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Four takeaways from the Chiefs-Titans and what it means for the 49ers

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I’d be worried about their stars

AFC Championship - Tennessee Titans v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

We had our takeaways from the 49ers thumping of the Packers. Now let’s take a look at San Francisco’s opponent, the Kansas City Chiefs.

Mahomes is money

Lamar Jackson deserved the MVP. He put on a show this season, but Patrick Mahomes will be the most challenging matchup the Niners face all season. That’s in a year where they faced Jackson, Aaron Donald twice, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Julio Jones, and several other top players around the league. Mahomes has always had the gift to extend the play with his backyard football style, but in the AFC Championship, Mahomes used his legs to run, and that’s a problem. The Chiefs gunslinger had that highlight touchdown run that went for 27 yards, but he also ran for four first downs, including another run that went for over ten yards.

That’s not even the scary part of what Mahomes brings to the table. The rocket launcher attached to his right shoulder means the Chiefs are a home run threat every time Mahomes drops back. He went 3-4 on throws over 20 yards, and two of those were for touchdowns. I think Mahomes was an afterthought this season once he was injured. He’s healthy now and as dangerous as ever.

These slow starts won’t work against San Francisco

Kansas City has gone down two possessions in both playoff games. They came back against the Texans and went on a 51-7 run, something that would be difficult to do in any sport on any level. The Chiefs trailed Kansas City 17-7, but eventually wore out the Titans. In the second quarter, Derrick Henry takes a toss to the left and inexplicably cuts back into the teeth of the defense. If Henry stays on his path, he likely gains five or six yards. He doesn’t, and it’s a gain of one yard. The Titans run it again on the next play; then the left tackle gets beat. Two plays later, the punt team comes out. The next possession Ryan Tannehill one-hops, a slant to A.J. Brown for a, would be first down. Henry is stuffed again on 2nd & 1, then a holding call on the next play makes it 3rd & 10, and the Titans have to punt once again.

We haven’t seen those mistakes from the 49ers offense. The motion will play a vital part in the success San Francisco has against the Chiefs. More on that as we get closer to the game.

Beware of the Honey Badger

How Dee Ford being on the field opens up things for the rest of the Niners defensive line, and Kwon Alexander provides energy and enthusiasm that gives the defense life, combine both of those, and you have Tyrann Mathieu. He’s unreal. If Donald was the best defensive player San Francisco has seen all year; Honey Badger is the most dangerous. There was one play near the goal line where Mathieu was lined up in the slot, timed his blitz perfectly, and stopped Henry in the backfield. He also had a pass breakup and another stop during the game. He roams around underneath in coverage, daring you to throw the ball. Jimmy Garoppolo needs to identify 32 like quarterbacks identify the MIKE linebacker every play. He’s a pain in the site decorum. For what he means to Kansas City’s defense, Mathieu would have gotten my Defensive Player of the Year vote. He’s been that good all season, and that has carried into the playoffs.

Physicality will prevail

Kansas City did a great job stopping Henry and the Titans run game on early downs. As I mentioned above, Henry left some yards on the field, and Tennessee didn’t take advantage when they needed to. I can see San Francisco pushing the Chiefs front seven around and getting into advantageous situations where the 49ers offense continues to roll. Henry picked the worst time to have an off game because, from my point of view, the Titans offensive line dominated the Chiefs front aside from a play here and there. That may have been the most encouraging takeaway from the game. It was the cliche smash-mouth football, and Kansas City was pushed around a bit, not unlike the Niners past two opponents. I’ll drown you with stats and film when we preview the game next week, but Shanahan has to like his chances on offense.