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Hurts’ path to MVP contention shows model 49ers hoped for with Lance


CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - SEPTEMBER 11: Quarterback Trey Lance #5 of the San Francisco 49ers attempts a pass during the first half against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on September 11, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

SANTA CLARA — It’s easy to forget that Kyle Shanahan’s vision of his offense going into the season was more similar to that of the Philadelphia Eagles than what he will operate with the 49ers Sunday in the NFC Championship Game.

Give Eagles coach Nick Sirianni credit for instituting a plan and sticking with it in developing Jalen Hurts into a Most Valuable Player candidate. Shanahan, by contrast, adjusted on the fly when Trey Lance was injured and made it to the conference title game for the third time in four years, this time with Brock Purdy, the final pick of the 2022 NFL Draft.

The Eagles are all about Hurts with the ball in his hand, whether he’s cutting upfield on a designed run, headed for greener pastures when his early reads aren’t open or throwing to three dangerous receivers in A.J. Brown, DaVonta Smith and tight end Dallas Goedert.

The 49ers are at their best when Purdy gets the ball out of his hands. When Purdy does go off schedule, he’s not looking to run. Instead, he wants to buy some time until he can find Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle or Brandon Aiyuk.

The 49ers’ plan to go all-in on Lance and his dual-threat ability was scuttled when the second-year quarterback fractured an ankle on an inside run in Week 2 against Seattle.

Lance’s sample size was so small it’s impossible to know how he would have fared. His opening act in Chicago finished in a second-half monsoon and Lance was 13 of 28 for 164 yards an interception to go along with 13 rushes for 54 yards.

In Week 2, Lance was 2 of 3 for 30 yards and rushed three times for 13 yards before being injured, giving way to Jimmy Garoppolo. Over two games, that’s 15 complete passes and 16 rushes. While the ratio wouldn’t have been as extreme if Lance had remained healthy, it was clear Shanahan had every intention of tweaking his offense with designed runs for his quarterback.

Sirianni began that process with Hurts a year ago, when he carried 139 times for 784 yards and 10 touchdowns as the Eagles went 9-8. This season, Hurts had 165 carries for 760 yards and 13 touchdowns, going 14-1 as a starter. Combined with 3,701 yards, 22 touchdowns and six interceptions passing, Hurts is the likely runner-up to Patrick Mahomes as the NFL’s Most Valuable Player.

Whether Lance could have even approached Hurts’ effectiveness in his first year as a starter is an open question that can never be answered, although it’s easy to be skeptical based on visual evidence.

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – SEPTEMBER 11: Quarterback Trey Lance #5 of the San Francisco 49ers attempts a pass during the first half against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on September 11, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) 

Given that Lance was the third player taken in the 2021 NFL Draft and Hurts lasted until the second round at No. 53 overall in 2020, you’d be hard-pressed to find a …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment

      

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