Trey Lance's first start in 49ers loss to Cardinals does not go well

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Kyle Shanahan was reluctant to rush rookie quarterback Trey Lance into action.

We saw why on Sunday. With Lance making his first start for an injured Jimmy Garoppolo, the San Francisco 49ers offense bogged down in a 17-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

San Francisco's first three possessions ended in turnovers. Lance's second pass of the day into a crowded Cardinals secondary found safety Budda Baker for an interception.

The next 49ers possession ended on downs when Lance's run on fourth-and-2 from the Arizona 34-yard line came up a yard short. The next 49ers possession ended in similar fashion, except this time Lance was met just short of the goal line by a trio of Cardinals defenders.

In fact, the 49ers went for it on fourth down five times against the Cardinals. Four times, the Cardinals defense came up with a stop.

Strong 49ers defense not enough

The 49ers defense, meanwhile, came up with its best effort of the season, holding a Kyler Murray-led offense that led the league with 35 points per game to 17 on Sunday. It just wasn't enough to overcome struggles on the other side of the ball.

With the win, the Cardinals improved to 5-0 to remain as the NFL's only unbeaten team and keep a one-game lead over the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC West. Now 2-3, the 49ers face an uphill climb in a difficult division.

It wasn't all bad for Lance, who flashed the athleticism that led the 49ers to covet him with the No. 3 pick in April's draft. Shanahan wasn't discouraged by the effort.

“I thought he did some really good things," Shanahan told reporters. "Definitely wasn’t perfect, but no one ever has been. ... Overall, I thought we could have done better around him. I thought he played well enough to win."

Lance led the 49ers in rushing with 89 yards on 16 carries. But his passing woes kept the offense stagnant and off the board until San Francisco's only touchdown in the third quarter. He finished his debut completing 15 of 29 attempts for 192 yards with no touchdowns, one interception and two sacks taken.

Shanahan also confirmed that Garoppolo is still San Francisco's starter when healthy. Garoppolo suffered a calf injury last week and wasn't ruled out against the Cardinals until missing practice on Friday.

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - OCTOBER 10: Trey Lance #5 of the San Francisco 49ers is sacked by Zach Allen #94 of the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on October 10, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Trey Lance struggled in his first NFL start. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)