There was a small chance that Trey Lance could have played so well in a cameo start on Sunday that the San Francisco 49ers would have to seriously consider who to start at quarterback in the playoffs.
That probably isn't going to happen. But Lance had a promising game and helped the 49ers inch close to a playoff berth. It should help them feel better about moving forward with Lance next season.
The 49ers didn't exactly march up and down the field against a bad Houston Texans defense but Lance did enough in a 23-7 win. His impressive touchdown pass to Deebo Samuel in the fourth quarter sealed the game, and isn't the kind of play Jimmy Garoppolo can make.
It doesn't seem like the 49ers will be making a bold switch at quarterback right before the postseason. But there's a possibility they won't have a choice.
Trey Lance finishes strong
It's possible the 49ers still have to rely on Lance in the playoffs, but not by choice. It's no guarantee Garoppolo will return for the playoffs. He has a thumb injury that kept him out of practice this week. There has been no indication Garoppolo will miss the playoffs, but he has a torn ligament in his thumb and will likely need offseason surgery according to NFL.com. That's not a minor injury.
If Lance has to keep starting, the 49ers can at least count on him making some splash plays. His pass to Samuel in the fourth quarter was a fantastic display of his ability. It was a rollout to his right, then Lance turned and threw all the way across the field deep to Samuel. Samuel caught it, broke a tackle and walked in for a 45-yard score.
Garoppolo has played well most of the season. He hasn't done anything to lose the job. But he can't make that type of play. That's why Lance went with the third overall pick. That's why the 49ers traded so much to get him. His upside is immense.
Lance has had a pretty quiet rookie season, and Sunday wasn't proof that he's a future superstar. But it was a nice step forward near the end of the season. Maybe with more to come.
49ers rallied in second half
The 49ers didn't look great in the first half. They didn't score until a field goal on the final play before halftime. The last time the 49ers were shut out in the first half was Week 5. That was Lance's only other start this season.
It started slow for Lance but he got hot in the second half. He looked more comfortable and his arm talent is obvious. He finished 16-of-23 for 249 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and a 116 passer rating. That's a strong day.
The 49ers needed a win and a New Orleans Saints loss to clinch a playoff spot. They did their part. They didn't get the Saints part of that equation because New Orleans beat the Carolina Panthers, but they're still in good shape. The next question is whether Lance will start the season finale with the 49ers looking to clinch.