The most obvious path to victory for the Kansas City Chiefs is to do what they have done in their first three games of the playoffs. Except for the Buffalo Bills game, the Chiefs have built a lead and kept the lead with exceptional play from the defense. Even in the Buffalo Bills game, they ended the last 14 minutes of the game with the lead.
The 49ers have been susceptible to getting behind in their first two playoff matchups against the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions. Those teams do not have near the defense the Chiefs have, so if San Francisco finds themselves behind by two scores at any point, the Chiefs will lead them to death by a thousand papercuts.
The Chiefs have displayed that when they carry the lead in the playoffs, they commit to the run and the defense will suffocate you until the clock hits zero leaving no time to mount a comeback. In all reality, the 49ers are built in a very similar way to the Ravens, who the Chiefs just beat soundly. They both have top-three defenses in points allowed, top-four offenses in points per game and are top-three in rushing yards per game.
Both the Ravens and the 49ers want to run a similar game script. They want to get the lead and run the ball when they are winning. There are two very distinct differences, however. One is that the 49ers have arguably the best running back in the league, which makes them less dependent on the scheme and blocking. The other difference is that while the 49ers boasted a good defense for most of the regular season, they have been getting gashed in the playoffs. The Ravens had a much better defense.
The 49ers have allowed 772 yards and 52 points so far in the postseason, which comes out to average 386 yards and 26 points per game. In the regular season, they averaged 303 yards allowed and 17.5 points per game. If the Chiefs offense can keep the same mojo going, they will have tendencies Andy Reid has surely picked up on that they can exploit.
So, getting out to a lead is priority number one, but several x-factors will contribute to getting and keeping the lead. Let’s dig into the five biggest keys.