How 49ers' Week 10 win vs. Rams affected Trey Lance's future

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Each of the 49ers’ two victories against the Los Angeles Rams has carried extra significance this season.

The Week 18 49ers win is still fresh in everyone’s mind. Jimmy Garoppolo vindicated Kyle Shanahan for his loyalty by authoring a game-tying drive in regulation before Ambry Thomas sealed the 27-24 overtime victory over the Rams with an interception. San Francisco snuck into the playoffs, but has proved it deserves a seat at the table. The 14-team NFL playoff field is down to four, and the 49ers are still alive.

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Fortunes for the entire 49ers franchise could have changed in Week 10. The team entered with a 3-5 record but dominated the Monday night matchup against the Rams in a 31-10 victory. Jimmy G finished 15-of-19 for 182 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions that night.

Both players and coaches alike have pointed at that game as the pivot point for this campaign. In the two preceding home games, the 49ers suffered embarrassing defeats to shorthanded Indianapolis Colts and Arizona Cardinals.

Crazy to think the 49ers lost to Colt McCoy and the ‘B’ Team Cards in Week 9. Now they’re about to face the Rams for the third time this season, in Sunday’s NFC Championship. With the two wins over the Rams this season, the 49ers have won the last six meetings between these two NFC West rivals.

If the 49ers didn’t win that fateful Week 10 game, they would have been 3-6. Shanahan would have been staring down the barrel of a fourth losing season in five years. But the 49ers coach never wavered on his confidence for Garoppolo throughout the season.

“There was never a point I thought of switching to [rookie quarterback] Trey [Lance],” Shanahan said. “I think the stuff that I said at the time was the truth. I didn’t think Jimmy was the issue. There were games that he could have played better in, but I didn’t think he was playing the way that everybody was saying. Just watching the tape with our team, I didn’t think our team was there yet. I also didn’t think it was the best thing for Trey.”

However, Shanahan did admit that the 49ers were close to perhaps letting Lance get some valuable playing time at the midway point of the season. The 49ers are thinking big-picture with Lance, who they drafted after using three first-rounders and a third-rounder to move up to No. 3 overall.

The Week 10 win over the Rams kept the 49ers on course to try to win this season with Garoppolo, while developing Lance for the future.

“But when we did have a 3-5 record, I knew we were – not one game away – but it was getting close to where the best thing for the team was focusing on some other things, maybe getting some guys some chances to play,” Shanahan said. “I never felt that at 3-5. But you could see that the games were going to come if we didn’t turn around fast. Since then, I haven’t had that thought. We got on a pretty good roll after that. We’ve never been in that situation since, where you see that nearing.”

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Lance has played in just 10 quarters of meaningful action this season, filling in for Garoppolo when injured. Most recently, Lance led the 49ers to a 23-17 win over the lowly Houston Texans in Week 17.

Shanahan lauded Garoppolo the way he has handled all the noise, criticism and questions. All season long, Shanahan has been vocal that Lance is the future franchise quarterback but that this year belonged to Jimmy G. Garoppolo has intimated that the past few weeks for him have been emotional, as he is likely nearing the end of his 49ers tenure.

“That is the reality of we’re at,” Shanahan said. “It’s been that way for a while since we made that trade [to move up in the draft]. The more that we can all accept it and get used to it and know it, and not beat around the bush, the easier it is to go about your jobs. That’s what we’ve all done and we’ve all enjoyed each other as people. We all respect the hell out of each other in profession. It’s just allowed everyone to move on and be themselves.”

Since Week 10, the 49ers are 9-3.

Garoppolo has struggled to put up good numbers this postseason, but he’s on the verge of taking the 49ers to another Super Bowl. Kudos to Shanhan for sticking to his plan at quarterback.