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Previewing Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and the Chiefs’ potent offense

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Robert Saleh better have his troops ready for Sunday.

Kansas City Chiefs v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The 49ers will be limping into Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday, after narrowly escaping the clutches of defeat against the Lions. What awaits them? Oh, just the NFL’s hottest offense, featuring the likes of quarterback Patrick Mahomes, wideout Tyreek Hill, and tight end Travis Kelce. On top of all of that, they have one of the most creative play callers, Andy Reid, to push all the right buttons.

Through the first two weeks of the season, the Chiefs are the highest scoring offense at 40 points per game. Their signal caller leads the league in passing touchdowns, with 10. Their No. 1 receiver is third in the NFL with 259 receiving yards. Per Pro Football Focus, the Chiefs’ offense has at least four players with a grade of 86.0 — Mahomes, Kelce, Hill and newly-acquired wideout Sammy Watkins.

Kansas City continues to have balance in their offense, running 59 pass plays to 52 run plays. But their passing offense been wildly effective, averaging 10.4 yards per attempt, which is second in the NFL to Tampa Bay’s 13.4 Y/A.

49ers’ defensive coordinator Robert Saleh will have his hands full this week trying to create a scheme to slow down this Chiefs’ offense. Let’s take a look at some highlights of Mahomes, Hill and Kansas City’s passing offense to give 49ers’ fans an idea of what’s coming on Sunday.

First up, here’s a play early in the Chiefs’ opener against the Chargers. It’s a simple slant route from Hill, who makes the catch on the run and takes it to the house for 58 yards. Hill was able to successfully find the open spot in the zone and the Chargers’ safety takes a bad angle to the tackle, allowing the Chiefs’ wideout to sneak by. Poor angles from defenders and Hill will throw up the peace sign on the way to the end zone.

Here’s a play that Reid loves to run with the Chiefs. When they motion either Hill or wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas and leave the edge defender unblocked, it likely means that this toss play is coming. In this instance, Hill is able to take it for 21 yards. The 49ers’ edge defenders will have to make the tackle, otherwise it’ll turn into a huge gain.

This clip below shows Mahomes’ arm strength, as he throws an absolute laser — (reminded me of Colin Kaepernick, actually) — to Watkins for a 16-yard gain. The throw wasn’t on target, but Watkins is able to lay out and make the diving catch to set up the Chiefs for a first and goal.

Aaron Rodgers or Patrick Mahomes? I mean Mahomes is scrambling to the right and throws an absolute dart to Hill for 34 yards on a third-down play. If the 49ers’ pass rush allows Mahomes to leak out of the pocket, he still has the ability to make devastating plays with his arm.

Now on the flip side, Mahomes shows off his touch on the deep throw here. The Chiefs’ fullback Anthony Sherman comes out of the backfield, easily beating the Chargers’ linebacker down the sideline. Mahomes drops in the throw perfectly over the linebacker’s head, allowing Sherman to score easily.

Now against Pittsburgh, the Chiefs’ offense was highly efficient. They scored 42 points on 54 plays, scored touchdowns on all four red-zone trips and completed 82 percent of their passing attempts. Mahomes is definitely no rookie on the field, he’s able to dissect the Steelers’ defense here, finding the breakdown and beating them for a 15-yard touchdown to wideout Chris Conley.

Kelce was awfully quiet in Week 1, for his standards, but joined the passing party in Pittsburgh. This throw from Mahomes was behind the tight end, but Kelce is able to turn around and make the 19-yard catch in between defenders for his first touchdown.

Here’s an example of something the 49ers’ cornerbacks can’t do against Hill. Steelers’ corner Artie Burns doesn’t jam Hill at the line of scrimmage, allowing a free release and gets burned for 36 yards. 49ers’ corner Ahkello Witherspoon — who’s likely getting the Hill assignment — will either need to play off of the speedster or press him at the line, otherwise it could be six points on the scoreboard for the Chiefs.

Another bread and butter play for the Chiefs is to use the middle of the field for their super star tight end. 49ers’ safety Jaquiski Tartt, along with linebackers Fred Warner and Reuben Foster, will likely get the challenge of guarding Kelce on Sunday. The Chiefs get 31 easy yards on this pitch and catch to Kelce right up the middle of the field.

Last, Mahomes is solid in the face of pressure. Last Sunday in Pittsburgh, Mahomes completed eight of 12 passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns against the blitz, per Pro Football Focus. The 49ers are going to have to be careful bringing extra rushers, because they are going to be exposed in the back end against the Chiefs’ weapons.

Steelers’ T.J. Watt blitzes Mahomes and the Chiefs’ quarterback throws right into the blitz, making it look extremely trivial. It turns into an easy 11-yard gain to Hill.

Simply put, the Chiefs’ potent offense should be lethal on Sunday, if they don’t self destruct. I think the 49ers’ defense is going to struggle stopping the array of weapons that Mahomes has at his disposal from Hill to Kelce to Watkins to running back Kareem Hunt.

The addition of Foster will be key, allowing him and Warner to man the middle of the field. Corner Ahkello Witherspoon will need to bounce back after last week’s clunker and veteran Richard Sherman will need to be solid. The 49ers’ pass rush outside of lineman DeForest Buckner has been inconsistent, but they’ll need to generate pressure by only rushing four on Sunday.

If I had to guess, I’d predict that this matchup ends up being a track meet between the two offenses, similar to the Chiefs-Steelers game last week. If the 49ers’ offense isn’t able to score at a high clip, this could end up getting ugly.