1. The Chiefs pass rush is going to bring the heat. How does the 49ers offensive line and Colin Kaepernick perform against the pass rush? Any good comparisons in teams the 49ers have played lately?
Fooch: The 49ers pass protection is less than stellar, to say the least. The line has been a great run-blocking unit, but they struggle in pass protection. And it's odd because even some of the traditionally solid guys are struggling. Joe Staley is a guy who has been stout on the left side, but even he is struggling lately. It's hard to put a finger on what has happened to this group. They always excelled in run blocking more, so I suppose it's not a shock, but it's still a little odd.
Colin Kaepernick has actually played fairly well when blitzed. The one big upside with Kap is his ability to escape from pressure. His throws on the run can be inconsistent, but there are few quarterbacks with the combination of strength and speed that allow him to escape the pocket. It seems like at least once or twice a game, a defensive end of linebacker will have a full hand of jersey, and Kap will break free. Some quarterbacks are big, and some are fast, but there are not many with that combination.
They have faced some teams with good individual pass rush threats, but none that can consistently get to the quarterback across the entire front seven. That makes the lack of protection all the more a problem, and it's safe to say the 49ers will face their biggest test yet against the Chiefs fierce pass rush.
2. On a scale of 1-10, how concerned are you with the 49ers defense against Alex Smith?
Fooch: I guess I'll say around the 5 range, just to take the easy way out. My biggest concern will be the lack of a pass rush. The 49ers have options to get to the quarterback, but they have been inconsistent. If they give him time, my biggest concern becomes Travis Kelce. It's obvious Smith will be looking to connect with Kelce. The 49ers have done good work against tight ends thus far, so it will be interesting to see just how the Chiefs use him. Alex always enjoyed the seam route with Vernon Davis.
Smith is also a fairly mobile quarterback, with that part of his game easily overlooked by some. I think the 49ers have the athletic linebackers to stick with him, but obviously it requires discipline. And of course, there is how he will use Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis. The 49ers have been among the NFL's leaders in rushing defense, and last week they locked up LeSean McCoy, both as a runner, and as a pass catcher. They showed discipline against screen passes, so we'll see how the Chiefs counter that.
3. Which 49ers catch the most passes? Who needs to be accounted for on each passing play?
Fooch: Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree are the team's biggest pass catchers. Boldin has 21 receptions on 28 targets, while Crabtree has 24 receptions on 32 targets. It wouldn't surprise me to see one have a big game one week, and then the other have a big game the next week. That being said, I think the guy who could sneak up on the Chiefs is Stevie Johnson. The former Bills wide receiver only had one catch for a touchdown last week (pre-game illness), but led the team with 9 receptions for 103 yards the week before. He and Kap seem to have a good chemistry, so I would not be surprised if he was the guy to step up this week.
I don't mention Vernon Davis, but that is due to him dealing with a back injury. He will be a game-time decision.
4. You went to the opening of Levi's Stadium a few weeks ago. Where does Levi's rank on the list of stadiums you've been to in your entire life? (feel free to rank them if you remember them)
Fooch: It's a nice stadium. The actual structure and look is good, but nothing spectacular. The money was spent more on amenities like great wifi. And it is really good compared to any other facility I've been to, so there's that. I was up in the press box, but I made my way down to the stands before the game. Again, it's nice, but at times it feels like they're playing in an office park.
I've been to a handful of stadiums, and it probably ranks toward the top, but not quite at the very top. If I had to rank them:
1. Superdome (it was the Super Bowl, automatic entry at the top!)
2. Levi's Stadium
3. Wembley Stadium (49ers-Broncos, 2010)
4. Gillette Stadium (I'll ignore the fact that two Patriots fans threw quarters at me in the first quarter)
5. CenturyLink Field (A fun place to watch a game. Insanely loud)
6. Oakland Coliseum (awful baseball stadium, but actually very solid as a football stadium)
7. MetLife Stadium (49ers-Jets in 2012, super generic, but great press box)
8. LA Coliseum (I went to a Patriots-Rams game there in 1986. I don't remember much about it, but I did go)
9. FedEx Field (49ers-Washington in 2013, and a handful of other games. Awful location, meh look, press box is in an annoying location)
5. Will Alex Smith be cheered or booed?
Fooch: I guarantee he will receive cheers. He was initially going to leave after the 2010 season, but the lockout sort of left him and Jim Harbaugh stuck together to make the best of it. Obviously they turned things around, and combining that with the fact that he is an honest-to-goodness good guy make it easy to pull for him. It wasn't a 100 percent storybook finish to his time in San Francisco, but all things considered, it ended better than anybody could have anticipated in 2010.
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