Trey Lance’s challenging opener puts Niners in early-season jam

The TV camera angle didn’t do the throw justice, and it looked pretty cool on TV.

Trey Lance, the 49ers’ first-year starting quarterback, took the second-down, second-quarter snap, faked a handoff to running back Elijah Mitchell, and feigned another to sweeping wide receiver Deebo Samuel, planted his back foot, bounced in place, and ripped a 30-yard throw over two Bears defenders, directly into the chest of his teammate Ray-Ray McCloud, who was cutting across the field, right to left.

It was the kind of throw we have not seen a 49ers quarterback make since Kyle Shanahan took over as head coach — the perfect combination of power and touch.

And while Lance’s throw to McCloud wasn’t the best throw of this NFL weekend, the company he kept in that competition — Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert — showed the young quarterback’s incredible potential.

Trey Lance's challenging opener puts Niners in early-season jam

This kid has a chance to be special.

If only all of Lance’s throws were like that on Sunday.

Lance’s performance against the Bears was the perfect encapsulation of what we should expect from the quarterback the Niners still consider a rookie.

Up and down. Good and bad. Feast and famine.

Lance can make throws that will pull you out of your seat.

He can follow that with a throw that will make you cover your face.

Trey Lance's challenging opener puts Niners in early-season jam

This isn’t a unique place for young quarterbacks to find themselves. This is pretty normal.

But the 49ers’ circumstances are anything but normal. Lance is taking over a team that was a quarter away from the Super Bowl last season, with the quarterback of that team still on the roster.

No pressure, kid, just be good enough to take this team over the top of an already steep mountain.

The 49ers have handed Lance the starting job because they (rightfully) believe he has the talent to do it.

He could lose the starting job (in a few months) if he doesn’t put it all together soon enough.

The truth is that there is no perfect calibration between good and bad for Lance. That’s because perfection is the goal of any quarterback, and that can never truly be reached.

But it’s hard to make the case that Lance had more good than bad in Sunday’s season opener, even when the good popped off the screen.

In addition to the impressive throw to McCloud, Lance had top-flight throws to tight end Ross Dwelley, Brandon Aiyuk, and Jauan Jennings. No deference to inexperience was needed — they were big-time tosses.

But you might want to apply that deference for Lance’s misses. There was a throw behind Jennings, a missed touchdown to Tyler Kroft, and a game-losing interception that cannot be sugar-coated.

Trey Lance's challenging opener puts Niners in early-season jam

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