The 49ers can’t spot the Kansas City Chiefs' a seven-point lead for most of the second half as they did against the Green Bay Packers. If the Niners go down 14-0 to Patrick Mahomes, it’s unlikely they’ll be as fortunate as they were against the Detroit Lions.
That’s stating the obvious. So is “turning the ball over.” When you think about this game, what else can’t the 49ers afford to do? What do the Chiefs do that scare you? The Niners stopping Kansas City’s screen game is at the top of my list.
We saw Green Bay and Detroit take advantage of the 49ers’ aggression in the running game. The Chiefs will use that nature against them, just on screens.
They manufacture easy yards and stay out of long down and distance situations. Rashee Rice has shown the ability to break a screen for a big play, while Travis Kelce stumbles his way for six or seven yards.
The Chiefs are going to get the ball to the perimeter and force the Niners to tackle. But it won’t be a routine screen. We can expect plenty of misdirection. It’ll be a big day for the secondary as far as tackling is concerned.
Steve Wilks can’t be static all game. The 49ers defense lines up and plays what they show before the ball is snapped roughly 80 percent of the time. That’s worked because the linebackers take away the middle of the field, and the defensive line gets pressure.
But against an offensive mind like Andy Reid, who uses plenty of pre-snap motion to get the defense to tip its hand, playing soft coverage and a vanilla defense, in general, makes life easy on one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play.
In the red zone, Kelce running some out and up or back shoulder fade has been highly successful. Mahomes can put the ball wherever he wants, and Kelce has the best hands in the NFL, according to Kyle Shanahan.
The 49ers love to run Cover 4, and an easy way to manipulate quarters coverage is by running that double move type of look, where it’d be Kelce on Deommodore Lenoir down the field.
Shanahan can’t bail on the running game, regardless of whether it’s 27-7, 49ers, or San Francisco ends up trailing early. Christian McCaffrey is too skilled of a runner, and the Niners have significant advantages, from speed to scheme, to keep the ball out of CMC’s hands.
Does the Chiefs’ defense scare you? Are you buying into what you’re hearing on sports talk radio and TV?
The Baltimore Ravens were the only team with a better rushing attack than the 49ers during the regular season, but they only scored three points in the second half and didn’t score another touchdown after their second drive of the game.
The Bills only reached the end zone once in the second half during the Divisional round. Despite throwing the ball 39 times, Josh Allen only threw for 186 yards.
Mike McDaniel and the Miami Dolphins were a high-flying offense during the regular season but only scored once on 11 drives in a playoff game.
You can poke holes in the Chiefs’ resume, but they’ve limited three of the most efficient offenses in the NFL in the playoffs. Steve Spagnuolo should scare you. He will blitz any player from any spot on the field. The Detroit Lions’ cornerback blitzes pale compared to what Kansas City will bring. They have some of the most creative five-man pressures in the NFL.
Those are my answers. What are yours?