When the Chiefs schedule came out, few thought the team would enter their home opening contest with a 2-0 record. After the two big road wins, the excitement has continued to rise coming into this Sunday. It will be Patrick Mahomes‘ first career home start as a Chief. The fans will be ready to get Arrowhead Stadium rocking like they do every home game. Let’s go ahead and take a look at some headlines coming into Sunday’s Chiefs-49ers game.
Great Minds Think Alike
Even though the players are the ones who determine the outcome of the game, it will be interesting to see how these two head coaches gameplan their offenses. Andy Reid is known as one of the best quarterback tutors in recent history. On the flip side, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan has a fairly successful resume as a play caller.
Shanahan is in just his second season as head coach of the 49ers, but this is his eleventh season of calling plays. Shanahan’s first shot at offensive coordinator came with the Houston Texans in 2008, when he became the youngest coordinator in the NFL (28 years old) at that time. Afterwards, he joined his father Mike in Washington. That is where the younger Shanahan started to get noticed around the league for play designs and his creativity. Other career highlights as OC include leading the Falcons offense in 2016. That year, Atlanta was the highest scoring offense in the league and their quarterback Matt Ryan received MVP honors. That offense also took the Falcons to Super Bowl 51.
This will be the thirteenth all-time meeting between these two franchises, with the 49ers leading the series 7-5. Besides the head to head matchups, there is some deeper history between San Francisco and Kansas City.
Let’s start with the 1994 Chiefs home opener, a highly anticipated contest between quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young. Former teammates in San Francisco, their relationship had turned into a heated, personal rivalry. Montana took a hard hit in the 1990 playoffs, and he would miss most of the next two seasons. In 1992, Young would win the NFL MVP award. He led the 49ers to a 14-2 record and the NFC Championship Game, where they would lose against the Cowboys.
Come April 1993, Montana was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs. Montana would join newly signed free agent running back Marcus Allen in Kansas and the Chiefs would reach the 1993 AFC Championship Game, falling to the Buffalo Bills. Then, in the Chiefs 1994 home opener, Montana and Young dueled in a shootout, in which Kansas City would win 24-17. Derrick Thomas had one of the hardest hits in that game when he sacked Young near the end zone.
Eventually, we saw another quarterback trade between the 49ers and Chiefs. In March 2013, Alex Smith would join Kansas City after spending his first eight seasons of his career with the 49ers, the team who drafted him first overall in 2005. This was a big upgrade for the Chiefs, as Smith would lead the team to the playoffs four out of five seasons. Meanwhile, the 49ers would go through some rough seasons after the trade. They parted ways with Jim Harbaugh after the 2014 season, despite being one of the most successful coaches in team history. Smith’s successor, Colin Kaepernick, would quickly fall under expectations and his tenure in San Francisco did not last all that long.
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Matchup to Watch: 49ers Running Backs vs Chiefs Run Defense
The 49ers signed running back Jerick McKinnon to a 4 year, $30 million contract this offseason. He was slated to have a big role in the San Francisco offense until he suffered a torn ACL right before the regular season. The 49ers have found steady performance in his replacements though. Veteran Alfred Morris is a tough-nosed back, who can run between the tackles. Also, Matt Breida is turning in big performances. Last week against Detroit, Breida produced 159 total yards on 14 touches with a touchdown.
The better part of Kansas City’s defense has been the run defense. But, they can’t sleep against these runners who can make defenders look silly in open space. The 49ers may look to swing their backs to the outside which is a better matchup than running inside against the Chiefs front.
Patrick Mahomes set an NFL record with last week’s six passing touchdown performance to lift the Chiefs over the Steelers. Mahomes became the first in NFL history to throw ten touchdowns in the first two weeks of a season. This beat out Peyton Manning (2013) and Drew Brees (2009) who had nine touchdowns apiece to open those seasons.
As mentioned, this is Mahomes first home start as a Chief. He is just the second quarterback since 1970 who has won three consecutive road games in his first three career starts. The only other quarterback to do it was Jeff Hostetler from 1988-1990.
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