It was an up-and-down performance for both 49ers quarterbacks Trey Lance and Sam Darnold in San Francisco's 34-7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium.
Lance (10-of-15 passing, 112 yards, TD) got the start under center and played the entire first half, while Darnold (5-of-8 passing, 84 yards) played most of the third quarter before giving way to fourth-string quarterback Brandon Allen (5-of-8 passing, 36 yards, INT).
The 49ers' offense got off to a slow start, with three consecutive three-and-outs to begin the first quarter before Lance completed an odd game-tying touchdown pass to tight end Ross Dwelley early in the second quarter.
In speaking to reporters after the game, head coach Kyle Shanahan attributed the loss to the offense's sluggish start.
"It got off to a rough start for everybody, three three-and-outs for the whole offense the first three times," Shanahan said. "I don't put that on Trey by any means. I thought the whole offense was sloppy to start."
Before having a chance to watch the tape, Lance didn't have much to say about his performance and was just excited to be back on the field for the first time since his season-ending ankle injury in Week 2 of the 2022 NFL season.
"Definitely some good, some bad, but felt good to be back out there," Lance shared. "Excited for next week and to continue getting better with these guys.
San Francisco 49ers
"For me, just excited to get back out there. Honestly, today that was the biggest thing, go play real football again, go compete again, so that felt good first and foremost."
After a slow start, Lance started to heat up in the second quarter and looked much more comfortable under center against the Raiders' defense, which he credits to his observations between the two teams earlier this week.
"More than anything, things were opening up, had a good feel for what they were doing, especially after these joint practices," Lance said.
Darnold replaced Lance after halftime and found his footing quicker than Lance. But the veteran was unable to lead a 49ers scoring drive even though the 26-year-old did complete a nice deep pass to wide receiver Ronnie Bell down the sidelines.
Shanahan ultimately was impressed with Darnold's performance given he was working with mostly second- and third-string offenses.
"I thought he did a great job, coming in in the second half with twos/threes on the O-line, same with the receivers and everything," Shanahan explained. "We wanted to be careful with Sam for that reason, but we also wanted him to play, too. So it was nice to be able to give Trey the whole first half and give Sam a little bit and hopefully Sam will get a little bit more time next week."
In evaluating his own performance, Darnold thought he "managed things well," but felt the offense, starting with him, needed to play better as a unit.
With second-year quarterback Brock Purdy locked into the starting job, Lance and Darnold will continue battling it out for the backup role.
If Sunday's game was any indicator of where things stand, it's clear a decision might come down to the wire.