The 49ers suffered their worst loss of the season at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs, falling 44-23 at Levi’s Stadium and moving San Francisco to 3-4 on the season. Here are my five takeaways from the 21-point beatdown the 49ers were dealt by Patrick Mahomes and Co.
Lost the battle at the line of scrimmage
There are plenty of places to place the blame for this one, but the main reason the 49ers lost this game is the same reason that causes 90% of teams to lose football games. They lost the battle at the line of scrimmage and got flat-out bullied in the trenches.
They had a hard time applying pressure on Mahomes and the Chiefs' passing attack, registering just one sack to go along with a handful of pressures that fell well below their season average.
They could not stop the run, as Kansas City racked up over 100 yards on the ground at an average of 5.3 yards per carry. The Chiefs scored three touchdowns on the ground in this one while regularly dominating the interior of the 49ers' defensive line as they worked to the second level of the field.
The Chiefs defensive line wreaked havoc on the 49ers' air attack in this game, registering five sacks, including a safety in the fourth quarter on a sack by Frank Clark that effectively ended this game.
If there was any shining light in the trenches for the 49ers in this game, it was the way they were able to create rushing lanes for their own offense, as they averaged 5.6 yards per carry on 17 rushing attempts by running backs in this game.
The most concerning thing is the way that the 49ers' defense has been bullied by their opponents on the ground over the last two weeks, primarily because without Arik Armstead and Javon Kinlaw, there likely isn’t any quick fix on the table to immediately alleviate their recent woes stopping the run.
Christian McCaffrey flashes in his 49ers debut
After being acquired late Thursday night, the fact McCaffrey was even on the field less than 72 hours later was impressive enough in its own right. Shanahan made it clear going into this game that McCaffrey would be on a pitch count in his debut, which ended up being a total of 10 touches on 21 offensive snaps.
The bright side is that McCaffrey looked every bit the part of the game-breaking talent that he was acquired to be, averaging 6.2 yards per touch on the 10 plays where he touched the football in this game.
Half of McCaffrey’s touches went for at least nine yards, including four plays of at least ten yards. McCaffrey is far and away the best running back that Shanahan has ever had, and the footwork and vision he possesses are a match made in heaven for the outside zone scheme that is the backbone of the 49ers' offense.
McCaffrey was not on the field for any third down’s in this one, likely due to the lack of time to get familiar with protections on such short notice, but expect him to get a lot of work on the money down next week and moving forward.
The 49ers kickoff unit continues to struggle
Chiefs running back Isaiah Pacheco returned five kicks for a total of 126 yards, including a 48-yard return that had an additional 15 yards tacked on to it due to an unnecessary roughness penalty on Juan Jennings at the end of the run.
It was the third consecutive week that the 49ers' kickoff coverage unit allowed an opposing player to average at least 25 yards per return. Gifting opposing teams' great field position as a result of poor execution on kickoff coverage cannot continue if the 49ers are going to have any chance of reversing their recent skid.
Self-inflicted mistakes continue to pile up
The 49ers committed ten penalties for a total of 80 yards against the Chiefs. It was the third time this season that the 49ers committed nine or more penalties in a game. San Francisco has committed 48 penalties for a total of 350 yards this season for an average of 6.8 per game.
Arik Armstead’s absence has been felt in a major way
The 49ers haven’t allowed an opponent to rush for over 100 yards in 15 consecutive games when Armstead is on the field. This season they have allowed opponents to eclipse 100 rushing yards in three of the four games that Armstead has missed.
In the three games Armstead has played this season, the 49ers have allowed 64 rushing yards per game. In the games Armstead has missed that number has nearly doubled to 111.25 yards per game. Getting number 91 back healthy will go a long way in rectifying their recent troubles of stopping the run.