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Shanahan on the 49ers defense after the game: I think we’re better than that

It would be tough for the defense to play worse...

Kansas City Chiefs v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Monday’s after a game turn into finger-pointing, and fans doing their best to find out who was at fault for the 49ers' loss. But, you have to look at the NFL on a week-to-week basis. In Week 7, the 49ers were destroyed, dismantled, and out-everything’d against the Chiefs.

Kansas City scored four touchdowns in the second half. Those drives took 1:32, 4:10, 3:33, and 2:44. DeMeco Ryans was outcoached for the first time all season. When he ran man coverage, the Chiefs threw back shoulder fades.

When the Niners were in a zone, the Chiefs would run some of their patented zone-beaters, like a ‘sail’ concept, or find a soft spot in the middle of the field.

To prevent Nick Bosa and the defensive line from teeing off on Patrick Mahomes, Andy Reid moved the launch point of the quarterback by rolling him out. We also saw jet sweeps and motions across the formation with Bosa flying upfield, effectively taking himself out of the play.

You could see Bosa’s frustration on the field, especially after the Chiefs picked up a big play. Bosa was handcuffed, whether he was blocked or unblocked. Kansas City had a masterful gameplan against Bosa, unlike anything we’ve seen against him.

It didn’t matter if it was against the run or the pass; the 49ers looked clueless and unprepared. After the game, Kyle Shanahan was asked if it was a bit of a shock to see an offense go up and down the field against his top-rated defense:

“Yeah, it’s disappointing. I think we’re better than that. They had some pretty big plays where it seemed like there was a lot of space. I have to look at the film to see what happened, but yeah, that was disappointing. I believe we're better than that.”

The defense didn’t exactly get prepped for Mahomes before this game. They’ve faced Justin Fields, Geno Smith, Russell Wilson, Matthew Stafford, Baker Mayfield, and Marcus Mariota.

And to be fair, there isn’t a quarterback that’s on Mahomes' level. He proves it weekly, and Sunday was no different. But the 49ers made life easy on the Chiefs. Still, they were in the game up until midway through the third quarter once Kansas City went up two possessions.

Here’s Shanahan on the sequence that put the game out of reach:

“They went down on a huge score. I think they had a third-and-20. They opened up scoring. I thought we did a good job answering right away. I thought we had our best drive there on the offense the first possession of the third quarter.

Then I believe we got them in a third-and-20 the next time they had a 34-yard screen pass, which was unacceptable. They went down and scored. I thought the part that got out of the hand the most was we had a pretty good kickoff return.

We had a holding call that put us back inside-the-five and ended up going three-and-out there with the safety and then they made some big plays after that.”

No matter which side of the ball it is, when it rains, it pours. San Francisco went two quarters against Mahomes, where they totaled six points. That’s what’s unacceptable. The defense couldn’t have played worse, despite having a 10-0 lead.

The 49ers are missing their defensive tackles, and it shows. Between Kerry Hyder, Hasaan Ridgeway, and Akeem Spence, the 49ers' defensive tackles don’t have any wins rushing the passer in two games. With Arik Armstead in the lineup, the Niners were among the league leaders in pass-rush win rate inside, at 11.6%.

The domino effect trickles to the second level. Now, your linebackers aren’t kept clean. During the past two weeks, the run-stop win rate from San Francisco’s linebackers is down nearly 10 percent.

Third-down struggles continue

Each time the defense made a stop on early downs, the Chiefs would answer on third down. Kansas City converted 66 percent of their third downs. They’ve been among the best in the league all season, but how they converted Sunday was troubling.

Here’s Shanahan on if he could find any commonalities on why the Niners allowed big plays:

“Yeah, we knew going in how big of a challenge it’d be. That’s why I think they’re second in league on third downs, one of the best quarterbacks ever for a third-down situation. Didn’t seem like we got a lot of pressure on them from what I saw.

When we had them in the longer yardages, you try hard to keep them in the pockets so they can’t get the off-schedules, but they were still able to get a big off-schedule it looked like, especially one down the field I think on that post throw. And then when you give up a screen that gives him an easy one that adds up.”

Per Tru Media, in the last decade, no quarterback’s passes result in first downs at a higher rate than Mahomes. He’s quite literally the best of this era when it comes to moving the ball.

I mentioned how Reid rolled Mahomes out and had wrinkles to keep the defensive line off balance. Ryans only blitzed nine times. On those plays, Mahomes was 6-for-9 for 97 yards and a touchdown. His three incompletions were all drops. The 49ers had success when they did pressure Mahomes, but that only happened on 11 of his 35 dropbacks.

Bosa had a sack, while Kevin Givens and Drake Jackson both had quarterback hits. Pressures don’t cut it against elite quarterbacks. You have to bring them to the ground. The 49ers couldn’t, and the Chiefs deserve credit for scheming around a dominant defensive line.

We haven’t touched on the secondary. Both Jimmie and Mooney Ward were targeted a combined 12 times. They allowed 12 receptions for 146 yards and two touchdowns. Shanahan said, “we didn’t play that well as a group,” which is the understatement of the year.

And while we only focused on the defense in this article, the offense or special teams didn’t do their part, either. As Joe Staley said on KNBR, “That was a big pooper. That was bad, bad all around.”

The 49ers season isn’t over. Sunday was a case where they ran into a juggernaut off a loss and were on the receiving end of a thorough butt-kicking. This team has the potential to play at a high level but proved in Week 7 they’re not in the same company as the NFL’s elite.