As expected, it wasn't perfect, but the 49ers managed to get the job done in the 20-7 victory over the Houston Texans. Rookie quarterback Trey Lance made his first start at home in the victory, and appeared to have found a groove in the second half that allowed San Francisco to put up 20 points to close out the contest.
Here are a few takeaways from Sunday's game:
There wasn't much to take away from Lance's first half as the 49ers offense failed to find a groove with stalled drives and mistakes. San Francisco appeared dependent on quarterback designed runs for the rookie, which didn't always play into the team's favor.
Lance was 10-of-13 for 103 yards in the first half, with his biggest error coming on his lone pick of the day. The rookie was perfect on his throws, with his first incompletion coming on a second quarter pick. On a deep throw intended for George Kittle, the rookie didn't put enough air under the ball, leading to an easy interception by Texans cornerback Desmond King. Houston managed to find the end zone on the turnover, with an 8-yard pass from rookie quarterback Davis Mills to wide receiver Brandin Cook.
Meanwhile, San Francisco's defense opened the game strong, allowing just 22 yards on 11 plays through Houston's first three series. D.J. Jones, Samson Ebukam and Fred Warner all notched tackles for loss during those drives and rookie corner Ambry Thomas recorded a pass breakup.
San Francisco closed out the first half completing nine first downs to Houston's six, 165 yards (113 HOU) and averaged 5.5 yards per play (3.6 HOU).
Lance and Co. appeared to have found a groove in the second half as the offense drove into scoring position on consecutive drives. The first ended in a failed fourth down conversion inside Texans territory. The drive featured a dart of a pass to Brandon Aiyuk, who broke several tackles en route to a 43-yard pickup.
However, the second yielded points after Marcell Harris came down with an interception on third down that was fumbled but ruled in the 49ers favor given the linebacker's forward progress had been stopped.
A defensive pass interference call on a deep pass intended for Aiyuk allowed the 49ers to set up shop just outside of Houston's red zone. Four plays later, Lance rolled out of the pocket and hit running back Elijah Mitchell for an 8-yard touchdown to give San Francisco their first lead of the game.
Mitchell's score marked his sixth touchdown of the season and first receiving.
Back to back defensive pass interference calls marred San Francisco in the fourth quarter. On 3rd-and-long, a call against Josh Norman on a deep ball intended for Cooks moved Houston into 49ers territory. On the ensuing play, Norman was replaced by Dontae Johnson, who was flagged on another pass intended for Cooks. On 3rd-and-3 from the 49ers 18, the 49ers entire pass rush closed the pocket allowing Arden Key to swallow Mills for a loss of 8 yards and force a fourth down.
Texans kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn missed the field goal, allowing San Francisco to maintain its lead.
On the next possession, Lance orchestrated a four-play drive that was highlighted by a 45-yard touchdown by Deebo Samuel. Lance rolled out right and found Samuel deep on the catch-and-run en route to the end zone to help stamp the 49ers victory.
Performances of Note
Lance finished his day completing 16-of-23 passes (69 percent) for 249 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He also rushed eight times for 31 yards, a stark difference from his Week 5 outing where he led San Francisco's backfield with 89 yards on 16 carries in the loss.
Per Next Gen Stats, Lance averaged the most air yards per attempt (11.5) and threw for the most yards on 10-plus air yards passes (205) by any 49ers quarterback in a game over the last three seasons.
"I think he did some real good things," Shanahan said. "Besides the bad interception, I thought he protected the ball real well. That was a big thing going into this game and he did a good job on all those except for one play. I think he was very efficient just looking at his numbers and things like that. That big play at the end was huge and for the most part he made some pretty good decisions throwing the ball."
Mitchell broke the 49ers single-season franchise record for rushing yards by a rookie following his performance against the Texans. Surpassing running back Vic Washington for the most rushing yards by a 49ers rookie in franchise history (811 yards set in 1971), Mitchell finished his day with 119 yards rushing on 21 carries and caught both of his targets for 11 yards and a touchdown.
"I love all our backs, but Elijah has played at another level this year," Shanahan said postgame. "And when he's in there, we're just very efficient. We always get at least what it's blocked for and you see how good he reads those gaps and seams to find a way to get through there and it was a hell of an accomplishment today they just told me right before we bought the team down that he set that record and that would have been a lot easier if he was here the last month. He's battled through some tough injuries this year. His first run for us was I think (he) played 30 versus the (Las Vegas) Raiders in the last preseason game. And by play three versus Detroit (Lions), he had to replace our captain and our starting running back and he's done a hell of a job throughout the whole year of that."
Aiyuk made a number of key grabs, including his 43 yarder, and led the team with 94 yards on four receptions.
Fred Warner finished the game with 15 tackles on defense, a career-high.
San Francisco's defense held Texans running back Rex Burkhead to just 47 yards on 16 carries (2.9 yards per carry) just a week removed from a 149-yard performance against the Los Angeles Chargers.
The 49ers finished the game outperforming Houston in first downs (19:15), total net yards (416:222), yards per play (6.8:3.6), rushing yards (175:86) and passing yards (241:136).
Harris suffered a stinger, however, later returned to the game.
Trent Williams dealt with an elbow injury and also returned to the game.
Shanahan revealed that quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is likely to resume throwing next week. Per the head coach, if Garoppolo is cleared to play, it is likely he will resume his status as San Francisco's starter if healthy enough to perform.