5 Keys to Victory: Chiefs vs. 49ers Follow Up

Aug 16, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore (21) runs for yardage as Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Eric Berry (29) defends during the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. San Francisco won 15-13. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Last night, we all watched the Kansas City Chiefs blow a late, fourth quarter lead to lose to the San Francisco 49ers 15-13. While it was a low scoring game and the only touchdown scored was by the Chiefs’ newly tooled, prolific special teams, there were some positives to the game. They weren’t many, but they were there. However, this is about why the Chiefs lost, not what they did right.

Yesterday, I posted the five things I thought the Chiefs had to do in order to beat the 49ers. As you go through this post, my original comments are in plain type, and my follow up thoughts to last night’s game are in bold.

1. Hold the line!

The New Orleans Saints had perhaps one of the worst defenses in the NFL last season. Despite the hiring of Rob Ryan as the new defensive coordinator in the off season, and the switch to the 3-4 from the 4-3, I don’t think they got much better. That is not true for the 49ers. The 49ers defense is good. It’s scary good. They have all-pros at most positions, especially the D-Line in Aldon Smith and linebackers Patrick Willis and the aforementioned Bowman. If the Chiefs expect to move the ball as well as they did last week, the O-line will have to create a barrier around Alex Smith and not allow any penetration by Aldon Smith (no relation.) If any of the 49er defenders set up camp in the Chiefs’ backfield, it could make for a long night.

While the buildup to the game were the comments made by Alex Smith’s former teammate NaVarro Bowman, regarding hitting Smith, each and every 49er defender took it to heart. The 49er defense found all three Chiefs’ quarterbacks on seven separate occasions. Alex Smith went down, Chase Daniel went down, and probably the most disheartening, on what could have been the game winning drive, Tyler Bray went down on third and long. The Chiefs’ offensive line struggled against every form and string the 49ers threw at them. The starters struggled against the “1’s” and the “2’s.” The backups struggled against every one. As one commenter in the live thread put it last night, if our line continues to struggle like this, the Chiefs won’t even be able to beat Jacksonville in week one. A grim thought, indeed.

Key #1: Not Achieved

2. Control the pistol!

While preseason playbooks tend to be quite vanilla, 49er’s head coach doesn’t have much to hide from the Chiefs considering his playoff winning quarterback now calls Kansas City home. I expect to see Colin Kaepernick run plays out of the “pistol” formation and try to fool the Chiefs’ defense with the run option that formation lends itself to. Andy Reid took special care in hiring Chris Ault (the Pistoleer if you will) to come in and not only coach the Chiefs’ offense in running the Pistol, but the defense in stopping it. Chiefs’ defenders will need to “stay at home” and ensure they contain the explosive #7 wearing Niner’s red and gold on Friday night.

Perhaps one of the biggest shockers of the night was that 49er starting signal caller, Colin Kaepernick, only played one series. His numbers were…less than stellar 1/3 with -3 yards. One of those incompletions was a huge overthrow of a wide open receiver that would have been a touchdown. The point here is, the Chiefs didn’t have to worry much about “Kap” running wild on them. However, they did lose containment on a couple of the other 49er QB’s later in the game. Specifically, they allowed Colt McCoy to scramble for a first on a third and long play. It was one play, and not even run out of the “Pistol,” but it exposed the Chiefs’ defense a bit. On the night, the 49ers’ QBs were able to rush for 53 total yards against a defense that held up pretty well in most other respects. Not encouraging.

Key #2: Achieved

3. Will the real D-Bowe please stand up?

With limited action last week against the Saints, I can see why the only Chief WR to catch a pass was Dexter McCluster. However, with an expected larger showing of the “1’s” on offense and defense in preseason Week 2, I expect some other Chiefs receivers to get in the mix. This means the man that Reid and Dorsey were praised for re-signing, #82, Dwayne Bowe. While Bowe threw a couple of blocks last week to help JC get a first down and then a touchdown, I want him to do what he gets paid a lot of money to do, and that’s catch passes and score touchdowns himself. We’ll see if Alex Smith is able to get him the ball this week.

The Chiefs have played two preseason games and the starting, or even second team wide receivers have hardly earned a stat. Andy Reid kept his starting offense on the field for the entire first half. The guy Andy Reid and John Dorsey were praised so highly for re-signing in the off season, Dwayne Bowe was only targeted once – and he didn’t catch that pass. While Dwayne can’t catch the pass unless it’s thrown to him, I don’t know what else is going on.

Alex Smith appeared to be looking down field a lot more last night, which led to some of his sacks. Perhaps he was looking for the “Show” and couldn’t find him open. Chiefs fans have been waiting for the prolific receiver to really establish a connection with the revolving door of QBs over the last few years. Thus far, it still hasn’t materialized. Until it does, things may not be that different in Kansas City.

Key #3: Not Achieved

4. Hold on to the damn ball!

This not only means don’t fumble (I’m talking to you Tyler Bray and Knile Davis) but also catch it when it hits you in the hand…ahem…Travis Kelce…ahem. Drops have traditionally been a problem for the Chiefs. Alex Smith is the most accurate passer in the league at 70 plus percent last year. No other QB has come close. If he’s putting the ball where it needs to be, the receivers need to catch it. It’s as simple as that.

This point was two-fold. The first was not fumble the ball. The Chiefs did not turn over the football the entire game. That was actual a larger win, than most realize considering how many blind side hits the signal callers took, unsuspectingly. In addition, considering how many runs and fighting for extra yards was going on by the Chiefs’ running backs (and how much the fumble prone Knile Davis played last night) it’s quite surprising that there wasn’t.

On the flip side of the coin, there were several drops by Chiefs’ receivers. Baldwin had a colossal drop that hit him right between the numbers. Cyrus Gray had one that slipped through his fingers, as he turned up field before he had secured the ball. Finally, rookie, Travis Kelce has thus far showed he’s been a camp hero, but hasn’t translated that to the game field. Even though Smith wasn’t as crisp and accurate as he was last week, the Chiefs have to hold onto the ball.

Key #4: Not Achieved

5. Backups need to step up…

Last week against the New Orleans Saints, the Chiefs’ first team and special teams outscored the Saints 10-0 in the first quarter. If the final whistle had blown then, the Chiefs would have come away with the “W.” The problem is, games are 60 minutes, not 15. Therefore, the guys fighting for a spot on the final 53 man roster need to fight a bit harder and close the game out, since they’re the ones on the field for the last quarter. It’s that simple. If you think you belong on this team, prove it.

In addition to this, while it has not been “confirmed nor denied,” there’s a pretty good chance that Jamaal Charles doesn’t play in tonight’s game. That’s okay. Charles has nothing to prove, as it’s only preseason and I think even though we’d like to see him torch the 49ers defense, we’d rather him rest his foot. That being said, backups Knile Davis, Shaun Draughn, Cyrus Gray and even the long shot, Jordan Roberts need to bring their “A” game to Arrowhead and show they can carry the running back load, if they are called upon.

The final point was the backups. There were some ups and downs here. I was actually pleasantly surprised with Knile Davis as a primary backup to Charles. I think with more practice and coaching, he could really turn into a force for the Chiefs. He’s a patient runner who waits for his blocks to form before he makes his move, but when he sees that crease, he can move. Another reserve offensive player that impressed me was receiver, Jamar Newsome. I thought he made some good catches that didn’t come from good throws. With a bit more experience, he could mature into a decent threat as well. Other than that, I didn’t see a lot else from the Chiefs’ reserves on the offensive side of the ball.

The defense, on the other hand, has me very encouraged. Despite the game winning touchdown given up by Neiko Thorpe, I thought the Chiefs’ defensive backups played just as stoutly as the starters. The defensive line was getting great push up front. They even made it to the quarterback on occasion. In fact, of the Chiefs’ four team sacks, three were by the guys fighting for a roster spot. That encourages me.

Key #5: Achieved

While the Chiefs’ record in the preseason is now 0-2, I still find myself optimistic about this team. The team didn’t meet the goals we set for them, and lost another one, but like I said at the beginning, there were several upsides to the game.

I try to not get too down and concerned about preseason. As I’ve said multiple times, these games are sometimes nothing more than nationally televised scrimmages. They are about trying out different personnel in different scenarios and seeing how they all perform together. Still, fans would like to see progress and a win would be nice. Perhaps they’ll turn that corner next week when the team faces the Pittsburgh Steelers behind the Iron Curtain.

See you then, Addicts!

Topics: Kansas City Chiefs

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  • Suzi Conger

    Good take Jason; I live in the BayArea and the Bay Commentators were very complimentary of AS11 (and my housemate is a staunch SF9er ) , related that in their opinion, AS would have commandeered 1 TD for sure, if not two TD’s if it were not for the grade D+ OLine protection (approx 80% AS’s plays were rushes/pressured/sacks ) and 3-4 drops by AS well executed passes…I have to agree with that assessment. I especially like your assessment of ck7.. in spite of the luxury of #1 OL QB protection (virtually zero pressure/rushes/no sacks), ck7 has yet to achieve a ’13 season TD.

    Thanx for you article…Go Chiefs!

    PS.. at least KC vs saints demonstrated what AS11 is capable of accomplishing with decent OL protection (his only ‘incomplete’ was due to a near-sack) and receivers that can catch :-)

    • Justin R Groth

      Ok. First you can’t blame the O-line completely, yes they are partially to blame. However one of the jobs of a QB is to read the D for blitzes. The reason our O line did so poorly was because we were being blitzed ALOT, I will be re-watching the game tonight and I will tell you actually how many times while AS11 was in. His job is to set up the blockers and to let the WR know he is coming in hot. I can think of at least two plays in a row where Alex had time cocked back and pulled up half way in the throw and got sacked because of his indecision.

      • Suzi Conger

        Hey Justin, yep, it is my understanding that AS11 called for a ‘blitz’ from the OLine at least 4 times, and OL did not execute. My understanding, too, is that WR’s (well, at least one that can catch, lol) were not open , thus his hesitancy; rarely will AS11 put the team in a TO situation; Especially with the mega-fumbling going on by his receivers. Of course, I will say that no QB is perfect, but I’m gonna agree with PFF info…our OLine was smeared by SF.. remember in KC’s practices how Hali, DJ, etc. kept dumping EF et al to pressure dump on AS11 et al? Our O-line and Receivers are a big weak link; I am assured that they will improve; I hope so…CHIEFS!!

        • Justin R Groth

          Sorry but if we do good and the praise goes to Alex then so do the failures. That being said he is throwing to BOWE the guy is a possession/redzone threat. With a physical receiver like him you have to take some chances. Also re watching the game I didn’t see AS11 point out the blitz at all. Also every sack AS11 took was on him. He ate the sack instead of making the play, something that I said was a problem with AS11 to began with.

  • Justin R Groth

    1st team Offensive Drives

    Drive one: on the KC 28

    1. 1-10 Pass over middle to Fasano quick easy pass good accuracy. 9yard gain

    2. 2-1 Play-action pass LB delayed blitz Alex rolls out to his right throws it away.

    3. 3-1 Run up the middle half a yard? SF owned the line.

    4. 4-inches Nice awareness by Kniles to get the 1st

    5. 1-10 Inside hand-off to Kniles loss of 1 to the 37 yard line.

    6. 2-11 Incomplete pass to Kelce. Accurate and defensive for the rookie TE who didn’t catch the pass.

    7. 3-11 basically every O-line got beat, Alex puts it on target to Gray who turns upfield but forgets the ball.

    8. 4-11 Punts because of drops.

    Drive Two: Started on the SF 47

    1. 1-10 Albert or Alex to be blamed for a “sack” -10. Personally I blame both.

    2. 2-20 Davis run for one yard to the right, he stumbled in the back ground. #57 should have been flagged for unnecessary roughness.

    3. 3-19 6 yard toss to Kniles don’t know why he didn’t try to go deeper maybe everyone was covered.

    4. 4-13 Punt caused by a sack and the lack of ability to recover.

    Drive Three: Started on the SF48

    1. 1-10 Kniles Davis solid 3 yards on first down on left outside.

    2. 2-7 Kniles Davis again but to the right outside for 4.

    3. 3-3 Alex shows some pocket presence and gets the ball to Dex for 9. Dex needs to be featured in this O he is one of the three people Alex seems to trust.

    4. 1-10 Smith incomplete deep to Baldwin deep. Baldwin trips up a little however the ball was overthrown even had he been able to keep his pace.

    5. 2-10 Shuffle pass to Kniles on fake to fullback. Kniles gets the edge with a nice head shake and some speed. Turned a loss to a 6 yard gain.

    6. 3-4 Smith throws it too high towards Baldwin. Back shoulder throw would have been the better idea here.

    7. 4-4 Succop hits the 47yrd FG. Score 10-3. First points by the O.

    Drive Four: Started on KC 21 Score 10-6 KC

    1. 1-10 Throws to Knile quickly to avoid the blitz gain of 8.

    2. 2-2 Throws to Baldwin. Baldwin’s infamous drop. He let it get into his body a big no-no.

    3. 3-2 Toss to Fasano for 6 underneath. Fasano is the second of the three Alex seems to trust.

    4. 1-10 Screen to Davis for 17. Davis is looking like a solid #2 option.

    5. 1-10 Cyrus up the middle bad play call? Cyrus not impressing

    6. 2-9 Cyrus to the Left for two

    7. 3-7 49ers blitz their corner on Alex’s blind side. No adjustment by the line or Qb means a hurried pass to Fasano. Inaccurate pass.

    8. 4-7 Punt again Play calling and a blitz that no one adjusted for.

    Drive Five: Starts at KC 38 ½

    1. 1-10 Niles up the middle for 3

    2. 2-7 Delayed Blitz Smith takes the “sack” after pulling down a throw that looked to be in the direction of the blitzer, normally what you wanna do on a CB blitz is to get the ball to the WR before the safety gets there.

    3. 3-11 Looked like he was going for Dex here on a timing route but changed his mind mid throwing motion. Instead scrambles and picks up 6 yards. Decent blocking downfield by Grey.

    4. Punt. Still showing trouble recovering from negative plays.

    Drive Six: Following S. Smith interception starts on SF 21

    1. 1-10 Cyrus Grey misses on his blitz pick-up. Smith while rolling bounces it in front of Baldwin. Roughing the passer penalty 10 yrds.

    2. 1-10 Bowe out of the slot with a quick hitch however Smith looking the other way. Bowe works across the field. According to Trent Bowe should have flattened out on his route.

    3. Pass to Fassano for 7 stayed flat on route.

    4. 49ers brought 7 and alex just tried to get the ball to Cyrus.

    5. Field Goal by Succop good Score. 13-6 KC.

    Drive Seven: Starts on KC 15

    1. 1-10 Run by Davis for 8. Interesting play call for an under two minute drill.

    2. 2-2 Smith initially stepped up in the pocket but then just tucked it.

    3. 3-1 Davis goes 9yrds off the left side. First down and time out.

    4. 1-10 49ers bring 5 Fisher gets beat. Alex takes sack instead of trying for something at the end of the half, yards.

    Best drive: Drive 3 7 plays for 22 yards and a field goal. I don’t care who you are this is unacceptable. Rewatching puts more blame on the Oline however Alex still wasn’t showing the awareness for the blitz pickups and hot routes not to mention indecisiveness. While the three drops hurts it’s not an excuse for what was shown on the field.

    • Jason Seibel

      Great breakdown, Justin. And, I agree with you. There many times (minus the fantastic special teams plays) I felt like I was watching the 2011/2012 Chiefs last night. Not very encouraging at all.

      • Justin R Groth

        Sorry this is how I paid for college. I had to tape and then break down every game. Made for some long nights but I actually enjoy doing it.

  • Andy

    I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I was wondering why we did not make an adjustment to the 49ers rush; like a deeper drop by the QBs. Two more things. I’m sure we would have called more screens and draws with Charles in there.; and we have to throw some down field passes (and complete them) to keep the opposing defenses honest and from clogging up the middle and jumping these short routes.
    We did play a top D last night, who seemed to blitz a lot in a preseason gam;. and another good D coming up. That is good for us. Remember last year we were excited when the Chiefs O made mince meat out of the Rams during the first preseason game. That was pretty much the extent of our offense for the whole year.

  • micah stephenson

    Why when its Cassel, its he holds on to the ball to long and can’t read progressions, but wen its alex smith with even more oline help and more wr/te/rb options and better coaches, its the oline and wrs fualt?

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