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Lessons from the first KC-SF game this year

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Everyone seems to forget that the Niners already beat these guys

NFL: Preseason-San Francisco 49ers at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

“Who will win the Super Bowl? I don’t know; it’s such a big mystery!!”

Why can’t pundits admit the obvious? These teams played earlier this year, and San Francisco beat Kansas City handily. And we can take a lot of lessons from that game.

Richie James Jr. and KC’s Damien Williams are the main deep threats to worry about. Kyle Shurmur will probably throw more passes than Patrick Mahomes, and BD Nick Mullens will take over in the second half after Garoppolo is benched, and lead the 49ers to victory.

OK, it was a preseason game, when the two best play-callers in football were running vanilla plays and testing out marginal players. But this game can tell you more than you might imagine.

It was the third game of the preseason, after all, the one that comes closest to “real.” Jimmy G played a full half, and Mahomes played two drives (generating a touchdown and a field goal).

Lessons learned

So what did we learn?

Tevin Coleman was fully healthy and got most of the snaps against Kansas City’s starters. He was not very effective. Nine carries for 19 yards, a 2.1 average with a long of FIVE yards. That’s the best he managed in nine carries.

Granted, he did not have the advantage of Shanahan’s best run plays, but then again, he didn’t see any tricky defenses or run blitzes. This suggests that either he wasn’t up to speed on Shanahan’s system yet — unlikely since he played for him in Atlanta, too — or he simply doesn’t match up well with the Chiefs’ players.

Raheem the Dream

I’d expect to see a lot of Raheem Mostert in the Super Bowl. Especially since the equally speedy Matt Breida was great (6.3 yards per carry) and head-and-shoulders above the other RBs, who averaged 3.8 YPC (Austin Walters and Jeff Wilson, Jr.) or 2.1 YPC (Coleman).

Breida is in Kyle Shanahan’s doghouse now, largely because of fumbles; three in the last four games, losing two. So don’t expect to see a lot of him in the Super Bowl. (He got one snap in the NFC Championship game, picking up 2 yards, and eight carries in the divisional round, averaging 2.1 yards and losing a fumble. That ain’t gonna cut it.

But the lesson of the preseason game was that it takes speed to gash Kansas City’s starting defense, and right now, that means Mostert.

Lining up

Another signal was that Ben Garland had a good game, playing 38 snaps. That was a prophecy of his good work late in the year, after starting center Weston Richburg was injured, since Richburg didn’t play in this game. And it’s encouraging he matched up well against Kansas City once already this season. Garland had one of the top 5 PFF scores (82.0) against the Chiefs.

Missing Pieces

On the other side of the ball, Mahomes did well — pretty much like everyone is predicting that he’ll do today. But keep in mind how many defenders were missing from that effort — Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, and K’Waun Williams were all out. Richard Sherman had one of the team’s five worst defensive performances (by PFF score), a situation that obviously didn’t continue.

San Francisco also played Kansas City in 2018, but the teams were so different that there is no useful way to compare them. The obvious point is that Garoppolo tore his ACL in this game, though up to that point, he had played Mahomes nearly even (20-30 for 251 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT) despite facing a much tougher pass rush. (Jimmy G did put the ball on the ground three times though.)

Alfred Morris, Pierre Garcon, and Cassius Marsh were big parts of that Niners’ team and Kareem Hunt for KC. It’s just not really useful information.