San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance will miss the rest of the season after breaking his right ankle Sunday.
Lance went down after running the ball on the second drive of a 27-7 win over the Seattle Seahawks. A cart came out on the field and Lance’s leg was put into an air cast before he was taken off.
Coach Kyle Shanahan said after the game that Lance would need to undergo season-ending surgery, raising immediate questions about using Lance as a runner between the tackles so often early this season.
“Any time a guy gets hurt, I wish I didn’t call that,” Shanahan said. “But no, that’s something we were going to do and something we would continue to do. It’s a football play we believe in and something that gives him a real chance to be successful.”
Lance’s teammates and several Seahawks players paid him respect before he left the field and was replaced by former starter Jimmy Garoppolo, who threw a touchdown pass on his first full drive and passed for 154 yards.
“It’s tough whenever you see a guy get hurt,” Garoppolo said. “I feel for him. Trey’s a tough dude. He’ll be all right.”
Lance took over the starting job this season from Garoppolo after being drafted third overall in 2021. San Francisco traded three first-round picks to move up nine spots to take Lance, making a major investment in him.
Lance spent his rookie season mostly on the bench watching Garoppolo as the Niners went all the way to the NFC title game before losing to the Rams.
But now he was supposed to get his chance as a starter for the first time since 2019 at North Dakota State. Lance only played one game in college the following season because of the pandemic.
“It’s the worst part of the game, obviously,” said defensive end Nick Bosa, who had a season-ending knee injury in Week 2 of the 2020 season. “It happens instantly and there’s no going back. Once it happens, obviously you feel like your life is over for a certain amount of time. ... If he gets surgery, whenever that is, then that kind of starts your road back. It’s not going to be easy, but he will be back and he’ll be fine. Just really tough right now.”
San Francisco planned to trade Garoppolo this offseason, but was unable to after he underwent shoulder surgery in March.
Garoppolo remained on the roster but didn’t practice with the team at all during training camp, throwing on his own on a side field, before agreeing to return as a backup on a reduced contract.
Instead of the nonguaranteed $24.2 million base salary Garoppolo was owed this season, he will get a $6.5 million fully guaranteed base salary, $500,000 in roster bonuses, and the chance to make nearly $9 million more in playing time bonuses.
Garoppolo made $350,000 in bonuses Sunday for playing at least 25 percent of the snaps and the Niners winning the game. He didn’t take long to get into form, throwing a 38-yard TD pass to Ross Dwelley on his first full possession.
Lance was 2 for 3 for 30 yards passing and had three carries for 13 yards before leaving the game. This is the second time Lance has gotten hurt in his brief time in the NFL. He injured his knee after his first start last season against Arizona when Garoppolo was hurt.
Lance carried the ball 47 times in less than 15 quarters as the main quarterback the past two seasons.
“Do you guys watch other teams in this league? Buffalo does it all the time with their quarterback,” Shanahan said about Josh Allen. “It’s a pretty normal play. It’s part of football and it’s unfortunate that he hurt his ankle on it. It’s a very normal play.”
Matt Rhule staying positive as seat heats
While many are wondering how much longer Matt Rhule is going to remain the coach of the Carolina Panthers, he insists the team is close to turning things around.
The Panthers had their losing streak stretch to nine games when they dropped a 19-16 decision to the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. It was their second close loss this season, coming on the heels of a 26-24 setback to the Cleveland Browns on a late 58-yard field goal.
“That’s two games in a row where we came down to the end with a chance to win the game and come up short both times,” Rhule said. “I take full responsibility for that. That’s my job. That falls on me. I have to help these guys find a way to make one more play and win the game.”
Carolina lost this one because it spotted New York and coach Brian Daboll six early points on a couple of fumbles — one of the opening kickoff — and then allowed the Giants to drive 47 yards for a go-ahead field goal by Graham Gano with 3:34 to play.
The bottom line was the Giants made a few more plays, especially in clutch situations. Baker Mayfield and the Panthers were 2 of 12 on third down.
“They’re trying, they’re grinding, they’re working,” said Rhule, who is 10-25 in his third season. “They left it all on the field today but we are coming up a play or two short. I know how frustrated they are.”
Rhule knows the pressure is on, especially starting a three-game homestand next weekend with contests against New Orleans, Arizona, and San Francisco followed by a trip to Los Angeles to face the Super Bowl champion Rams.
“We’re close. I believe that with all my heart,” the 47-year-old said. “We haven’t found a way to get it done. That’s my job, to help us get over that last hump. It’s the hardest part. We haven’t done it yet and didn’t do it today.”
Racking up sacks
⋅ NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Micah Parsons had two sacks of Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow along with Dorance Armstrong for Dallas. Parsons has at least two sacks in five of the first 18 games of his career, joining Mark Anderson, Joey Bosa, Elvis Dumervil, Clay Matthews, and Aldon Smith among players with five such games among their first 20.
The Bengals, meanwhile, are the first defending AFC champion to start 0-2 since Denver was coming off consecutive Super Bowl victories and started 0-4 in 1999 after John Elway retired.
⋅ San Francisco star tight end George Kittle missed a second straight game because of a groin injury. He was inactive for the win against Seattle after being listed as questionable on the injury report. Kittle also missed the season opener at Chicago after getting hurt in practice earlier that week. Kittle has been hampered by injuries in recent years. He missed three games with a calf injury last season, eight games in 2020 with injuries to his knee and foot, and three games in 2019 with a groin injury.
⋅ Raiders owner Mark Davis missed his team’s loss to Arizona because he was in Connecticut with his Las Vegas Aces while they won their first WNBA championship. The result was announced late in the third quarter to applause at Allegiant Stadium.