Sanu Beginnings: Breaking Down Trey Lance's First Touchdown Against Chargers
Image Credit: 49ers
The second preseason game for the 2021 San Francisco 49ers got off to a demonstrably slow start.
These games are primarily tune-ups for players, so I don't expect a lot of excitement. Plus, the 49ers and Los Angeles Chargers had been scrimmaging most of the week; both defenses probably knew what to expect come game time.
However, a few punts and a Jimmy Garoppolo interception were a tough thing to watch on a Sunday evening.
For 49ers' rookie quarterback Trey Lance, it took four possessions to find a rhythm and lead the offense down the field for a late first-half touchdown.
The drive started at the 49ers' 25-yard line with 57 seconds left in the half. Lance was facing a third-and-1 and found wide receiver Trent Sherfield for a huge gain that brought the 49ers to the Chargers' 13-yard line.
After a short gain to wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, the 49ers took a time out, and 49ers' head coach Kyle Shanahan called "Trips Left Open H Right Out 2 Scat X Lookie Y Squirrel."
2nd Quarter - 2nd and 2 at the LAC 5 (:15)
The streaming feed forced me to listen to the Chargers' broadcast and the saw-tooth nasally whine of Dan Fouts.
As Lance broke the huddle, Fouts rambled on about what Shanahan might call and if a designed quarterback run might be in the works. After all, according to Fouts, Lance is a quarterback "with size and power." The question in Fouts' mind was whether or not you risk Lance running the ball in this situation.
Dan, this is a preseason game. The 49ers have a blue chip quarterback behind center that might make a run to start this season. Why would Shanahan call a designed quarterback run at this moment?
No, good sir, in these moments, you test the steel of a rookie quarterback and force him to throw the ball.
"Lookie-Squirrel" is a three-step drop play that sends five receivers into the pass progression.
The "lookie" route, which wide receiver Mohamed Sanu ran, is always the hot route. The second read for Lance on the play was the stick-nod, which tight end Charlie Woerner ran, and the third was Sherfield's "stick-china."
Both "go" routes have outside releases and help clear the field a bit for the quarterback.
Once running back JaMycal Hasty went in motion and left the backfield, which indicated a "scat" protection. As previously noted, "scat" is slide protection that sends four linemen in one direction and leaves the tackle on his own.
Hasty's motion pulled the Chargers' defense to its left, extending the Will out over Sanu and the tackle to the outside shoulder of tackle Tom Compton.
At the snap, the line slid left and put Compton one-on-one with Chargers linebacker Jessie Lemonier. It was another ugly rep for Compton, but he held up enough to keep the pocket clean for Lance.
I thought that Lance moved linebacker Nick Niemann with his eyes since Niemann drifted to his right during the play. However, the broadcast replay showed that Lance looked almost immediately toward Sanu, as if he knew the exact spot where the play would break open.
At the top of the drop, it's clear Niemann was looking to his right, possibly anticipating Woerner to make a sharp cut right in front of the goal line.
Also noticeable from this shot was the offensive line's protection. Compton struggled again on Sunday, and his rep against Lemonier was no different. If you look closely, you can see Compton was giving more of a hug to Lemonier than blocking.
Compton's left arm is wrapped around Lemonier, while Compton was standing straight up and down with no anchor to his legs.
Also, look at rookie left tackle Jaylon Moore, who was completely squared up with his man. Moore had better reps on Sunday than he did during his debut game against Kansas City.
The first of two on the night, Lance's touchdown throw brought the 49ers within two points going into the locker room. He would later find wide receiver Travis Benjamin for the go-ahead score with 5 minutes left in the third quarter.
Lance came on strong despite the slow start and finished the game on a high note before grabbing a cup of sunflower seeds.
In his Monday press conference, Shanahan noted that he'd "like to get everyone playing a little bit" against the Las Vegas Raiders. However, he did mention that "stuff could always change based off of practice and how it goes."
I am hopeful we'll get to see some of the starters on the field, even for a few plays this weekend.
All images courtesy of NFL.com.
All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference unless noted.
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