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Niners QB Lance shows potential in up-and-down first start

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GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Trey Lance’s first NFL start showed the 21-year-old’s tantalizing potential as an elite quarterback.

It also showed why there’s more work to be done before he gets there.

Lance completed 15 of 29 passes for 192 yards and an interception, and also led the 49ers with 89 yards rushing in a 17-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. The rookie was forced into action because starter Jimmy Garoppolo was out with a calf injury suffered in last week’s loss to the Seahawks.

“I thought he did some really good things,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “He definitely wasn’t perfect. Nobody ever has been.”

Lance had a rough start, throwing an interception after sailing a pass past his intended receiver and right into the arms of Arizona safety Budda Baker. He was also stopped on two fourth-down runs, including one inches shy of a touchdown.

On that play, Lance scrambled to his right and looked like he was about to score, but Isaiah Simmons and Tanner Vallejo closed quickly, meeting the quarterback just before the goal line in a violent collision. It was one of several big hits Lance took during the game, though the quarterback said most of them looked worse than they actually felt.

“Obviously disappointed. I really, really wanted to win that game,” Lance said. “We will keep our heads up, learn from it. I am going to learn as much as I can from it. Get better as much as I can from it.”

The good news for the 49ers is that even though Lance was inconsistent, he never looked flustered, leading a pair of scoring drives in the second half to help the Niners keep the game close. The loss certainly wasn’t all Lance’s fault: The offensive line was called for multiple holding penalties and his receivers dropped a few passes.

“Overall, I think if we could have done a little bit better around him. I thought he did good enough to win,” Shanahan said.

Lance, a 6-foot-4, 224-pounder out of North Dakota State, completed 9 of 18 passes for 157 yards and two touchdowns after coming into the game for the injured Garoppolo in last week’s loss.

He didn’t enjoy the same success against the Cardinals, who had a week to prepare for him, but he still made a good impression on Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury, who credited Shanahan with putting him in positions to succeed.

“I thought he had a tremendous plan for that young kid to use his legs and show off his athletic ability,” Kingsbury said. “He played tough. We needed every second to win that game.”

Now the Niners (2-3) get two weeks to rest and prepare for their next game against the Indianapolis Colts on Oct. 24. That window of time will give Garoppolo a chance to get healthy. It’ll also help Lance get more practice reps if he’s needed again.

“I wanted him to go out there and play like he has been doing in practice, be comfortable around the offense in a tough environment, one that he was never in before, and for the most part I thought he did that,” Shanahan said.

San Francisco doesn’t have much margin for error. The Niners are already three games behind the Cardinals and two games behind the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC West.

“It was a tough loss right there,” Shanahan said. “I am going to talk to our whole team tomorrow and think how we can get our whole team better coming back from the bye.”

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More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

By DAVID BRANDT
AP Sports Writer

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