What we learned as Lance struggles in 49ers' brutal loss


CHICAGO — The first game of the 49ers' Trey Lance Era was not exactly a masterpiece.

Obviously, there were always going to be ups and downs as the 49ers makes the transition to a new quarterback. And that is exactly what occurred Sunday on a dreary day along the shore of Lake Michigan.

The 49ers, who were favored to win by a touchdown, struggled against the Chicago Bears, who were expected to be one of the worst teams in the NFL.

The Bears reeled off 19 unanswered points in the second half on the way to a 19-10 victory over the 49ers at Soldier Field.

On paper, this should have been one of the easier games on the 49ers' schedule. But playing without Pro Bowl tight end George Kittle, the offense could never find any footing.

Here are three takeaways from the 49ers’ 2022 season opener:

Lance’s hits and misses

As advertised, Lance can throw the football. And he can run, too.

Lance showed both of those attributes as he officially took over for Jimmy Garoppolo as the 49ers’ starting quarterback on Sunday.

On the down side, Lance also missed some big-play opportunities when he misfired on a couple of his attempts. He also threw a fourth-quarter interception when the 49ers were already trailing 13-10.

Lance completed 13 of 28 pass attempts for 164 yards with one interception. He also ran the ball 13 times for 54 yards.

Lance could have posted his first touchdown pass of the season in the first quarter when tight end Tyler Kroft got behind the defense. But Lance’s pass sailed to the outside when he could have left the ball more toward the middle of the field.

Later, Lance showed his unique arm talent with a laser-like passes to Brandon Aiyuk, Ray-Ray McCloud and Jauan Jennings.

Depth at running back

The 49ers’ depth at running back will be tested again this season.

Elijah Mitchell, the team’s leading rusher in 2021, was ruled out for the game in the second quarter, which suggests he sustained a serious knee injury in the 49ers’ season opener.

Mitchell had an injury-plagued rookie season but he still led the 49ers in rushing with 963 yards and five touchdowns.

Jeff Wilson and undrafted rookie Jordan Mason are next on the depth chart for the 49ers. Third-round draft pick Ty Davis-Price was inactive for the game but now figures to be suiting up for games as long as Mitchell is out.

The 49ers continued to use their wide receivers as part of the running game as this season opened.

Coach Kyle Shanahan dialed up run plays for All-Pro wide receiver Deebo Samuel on back-to-back plays after the 49ers got to the Chicago 4-yard line. Samuel lost 2 yards on the first run attempt to the left side. Then, he found a crease and scored on a 6-yard run to give the 49ers a 7-0 lead in the second quarter.

Hufanga comes to play

There was little question safety Talanoa Hufanga would be in the starting lineup after earning that role with a strong training camp.

What was a surprise, however, was that veteran Tashaun Gipson moved his way into the starting after being signed late in training camp. Gipson took over as a starter ahead of Tarvarius Moore and George Odum.

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The team’s usual starter, Jimmie Ward, opens the season on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. Ward must sit out at least the first four games of the season.

Hufanga was all over the field in the season opener with a first-quarter interception of Bears quarterback Justin Fields. He also registered eight tackles, including one for a loss.

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