NFL News & Analysis

NFL Week 17 Game Recap: San Francisco 49ers 23, Houston Texans 7

Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (5) looks to throw a pass against the Houston Texans in the first quarter at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers kept their playoff dreams alive after dispatching the Houston Texans, 23-7, in Week 17. Rookie first-rounder Trey Lance started and gave 49ers fans a look at Kyle Shanahan’s offense under a new dynamic, with 249 yards and two touchdowns through the air.

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San Francisco 49ers

Quarterback

Trey Lance made one true rookie mistake in working through his progressions, leading to an ugly interception. Outside of that, he completed 70% of his throws on an average depth of target of 12.1 yards. Pushing the ball downfield will unlock a new layer to San Francisco’s offense.

Dropbacks 26
Passing Yards Per Attempt 10.8
Passing First Downs 10
Carries 8
Rushing Yards Per Carry 3.9
Rushing First Downs 1
Running Back

Kyle Shanahan needs little help to scheme up running lanes for his backs, so having Trey Lance create extra gaps is pure surplus value for Elijah Mitchell. Mitchell’s return to the field should inspire confidence that he’s ready for a playoff run, averaging 5.7 yards on his 21 carries.

Wide Receiver/Tight End

Brandon Aiyuk took the top off Houston’s defense, and Deebo Samuel worked in the intermediate areas to the tune of 157 yards on 12 targets, with Samuel punching in a receiving touchdown. Aiyuk’s average depth of target was north of 17 yards, and Samuel’s was just a shade above 10.

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Offensive Line

Thanks to the downhill runs, play-action passes and quarterback run threats, it was easy for an already strong offensive line to keep Trey Lance clean in his dropbacks. Trent Williams went without allowing any pressure on his 26 pass-blocking snaps and is still one of the best offensive linemen in the league, if not the best.

Defensive Line

Arden Key wasn’t exactly the edge rusher many would have thought to have a breakout performance against the Houston Texans’ pass protection, but his seven pressures led all 49ers linemen. Three of his pressures were hits. Samson Ebukam added six pressures and 1.5 sacks of his own.

Linebackers

Fred Warner was the star he’s always been, logging five solo tackles and two run stops from 26 run snaps. Warner was targeted seven times in coverage and allowed a touchdown, but he gave up just 26 yards and logged five more solo tackles.

Solo Tackles 10
Run Stops 2
Pass Stops 3
Passing Yards Allowed 27
Average Depth of Tackle on Runs 3.4
Secondary

The 49ers' defensive backfield was targeted just 14 times and allowed only 82 yards against Davis Mills and Houston’s passing attack. No corner played more than 10 snaps in press, evidence that Sunday’s game was more about sound coverage and affecting the pocket than locking down in man coverage.

Houston Texans

Quarterback

Davis Mills has put up a few stat lines that belied his ability to threaten NFL defenses, but San Francisco was prepared to take away the layup throws he enjoys with coverage and pass rush. He was sacked three times and threw past the sticks on just 37% of his attempts.

Dropbacks 36
Yards Per Attempt 5.1
Average Depth of Target 6.0
Passer Rating 75.4
Passing First Downs 6
Running Back

The gaps looked much different for Rex Burkhead after his performance against the Chargers a week ago, putting up 47 yards on 16 carries. The defensive line seemed to do all the work for San Francisco, with 98% of his yardage coming after contact.

Carries 16
Yards Per Carry 2.9
1st Down & Touchdown Rate 12.5%
Yards After Contact % 98%
Explosive Runs 0
Wide Receiver/Tight End

There wasn’t anywhere near the kind of vertical space or one-on-one matchups for Brandin Cooks that he’s become accustomed to, seeing 10 targets and ending up with just 66 yards through the air. Cooks’ touchdown was the only passing score for Houston, and he was the only wideout targeted more than five yards downfield, on average.

Offensive Line

Geron Christian Sr. allowed the most pressures of all linemen who played in this game, conceding six in 36 opportunities. Two of those pressures were hits on Davis Mills, and another resulted in a sack.

Defensive Line

Jacob Martin was the only productive Texans defensive lineman against the pass, logging five pressures in his 16 tries. He led his team in total pressures and pressure rate. Martin also added a tackle for loss in the run game.

Linebackers

To play the 49ers as a linebacker is to be manipulated in every way possible, and Christian Kirksey gave Sunday’s game his best. On 35 run snaps, he returned two run stops and five solo tackles but allowed 58 yards on just four targets in coverage.

Secondary

Desmond King II performed well, allowing just 14 yards, but the rest of the defensive backfield struggled to force the ball down to underneath throws. Tavierre Thomas allowed 44 yards on just two targets, Eric Murray gave up 51 on three targets and Justin Reid surrendered 29 on one throw.

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