The return of football was heralded as the San Francisco 49ers engaged in a preseason showdown against the Raiders in Las Vegas on Sunday afternoon. This came after a week of joint practice sessions. While many of the 49ers’ projected starters took part in training, most of the first-string offense and defense were absent from the preseason opener. The game highlighted young talents, drafted players, fresh faces on the team, and undrafted additions.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan acknowledged the advantages of the joint practices, which allowed key players to rest during the game. “I didn’t find much enjoyment in today’s game, but it provided valuable opportunities for many players to showcase their skills and earn spots on our team. It also gives us a chance to provide coaching feedback tomorrow,” Shanahan commented.
Here are six key takeaways from the matchup
Quarterback Competition Continues
Trey Lance, entering his third year as a quarterback, took the reins for the game’s start. After an initial adjustment period, Lance’s performance surged during the second quarter. A standout moment was his connection with tight end Ross Dwelley, resulting in a nine-yard touchdown pass. Lance’s resilience was evident when his pass was deflected by a Raiders cornerback, only to be caught by Dwelley for the score. Lance’s notable play came in a third-down conversion to wide receiver Chris Conley, a 17-yard throw over the middle. He concluded the day with 10-of-15 completions, 112 yards, a touchdown, and a passer rating of 111.0.
In the second half, Sam Darnold took over as quarterback, guiding the 49ers into Raiders territory during two out of three drives. However, scoring opportunities were squandered due to turnovers on downs, a fumble, and a missed field goal. Brandon Allen took the helm early in the fourth quarter, completing five of eight passes for 36 yards.
Clelin Ferrell’s Impact
Defensive lineman Clelin Ferrell, a former first-round pick, secured his first sack in a 49ers uniform. Signed by San Francisco after a stint with the Raiders, Ferrell sacked Raiders quarterback Aidan O’Connell, leading to a loss of six yards and an eventual punt by the Raiders. His distinctive “fishing pole” sack celebration made its debut with red and gold.
Ambry Thomas Shines
Cornerback Ambry Thomas, who had a strong training camp showing, continued to impress with impactful plays during the game. Despite dealing with an ankle injury in the previous season, Thomas demonstrated his prowess with two crucial pass breakups and a fourth-down run stop. His contribution was pivotal in halting the Raiders’ offensive efforts.
Jake Moody’s Debut
Rookie kicker Jake Moody, a third-round selection in the 2023 NFL Draft, marked his NFL debut at Allegiant Stadium. Despite missing two field goal attempts, Moody was flawless in extra-point attempts. Shanahan expressed confidence in Moody’s abilities and dismissed concerns about the kicking situation.
Punt Returner Possibilities
With wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud III sidelined due to a broken wrist, several candidates were vying for the role of the team’s punt and kick returner. Wide receiver Ronnie Bell showcased his potential in the first half, contributing to both the return game and the passing game. He fielded punts and kick returns, along with recording three catches for 57 yards.
The 49ers’ offensive production was hindered by turnovers, with the Raiders capitalizing on fumbles and tipped passes. This resulted in 14 points for Las Vegas, compounded by missed field goal opportunities, leading to a notable point difference in the game.