Trey Lance will make his first start for the San Francisco 49ers against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan confirmed Lance would get the start after Jimmy Garoppolo again missed practice on Friday.

Garoppolo suffered a calf contusion during the first offensive series in San Francisco's 28-21 loss to the Seattle Seahawks last week.

He played the rest of the first half but was replaced by rookie third overall pick Lance for the second half.

Lance completed nine of his 18 passes for 157 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 41 yards on seven carries.

San Francisco traded three first-round selections to move up from the 12th pick to the third pick in this year's draft for the right to take Lance and make him their quarterback of the future.

Sunday will provide his first opportunity to prove the 2-2 Niners were right to make that move across the course of a full game.

Inexperienced even at the college level, Lance played only one full season as a starter for North Dakota State in 2019, which saw him account for 42 total touchdowns and zero interceptions, with the COVID-19 pandemic limiting him to a one-game exhibition in 2020.

But Lance is undaunted by the challenge of stepping up to start at the highest level this early in his career against an undefeated Cardinals team.

"I feel very prepared. I really do. And I think that's a credit to the coaching staff and the guys around me," Lance told a media conference. 

"Those guys have made me feel very confident this week, and I feel confident in myself, just as I did going into the Seattle game, and just as I did every other week before this."

Lance is unlikely to have one of the 49ers' top offensive weapons available, with tight end George Kittle doubtful with a calf injury. Rookie running back Elijah Mitchell is set to return from a shoulder injury, meaning the running game will be almost exclusively in the hands of three rookies in the form of Lance, Mitchell and third-round pick Trey Sermon.

The Kansas City Chiefs will be out to burst the in-form Buffalo Bills' bubble when they meet in a standout NFL Week 5 showdown.

Buffalo stretched their winning run to three matches with a 40-0 rout of the Houston Texans last Sunday.

Week 4 was also one to remember for the Chiefs and particularly Andy Reid, who became the first coach in NFL history to win 100 games with two teams thanks to a 42-30 defeat of his former employers the Philadelphia Eagles.

As the only team with a perfect record, the Arizona Cardinals will look to make it 5-0 at the expense of the San Francisco 49ers.

Stats Perform previews the pick of the action in the next round of matches and the best of the rest.

 

Buffalo Bills @ Kansas City Chiefs

The Bills are sitting pretty at the top of the AFC East at 3-1, but they have lost five of their past six meetings against the Chiefs.

Buffalo will be on a revenge mission after they were beaten 38-24 by Kansas City in the AFC Championship Game last season, the largest margin of victory for the Chiefs in those five triumphs.

The Bills' thrashing of the Texans was the second time this season they have kept an opponent scoreless, having also done so against the Miami Dolphins in Week 2.

Reid's side prop up the AFC West with a 2-2 record, but their 18 touchdowns is more than any in the NFL and Josh Gordon will be hoping to add to that tally if he makes his debut.

San Francisco 49ers @ Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals' dream start to the season continued with a 37-20 victory over the Los Angeles Rams in Week 4, taking them to 4-0 for only the second time since moving to Arizona nine years after they previously won their opening four games.

If recent history is anything to go by, there will not be much in their showdown this weekend, as four of the past five meetings between the two sides have been decided by only three points.

The 2-2 49ers travel to State Farm Stadium having come out on top in four of their previous four meetings, having lost their eight clashes beforehand.

Deebo Samuel caught a 76-yard touchdown pass in San Francisco's 28-21 loss to Seattle Seahawks in Week 4, making him the fourth 49ers wide receiver to have multiple receiving touchdowns of 75-plus yards in a single season – joining Torrey Smith, John Taylor, and Jerry Rice.

Cleveland Browns @ Los Angeles Chargers 

The Browns and the Chargers have made promising starts to the season and both come into the game on the back of wins that took them to 3-1.

Cleveland have not beaten the Chargers on the road since back in 1991, losing five on the spin since then – a run that is tied for their third-longest active road losing streak against an opponent (lost 17 straight in Pittsburgh and six straight at New England).

The past two games mark the first time the Browns have allowed seven points or fewer back-to-back since September 10-17, 1995. They have done so in three straight games only once in franchise history (in 1976).

Nick Chubb (388) and Kareem Hunt (355) are the second pair of running backs in the last 30 years to have 350+ scrimmage yards apiece over their team's first four games of a season. The other was the Chargers' Melvin Gordon III and Austin Ekeler in 2018. 

Elsewhere

Tom Brady broke Drew Brees' NFL passing yards record in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' win over his former team the New England Patriots in Week 4 and could inflict more misery on the Dolphins this weekend. The legendary quarterback has thrown 67 touchdowns against Miami the third-most by a player against any opponent in the Super Bowl era (Dan Marino – 72 v. the New York Jets, Brady – 70 v. the Bills). 

The Green Bay Packers head to Cincinnati to do battle with the Bengals, who they beat 27-24 in their last encounter in 2017. That snapped a three-game winning streak by the Bengals in the series. The Packers' last win in Cincinnati came in Week 3 of the 1998 season.

Urban Meyer has come under fire for his night out after the Jacksonville Jaguars suffered a fourth loss from four last week and he really needs a win when the Florida team host the Tennessee Titans. Tennessee are 7-1 versus the Jaguars since 2017.

NFC East leaders the Dallas Cowboys will go in search of a fifth consecutive home win over the New York Giants.

We're at the point of the season where clear opinions can be formed of NFL teams, whether they be real life or fantasy.

Much can change in the coming weeks but, with four weeks in the books, a divide between the contenders and pretenders is starting to emerge in the NFL, and that will also be the case in fantasy leagues around the globe.

But whether you're looking to maintain a strong start or recover from an underwhelming one, the need to make the right lineup decisions remains. This is no time to get complacent or to get too downhearted and take picking your starters more lightly.

With that in mind, Stats Perform has picked four offensive players and a defense who should be starting in Week 5.

 

Quarterback: Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens vs. Indianapolis Colts

Having thrown for over 300 yards and a touchdown against a stout Denver Broncos defense last week, Jackson now gets to come home to face a Colts defense allowing 7.35 yards per pass play.

With the turnover-prone Carson Wentz quarterbacking the Colts' offense, Jackson should find plenty of opportunities to pad his stats. Always a must-start, this is a week to be especially excited about owning Jackson in fantasy.

Running Back: Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings vs. Detroit Lions

Held to 34 yards on nine carries on his return from injury last week against the Cleveland Browns, Cook gets a much more inviting matchup in Week 5.

Only two teams, the Houston Texans and the Kansas City Chiefs, have allowed more rushing touchdowns than the winless Lions. Don't hesitate if Cook is on your roster, slot him into a starting role and back him to return to the endzone.

Wide Receiver: Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers @ Arizona Cardinals

There may be some reluctance to start Samuel given the uncertain situation surrounding the 49ers at quarterback and their Week 5 opponent, the unbeaten Cardinals. However, it is not merited.

Samuel leads the NFL in receiving yards with 490, putting him on pace for over 2,000. Maintaining that is unlikely but, averaging 10.5 targets per game, Samuel stands as the clear number one target in the Niners' offense regardless of who is under center.

Each of Trey Lance's touchdowns last week in relief of Jimmy Garoppolo were thrown to Samuel. His target share and the challenge the Niners will likely face in having to keep up with an extremely potent Cardinals offense means any concerns over the quarterback and the matchup should be ignored.

Tight End: Hunter Henry, New England Patriots @ Houston Texans

Henry and Jonnu Smith have yet to deliver on the lucrative contracts they signed with New England in the offseason, but a trip to face the lowly Texans should be just the tonic they need.

Former Los Angeles Charger Henry found the endzone for the first time as a Patriot against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week.

Now he gets the chance to face a Texans defense allowing the second-most fantasy points in the league to opposing tight ends. It's time for the Patriots' investment in him to start paying dividends.

Defense: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Denver Broncos

Not much is going right for the 1-3 Steelers, but their defense, while not at its 2020 levels, is still a tough one to crack and is tied fourth with 29 opponent plays for negative yardage.

With Teddy Bridgewater in the concussion protocol, the likelihood is Drew Lock will get the start at quarterback for Denver. Lock was tied for the league lead with 15 interceptions last season and threw his first of this year in relief of Bridgewater last week versus the Ravens. 

Long story short, start the Steelers' defense.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo remains a chance to play in Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals despite a calf injury according to head coach Kyle Shanahan.

Garoppolo suffered a bruised calf in the 49ers' 28-21 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday and was unable to play the second half.

Shanahan will wait on further tests on Garoppolo's calf but was comforted on Monday knowing that the injury would not sideline his preferred quarterback long term.

"It does mean he has a chance," Shanahan said. "It wasn't as bad as what we thought it might have been. He's in a lot of pain, still sore.

"Hopefully by the time he comes in Wednesday, if it's getting better, then he'll have a good chance. If it hasn't improved at all by Wednesday, it will probably be a little bit longer."

If Garoppolo is unable to play, Shanahan will know he can turn to 2021 NFL Draft pick three Trey Lance, who made two touchdowns in Sunday's loss.

Lance played the second half against Seattle in Garoppolo's absence, completing nine from 18 attempts for 157 yards, running seven times for 41 yards.

Shanahan will also be sweating on the fitness of left tackle Trent Williams who has a right shoulder concern.

"I think Trent, we got a little bit better news than Jimmy, but Jimmy, we've got to see how he reacts here in the next two days," Shanahan said.

"But both of them were definitely better news today than the feeling we had last night."

The 49ers have a Week 6 bye, before their next game against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday October 24 which may come into Shanahan's consideration.

Jimmy Garoppolo's frustration was evident as he was again struck by the injury bug, opening the door for rookie Trey Lance to take over as the San Francisco 49ers' quarterback.

Garoppolo did not feature in the second half of San Francisco's 28-21 defeat to the Seattle Seahawks, which dropped them to 2-2, because of a calf issue.

It meant third overall pick Lance, for whom the Niners traded three first-round draft choices to select, was rushed into action at short notice after Garoppolo was ruled out towards the end of half-time.

Lance could not lead a Niners team that wasted their first-half dominance to a win, with special teams miscues and penalties dooming them to a second straight home loss, but he did produce reasons for encouragement in his first extended competitive action since 2019.

He finished nine of 18 for 157 yards and two touchdowns passing while adding 41 yards on the ground, showing the dual-threat upside Garoppolo lacks.

Garoppolo is also bereft of luck on the injury front. He has completed just one full season as a starter in his NFL career, when he helped San Francisco to the Super Bowl in the 2019 campaign, and now looks set for at least a few weeks on the sideline.

"It happened in the first series," he told a media conference of his injury. "I don't know exactly what happened. Tweaked the calf. It hurt initially.

"I thought I'd keep trying, keep trying to go and it just kept getting worse and worse, traveling down to the Achilles a little bit, but we'll get more information tomorrow with MRI and everything. Hoping for the best right now.

"Just in between series, I could feel it tightening up in everything. I thought I could get it out. I tried to for the first half, but it's just tough, man. I don't know. I've been in the situation too many times and it's getting real old. So it's just one of those things, but a part of the business though."

For his part, Lance had no issue going in at short notice.

"I've been ready for and I stay prepared for whenever my name is called," he said. "I try to be as ready as possible, prepare that way during the week to be as ready as I possibly can.

"So I felt, obviously, confidence in myself and my team-mates and how well our defense had been playing and how well our offensive had been moving the ball. I felt really good about the situation that we were going into.

"I think there were plays, good and bad throughout the half. Missed some big ones, missed some easy ones, missed some check downs. Just definitely a few plays that I want back. But like I said, going to go back and watch it tonight and I think I'll learn a lot from that."

Head coach Kyle Shanahan described Lance's performance as a "typical first game" but felt he improved as the game wore on.

"He went in there unexpected and he competed. Trey's a football player. You guys can see that at times throughout that game. Regardless of what's happening, he's always got a chance to make a play and that's why I think he did," said Shanahan.

"It was good for him to take us down on that scoring drive there at the end. But it takes some time to play in this league as you guys have seen throughout.

"It's about knowing where to get rid of the ball, when to try to make those plays, when to check it down, have other guys do it for you, when to hang in the pocket, when to escape the pocket, and he got a lot of real NFL game experience with that today. Hopefully he'll get better from it." 

With Garoppolo likely out, Lance's first full game experience should come against the undefeated Arizona Cardinals in Week 5, and he may have to cope without left tackle Trent Williams, who suffered a shoulder injury.

"Yeah, I'm definitely excited," added Lance. "I'm excited to learn, like I said, learn as much as I can from this one. And then turn the page after these 24 hours and get started on Arizona."

Seattle Seahawks Russell Wilson has set his sights on more wins and NFL championships after celebrating his 100th career victory.

Wilson reached a century of regular-season wins in the NFL following the Seahawks' 28-21 success against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.

Already a Super Bowl champion, Wilson finished 16-of-23 passing for two touchdowns, while he rushed for another TD on four carries.

Wilson joined Hall of Famer Peyton Manning as the second quarterback in NFL history to win 100 games in their first 10 seasons, though the eight-time Pro Bowler became the fastest to triple digits.

"I'm excited about the next hundred," Wilson said. "There's more championships. There's more things we want to do."

Wilson was the star of the show as the Seahawks (2-2) ended a run of back-to-back defeats.

The 32-year-old produced a vintage performance, with his touchdown pass to Freddie Swain one of the highlight reel.

Wilson spun away from a blitzing Dontae Johnson and avoided Nick Bosa before finding Swain for the TD.

"I thought Russ was spectacular today," Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said post-game. "It was so hard early.

"He just stayed the course, stayed with it and really kind of recaptured a chance to win this game when you wouldn't think there was any way. It just didn't look like it was going to happen."

Wilson added: "Both of them right there — 'uh oh'. I've had some good plays in my career. That was definitely a good one."

"I was speechless, man," Seahawks offensive lineman Duane Brown said of the moment. "I just went to him and said, 'You're a bad [expletive]'.

"That's my words to him. That's one of the best plays I've seen from him in my time here. But with him, it's just commonplace."

Russell Wilson produced a vintage performance to lead the Seattle Seahawks past the San Francisco 49ers 28-21.

Wilson celebrated his 100th NFL victory as the Seahawks (2-2) rallied past the 49ers (2-2) in San Francisco on Sunday.

The Super Bowl champion finished 16-of-23 passing for two touchdowns, while he rushed for another TD on four carries.

Wilson joined Hall of Famer Peyton Manning as the second quarterback in NFL history to win 100 games in their first 10 seasons.

The 49ers – with Jimmy Garoppolo starting under center – took an early 7-0 lead but that was as good as it got for San Francisco on home soil.

Wilson's 12-yard pass to DK Metcalf ensured the scores were tied at half-time before the former dominated in the third period – the eight-time Pro Bowler's 16-yard run putting the Seahawks 14-7 ahead and Freddie Swain then caught a throw to stretch the lead to 14 points.

Trey Lance – who completed nine of his 18 passes for 157 yards and two TDs – replaced Garoppolo (calf) in the second half and the rookie QB kept the 49ers in the contest with a monster 76-yard TD pass to Deebo Samuel during the closing stages of the third quarter.

After an Alex Collins touchdown gave the Seahawks a 28-13 lead early in the final period, Lance combined with Samuel again at the death, but it was too little, too late.

 

Cardinals stay unbeaten behind Murray

Kyler Murray inspired the high-flying Arizona Cardinals to a 37-20 win at the previously undefeated Los Angeles Rams.

Murray passed for 268 yards and two touchdowns, while running for 39 more yards as the red-hot Cardinals improved to 4-0 this season.

Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb guided the Green Bay Packers to a third consecutive win – a 27-17 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Rodgers and Cobb connected for two touchdowns and ran for another score at home to the Steelers.

Packers superstar Rodgers threw his 420th career TD pass – tying Dan Marino for sixth all-time.

Under-fire Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger threw his 400th career touchdown pass – the eighth player to do so.

Tom Brady is rarely not front and centre in the NFL, but it is particularly difficult to get away from football's GOAT this week.

Thursday marked the 20th anniversary of the quarterback's first NFL start. On Sunday, he needs only 68 yards to pass Drew Brees for the most passing yards in league history.

"It's definitely a special record because it speaks to the longevity that he's been able to experience and the level that he's been able to play at," Brees said at the start of the week.

Of course, that record will fall as Brady takes the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back to Foxborough to play the New England Patriots for the first time.

The seven-time Super Bowl champion made history time and again in 19 years with the Pats and does not look like stopping now in the pick of the Week 4 Sunday matchups, broken down by Stats Perform.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New England Patriots

A win for the 2-1 Bucs would make Brady only the fourth starting quarterback to defeat all 32 NFL teams across their careers, joining Brees, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning.

The QB comes into this game in form, having thrown for at least 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns through his team's first three games of the year for the second time, having also done so with New England in 2011. No other QB has achieved that feat twice.

The Pats will hope they have found a long-term successor in Mac Jones, whose 81 completions are the third-most by any QB in the Super Bowl era through three career games – after Joe Burrow (91) and Kyler Murray (84).

Tampa Bay have a poor record against New England, too. The Pats are 7-2 in this matchup all-time and have held the Bucs to 11.9 points per game – the fewest any current franchise has averaged against another.

Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers

The Seahawks are in a spot of bother in the NFC West with a 1-2 record, but they are 14-3 over their past 17 games against the 49ers, making them the first team to beat San Francisco 14 times over a 17-game span since the Los Angeles Rams between 1973 and 1981.

Russell Wilson will hope his team-mates can catch up this week, having become the first QB in the Super Bowl era to complete at least 70 per cent of his passes for 250 yards and no interceptions in each of his first three games of a season. In fact, Seattle's back-to-back defeats marked the second time in franchise history they have lost consecutive games with no turnovers in either (also November 2008).

If nothing else, expect this game to be tight, with the 49ers' past seven games all decided by eight points or fewer – tying a franchise record – although San Francisco certainly have the talent to hurt the Seahawks.

The Niners have had touchdowns from 11 different players this year, tied for the most in NFL history through three games (also the 1964 Houston Oilers, 1987 Chicago Bears and 2002 Patriots). Deebo Samuel is the chief threat right now, though, with his 334 receiving yards the most by a 49er through three team games since Jerry Rice's 341 in 1995.

Arizona Cardinals @ Los Angeles Rams

The four NFC West teams are playing among themselves for the coming two weeks, meaning another mammoth matchup as the division's two 3-0 starters meet at SoFi Stadium in a series the Rams have dominated with eight straight wins against the Cardinals. That is their longest winning streak against a single opponent since a run of nine against the 49ers from 1976 to 1980.

A 4-0 start brings back contrasting memories for these two teams. The Rams made the Super Bowl after winning their first four in both 2018 and 2001, but the last time Arizona jumped out to such a start in 2015 they lost 11 of their remaining 12 games to finish 5-11.

Cardinals QB Murray makes for an entertaining watch, with at least one interception and one rushing TD in each of his first three games in 2021. It is only the third time a player has done that since 1960, with Murray accounting for one of the other two examples in 2020 (also Charlie Frye in 2006).

Crucially, Murray has more options through the air this year. Arizona have a league-leading six players with 10 or more receptions, having only had eight players reach that mark in the entirety of the 2020 campaign – tied for the fifth-fewest in the NFL.

Elsewhere...

The Kansas City Chiefs visit the Philadelphia Eagles looking to avoid losing three in a row for the first time since Patrick Mahomes became a starter. Back-to-back defeats to the Baltimore Ravens and the Los Angeles Chargers already represent the Chiefs' worst run since a pair of losses in Weeks 5 and 6 in 2019.

Dak Prescott is in top form as the Dallas Cowboys prepare to host the Carolina Panthers, but that game may be decided on defense. The Panthers have allowed a league-low 3.8 yards per play this season, while the Cowboys' 6.7 yards allowed per play is fewer only than the Chiefs (7.0) and the Minnesota Vikings (6.8).

The Denver Broncos have made the most of a kind schedule to join the Panthers at 3-0 but now face a first real test against the Ravens. Teddy Bridgewater will aim to maintain his high standards, having become the fourth player in the past 60 years to complete at least 75 per cent of his passes in the first three games of a season, along with Brady (2007), Brees (2018) and Philip Rivers (2020). Brady did so in four straight.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have won five consecutive regular season games against the Green Bay Packers going back to 1998, but veteran QB Ben Roethlisberger has made an unconvincing start to the campaign. He is one TD shy of 400 in the NFL – Aaron Rodgers was the seventh and most recent man to that mark.

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan insisted there is no "quarterback battle" between starter Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance as calls for the latter to be given more gametime grow.

The 49ers are 2-1 to start the NFL season, going down 30-28 to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday after wins over the Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions.

Lance, who was selected at pick three in the 2021 NFL Draft, has been used sparingly, attending seven snaps in two games, including running a one-yard touchdown against the Packers.

The 49ers' offensive display against the Packers, having been held scoreless until Lance's touchdown on half-time, fuelled the calls for the 21-year-old to get more opportunities ahead of Garoppolo – who made 25 of 40 passes for 257 yards, two TDs and an interception against Green Bay.

"There's not a quarterback battle right now," Shanahan said on Wednesday heading into the Week 4 clash with the Seattle Seahawks. "We're going with our starting quarterback who I think is playing very well.

"I'm happy that he is, so Trey is not thrown into any situations he has to do too early. If he ever is thrown into that, then I know Trey will deal with that and he'll get better as it goes, but we have a luxury where we don't have to do that yet to Trey or to our team."

Garoppolo has a completion rate of 67.37 per cent this season, collecting 760 yards with four touchdowns in three games this season.

The 29-year-old has completed 64 of 95 attempts, run for a score, thrown an interception and lost a pair of fumbles.

"Trey's our backup quarterback," Shanahan said. "This isn't the preseason. We're not just going back and forth all the time."

He added: "We have put him [Lance] on the field. We do it in situations.

"You can go with whatever you want what I say in training camp and you can expand on that or not. But I think I was asked coming off the field of our third [preseason] game if we'd see this in the regular season, I said, 'probably not.'

"I've been pretty consistent with what I've said."

The 49ers' last seven games dating back to last year have all been decided by eight points or fewer, tied for the longest streak in franchise history (also in 1988).

San Francisco have had 11 different players score a touchdown this season – tied with the 1964 Oilers, 1987 Chicago Bears and 2002 New England Patriots for the most in NFL history over the first three games of a season.

Kyle Shanahan was rightly worried the San Francisco 49ers left too much time on the clock for Aaron Rodgers in their thrilling defeat to the Green Bay Packers.

The Niners suffered their first defeat of the season in Week 3 as Mason Crosby's 51-yard field goal as time expired gave the Packers a 30-28 victory.

Thirty-seven seconds earlier, fullback Kyle Juszczyk had ploughed into the endzone to give a 49ers team that had trailed 17-0 a 28-27 lead on a 12-yard pass from Jimmy Garoppolo.

Despite having all three timeouts, Garoppolo snapped the ball with 12 seconds left on the play clock, meaning he had the chance to salt more of the clock away and diminish the odds of Rodgers leading a decisive drive.

Instead, Rodgers hit Davante Adams for receptions of 25 yards and 17 yards to set up Crosby to settle the game in Packers' favour.

Asked if he was worried about the amount of time left for the reigning MVP, San Francisco head coach Shanahan told a media conference: "You always worry with Aaron on the other side.

"That's why we didn't use any timeouts. We wanted to take it down. Hell of an effort by Juszczyk to get it in.

"I think [Garoppolo] hit the last guy in the progression and it was a hell of an effort after the catch."

Had Juszczyk been tackled short of the endzone instead of crossing the line with an extra effort, the Niners would have been able to use their timeouts to control the clock and potentially score while leaving the Packers with virtually no chance.

But curbing that instinct to score is near-impossible in the heat of the moment.

"I didn't really have a lot of time to think about it," Juszczyk said. "The entire team was swarming me. I didn't even know how much time was left on the clock to be totally honest with you.

"It wasn't really something that was on my mind during the play. We were down six so we needed a touchdown so I was trying to score."

"We were kind of in a good rhythm,” Garoppolo added. "That's when you tow the line of you have the defense on their heels, it's really hard to score down there in the red zone as it is, do you want to let them catch their breath? 

"When a guy catches it and makes a play like that you’re not going to be upset at him for scoring. It’s tough."

Aaron Rodgers believes the Green Bay Packers' dramatic late 30-28 win over the San Francisco 49ers could be a catalyst for their season and serves as proof of their credentials as Super Bowl contenders.

The Packers were seemingly heading for a 28-27 defeat, but with 37 seconds remaining, they managed to turn things around spectacularly.

Some last-drive heroics from Green Bay superstar Rodgers – without a timeout left – lifted the Packers (2-1) as Mason Crosby's game-ending 51-yard field goal condemned the 49ers (2-1) to their first loss of the season.

Rodgers finished 23-of-33 passing for 261 yards and two touchdowns without an interception, also surpassing Hall of Famer Dan Marino (51,741) for the fourth most passing yards in a player's first 200 games in NFL history – Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Peyton Manning are the only players with more passing yards through 200 appearances.

But the focus post-game was less about such feats and rather centred around the Packers' turnaround, how they had gone from being 1-2 to 2-1 in almost the blink of an eye.

While the importance of single victories can only be quantified later in the season, Rodgers at least feels such a display of character is evidence of the Packers' potential, as they go in search of a first Super Bowl win since 2010.

"No timeouts, from the 25, you need two chunk throws," Rodgers said. "I knew that, so that's why I wasn't dink-and-dunk. You don't have any time for that. We had to get at least 15 on the first play.

"I like to adjust some routes from time to time to get a look at what it feels like against our defense, so I just adjusted one of the routes [in practice], and we all liked it.

"Matty [coach Matt LaFleur] suggested it right before we went out there. 'What do you think about this play?' I said, 'I like that. I think that would be pretty good.'

"[The turnaround] gives some legitimacy to some of the things we've been talking about: That that was kind of an aberration and that we are a talented football team.

"The energy in the locker room postgame, that felt like a win. It felt like it was such a growth moment for us.

"I'm really happy for the guys to feel that, and it feels like, OK, now we're on our way. Now we can get into this, now we know how to win, and we can get this thing moving in the right direction."

Aaron Rodgers showcased flashes of his MVP form after leading the Green Bay Packers to a thrilling 30-28 victory at the previously unbeaten San Francisco 49ers.

The Packers were facing their second defeat of the season after Jimmy Garoppolo's 12-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Juszczyk gave the 49ers a 28-27 lead with 37 seconds remaining on Sunday.

But some last-drive heroics from Green Bay superstar Rodgers – without a timeout left – lifted the Packers (2-1) as Mason Crosby's game-ending 51-yard field goal condemned the 49ers (2-1) to their first loss of the season.

Rodgers finished 23-of-33 passing for 261 yards and two touchdowns without an interception, while team-mate Devante Adams also starred with 132 yards and a TD on 12 receptions.

Three-time MVP Rodgers also surpassed Hall of Famer Dan Marino (51,741) for the fourth most passing yards in a player's first 200 games in NFL history. Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Peyton Manning are the only players with more passing yards through 200 appearances.

In eight regular-season games versus the Niners heading into this matchup, Rodgers had thrown 18 touchdowns to only two interceptions, and owned a passer rating of 106.9 – the highest against San Francisco in the Super Bowl era (minimum 100 attempts).

The 49ers rallied at home to the Packers, overcoming early 10-0 and 17-0 deficits before falling behind 24-14 at the start of the final quarter.

Trey Sermon's one-yard run and the Juszczyk-Garoppolo combination during the closing stages had the 49ers on the cusp of a third straight win and a completed comeback, however, the Packers still had enough time to snatch a last-gasp victory.

Garoppolo finished 25-for-40 passing with 257 yards, a pair of touchdowns, one interception and four sacks.

The San Francisco 49ers are among the ranks of the seven teams to start the season unbeaten, with victories – albeit expected ones – over the Detroit Lions and the Philadelphia Eagles underlining their status as playoff contenders.

Though there is satisfaction regarding their start, outside of the 49ers' facility questions about when the Niners should bench starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in favour of Trey Lance are starting to increase.

That there is an external desire for the Niners to turn to Lance is no surprise given San Francisco traded three first-round picks to move up from 12 to three in this year's draft to earn the right to select him as their quarterback of the future.

Lance also offers a dual-threat skill set beyond that of Garoppolo, who had 11 rushes against the Eagles but did his most impactful work on the ground on quarterback sneaks, including one for a touchdown.

Garoppolo's display in the win over Philadelphia is a reason for the growing calls for Lance. After an offensive explosion against the Lions, the Niners averaged only 4.5 yards per play in their 17-11 success at Lincoln Financial Field.

That kind of offensive production will not put San Francisco in the Super Bowl mix and, with the Niners about to take on a difficult section of their schedule, it does beg the question: when should head coach Kyle Shanahan hand the keys over to their inexperienced but high upside rookie?

Unleashing Lance the runner

Though he threw the 49ers' first touchdown of the season with his first career pass against the Lions, Lance's true potential has yet to be seen at the NFL level.

In terms of the extra diversity he should provide the Niners as a running threat, that appears likely to change in Week 3 against the Green Bay Packers in a primetime clash that starts an imposing three-game stretch that will also see them face two divisional foes in the Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals.

Lance's combination of size and speed enabled him to average 6.5 yards per carry in his lone full season as a starter for North Dakota State in 2019, putting him fifth among all quarterbacks at the FBS and FCS levels. His touchdown tally of 14 was tied-fifth.

With the 49ers in the midst of an injury crisis at running back that may see only one player at the position, Trey Sermon, who started the season on the roster feature against the Packers, the window is very much open for San Francisco to utilise Lance's gifts on the ground versus an opponent allowing 4.81 yards per rush, seventh-most in the NFL, through the first two games.

Green Bay gave up 46 yards on four carries to Lions quarterback Jared Goff in their win on Monday. Goff is nowhere close to being in the same realm as Lance as an athlete, and it is tough to envision Shanahan watching that game film and not wanting to unleash his rookie on the Packers' defense.

Even with San Francisco lacking healthy bodies at running back, the 49ers' rushing attack could be spectacular against Green Bay with Lance infused into it. However, after an up and down start to the year from Garoppolo, fans may want to see what the man picked to be the long-term face of the franchise can do through the air as well.

Garoppolo's mixed bag

Garoppolo was superb in Week 1, gashing the Lions to the tune of 314 passing yards and a touchdown, averaging 12.56 yards per attempt.

He added a league-high 5.495 yards per attempt in expected passing situations versus Detroit, according to Stats Perform data; however, in a low-scoring struggle against the Eagles, Garoppolo came back down to earth.

Indeed, he finished with just 189 yards and a touchdown, averaging 6.3 yards per pass attempt. His rate of yards added in expected passing situations dropped to 0.358, 20th among quarterbacks to have featured in Week 2.

Still, those two contrasting performances averaged out to leave Garoppolo sixth in that metric prior to the start of Week 3 on Thursday.

Additionally, Garoppolo is delivering an accurate, well-thrown ball 82.7 per cent of the time, the 10th-best ratio among quarterbacks with at least 10 passing attempts.

Yet for all the good Garoppolo has done so far in 2021, it was tough not to leave Week 2 with the feeling that the Niners' passing game is being limited by keeping Lance on the sideline.

Downfield doubts

Grinding out games against an imposing defensive front for a narrow victory is satisfactory early in the season; however, a lack of explosiveness that was all too evident for the Niners in Philadelphia will not be acceptable in duels with opposing offenses that can move the ball against DeMeco Ryans' defense, which held the Eagles to just 177 net yards passing.

While Garoppolo's well-thrown percentage in Week 2 was an impressive 86.7 per cent, he averaged a league-low 3.47 air yards per attempt, with San Francisco's gameplan built around getting the ball out quickly to keep the Eagles' pass rush from making an impact.

It worked as Garoppolo was pressured only nine times and did not suffer a single sack. Despite stellar protection from his offensive line and a gameplan where he was rarely required to push the ball down the field, Garoppolo still threw a pair of pickable passes.

The task of making short throws accurate is not a difficult one by the lofty standards to which NFL players are held. Garoppolo succeeded in that task and led the 49ers on two decisive long touchdown drives of 97 and 92 yards that helped clinch victory.

But he still risked turning the ball over in the process and, when asked to complete more difficult throws, was unable to rise to the challenge.

Garoppolo sailed a far-hash deep out throw over the head of Mohamed Sanu, was almost intercepted on a throw too high for Brandon Aiyuk running a post delivered with pressure from Josh Sweat, sent another deep out wide of an open Trent Sherfield from a clean pocket and went close to being picked by Darius Slay on a far-hash ball thrown behind Deebo Samuel.

To Garoppolo's credit, he demonstrated mobility he is not regarded for to evade pressure and avoid negative plays and produced a perfect ball on the Niners' first touchdown drive, hitting Samuel in stride on a throw between two linebackers and setting San Francisco up inside the red zone after the defense had just delivered a goal-line stand to deny Philadelphia in a turning point in the game.

Though he can complete such passes with impressive accuracy and regularly excels doing what is asked of him, consistency on the higher-difficulty attempts has continually eluded Garoppolo and, in an NFC where Aaron Rodgers' Packers, Tom Brady and the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Matthew Stafford-led Los Angeles Rams are all contenders, the Niners realistically need a quarterback who can frequently hit on explosive plays with his arm.

Lance is raw and might not have handled the situation in Philadelphia with the same composure as Garoppolo, but he is a quarterback for whom the big-time throws come naturally and one who likely would have connected on those string of misses from San Francisco's starter.

With the Packers and the Seahawks each allowing over six yards per pass play, the next two weeks present an ideal opportunity for Garoppolo to prove himself as a consistent downfield passer.

A potential reluctance to throw Lance in against a division rival like Seattle means Garoppolo should get at least the next two games, yet if he cannot take advantage of those opportunities, Shanahan may be forced to turn to the heir apparent at quarterback to ensure a playoff-calibre roster stays near the top of both a loaded NFC West division and an ultra-competitive conference.

Even in a raucous road environment, an Arizona defense that gave up 7.3 yards per pass play to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 2 would appear to be a close to perfect opponent against whom to give Lance his first start.

Could Week 5 see a matchup of two of the most exciting dual-threat prospects to enter the NFL in recent years? The answer may rest on the performance of the oft-criticised arm of Garoppolo in two crucial in-conference showdowns.

The only two remaining unbeaten teams in the AFC are tied in the AFC West, but neither will be in action at Arrowhead on Sunday.

While the Las Vegas Raiders and the Denver Broncos have made strong starts to move to 2-0 in 2021, division favourites the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Chargers were each beaten in Week 2.

Those results ramp up the pressure heading into Week 3 when leading young quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert meet.

Mahomes sat out last year's Week 17 game, which the Chargers won on the road, but he will be involved this time and hoping to bounce back.

This is one of a number of intriguing matchups to look forward to this Sunday, as explored by Stats Perform.

Los Angeles Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs

That late-season win for the Chargers last year moved them to 2-1 at the Chiefs since the start of 2018. Kansas City are 18-4 at home to every other team in that time.

The Chiefs are a little vulnerable right now, too, having allowed a league-high 938 total net yards so far this season – music to Herbert's ears – and last week lost to the Baltimore Ravens despite leading by 11 points entering the fourth quarter. It was their first defeat with Mahomes under center when leading by double digits through three quarters, having previously gone 29-0 in such scenarios.

But the Chargers have an awful knack of coming up just short. Their 20-17 defeat to the Dallas Cowboys last time out was a league-high 16th loss by seven points or fewer since 2019.

Herbert does not know when he is beaten, though. He leads all QBs in completions (19), passing yards (271) and first-down conversions (16) on third down this season, while he is a stunning five-for-six for 112 yards and four first downs on third-and-11 or more.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Los Angeles Rams

There are also two games this week that could easily be early rehearsals for the NFC Championship Game, starting with Tom Brady versus the Rams defense.

Brady threw for five touchdowns against the Atlanta Falcons last week and became the fifth player – including a former Buc in Ryan Fitzpatrick (2018) – ever to toss four or more scores in each of the first two games of a season.

However, the Rams, who gave up a league-low 281.9 yards per game in 2020, recorded three sacks and two interceptions against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 2.

They pose a threat on offense, too, with Cooper Kupp's 271 receiving yards the third-most by a Ram through the team's first two games of a season in the past 60 yards. Reaching new heights alongside Matthew Stafford, Kupp had just 252 receiving yards over his final five games of 2020.

Green Bay Packers @ San Francisco 49ers

The Packers and the 49ers will consider themselves worthy challengers to the Bucs and the Rams, with Green Bay hoping they are now back on track after a dismal Week 1.

They restricted Kyle Shanahan's run game to 55 rushing yards in last year's matchup, with the Niners having averaged 176.8 yards on the ground across their previous eight meetings, going 6-2.

On offense, the Packers have obvious threats in the form of Aaron Jones and Aaron Rodgers.

Jones had four total TDs against the Detroit Lions, becoming the fifth running back in the past 25 yards to record three or more receiving scores in a game, while Rodgers has thrown 18 TDs to two interceptions in eight regular-season games against the Niners, with his 106.9 passer rating the highest versus San Francisco in the Super Bowl era (minimum 100 attempts).

Elsewhere...

The Seattle Seahawks are coming off their first loss under Pete Carroll when leading by 10 at halftime (now 31-1) but face favourable opponents in the Minnesota Vikings, who have lost the teams' past seven meetings – a joint-record including playoffs in the Vikings' history.

The Miami Dolphins also suffered a painful defeat last week and are unlikely to find any comfort in Jacoby Brissett's promotion in Tua Tagovailoa's absence at the Las Vegas Raiders. The backup QB has lost five of his past six games as a starter, while his streak of 146 consecutive passes without a touchdown in the NFL is the longest ongoing run.

Jameis Winston's regression for the New Orleans Saints in Week 2 came at a bad time, with the New England Patriots next up. The Pats have had four or more interceptions in a league-high 16 different games in the Bill Belichick era, including against the New York Jets last time out.

Beaten by both the 49ers and the Packers, the Lions' next test is against Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens. Jackson has rushed for 80 yards in four consecutive regular-season games, the most by any QB in the Super Bowl era.

Those numbers pale a little next to running back Derrick Henry's 182 yards and three rushing TDs in Seattle. Only Jim Brown (five) has had more 175-yard, three-score rushing games than the Tennessee Titan's four – tied with LaDainian Tomlinson. He plays the Indianapolis Colts next.

The San Francisco 49ers are 2-0 after a win over the Philadelphia Eagles defined by resilience and a desire not to fold with their backs against the wall.

San Francisco's defense found itself very much against the wall with just under six minutes remaining in the second quarter after Jalen Hurts' 91-yard completion to Quez Watkins put the Eagles inside the red zone with a chance to extend their lead to 10-0.

However, the Niners stopped the Eagles four times from inside the five-yard line to force a turnover on downs, with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo subsequently leading a 12-play, 97-yard drive that finished with a touchdown to Jauan Jennings to give San Francisco the half-time advantage.

That proved the turning point in a hard-fought 17-11 win for the Niners, who controlled the game thereafter and held the Eagles out of the endzone until a late Hurts touchdown and a successful two-point conversion gave Philadelphia a glimmer of hope.

Defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, who blocked a field goal on his return from a knee injury, said afterwards: "I think they folded before we did. And I didn't think we were going to fold at all."

Garoppolo and the offense finally got things going after three successive three-and-outs to start the game, the first time that has happened with Kyle Shanahan as head coach.

Despite their early struggles, there was never any panic on the San Francisco sideline, the 49ers rewarded for their composure as they won back-to-back games on the east coast for the second successive year having again stayed at The Greenbrier in West Virginia to adapt to the change in time zone.

"Honestly, it was calmer than I expected," said Garoppolo. "Guys weren't freaking out, it was a tough defense, we knew that going into the game it was going to be a grinder type of game, away game coming off the week in West Virginia, there was a lot of things going against us but guys stayed the course and that's what you want to see with guys.

"We're a resilient group and when we play together like that's when we're playing good.

"When you can win different ways like that it makes for a good team. I've been around this league for a while now, teams that can win in different ways whether it's offense, defense, special teams stepping up that makes for a good team."

Reinforcements may be needed on offense at the running back spot, with three players at that position suffering injuries. Elijah Mitchell was able to return from a shoulder injury that the Niners hope is just a stinger, but the severity of JaMycal Hasty's ankle problem is not yet known while Trey Sermon suffered a head injury on debut.

"He said he was good enough to come back in, so that's when you think it's a stinger, but until you have time to go and get an MRI and stuff like that, you never know," Shanahan said of Mitchell.

"But we're hoping it was just a stinger. You usually feel good about it the way he was talking and the way he was able to come back in the game."

Having already lost Raheem Mostert for the season, the Niners will hope to have at least one of their top three backs ready when they host the Green Bay Packers on Sunday and attempt to move to 3-0.

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