passing play and a touchdown.

D’Shawn Jamison had a long kick and punt return in his first two attempts. Bell came close to fumbling one punt, but it looked like Jamison had more juice on his returns. That’s an important battle that’ll unfold over the next couple of games.

The 49ers didn’t get much of an opportunity on their second third quarter drive after Sam Darnold found Cameron Latu, but he fumbled the ball. His hands have been dreadful during camp and that turnover isn’t going to help the rookie make the roster.

Tay Martin had a chance to pounce on the ball, but he was looking in the backfield. That effort isn’t something that’s going to make the coaching staff happy.

Moody would have another opportunity, this time, from 58 yards. It was tough to tell if the kick had enough distance, but the ball went wide by about 10-15 yards.

The Raiders scored 20 unanswered points, as the Niners backups couldn’t get out of their own way all game. There were some bright spots, like Jamison and Bell, but even players like Jalen Graham, who made a tackle for loss, had other plays where he gave up a first down in coverage. Even Bell had a pass go off his hands for an interception.

The final score isn’t always indicative of how the game went, but the 49ers were throttled 34-7 on the scoreboard, and it felt like it was that much of a blowout watching the game.

Next up: The Broncos next Saturday at 5:30 p.m. PT.