With Patrick Mahomes under center for his first regular-season start at home, Arrowhead Stadium is going to be rocking on Sunday. The Kansas City Chiefs will try to extend their record to 3-0 against the San Francisco 49ers.
Here are five things to keep an eye on during the game:
1. Can the offensive line continue to keep Patrick Mahomes clean?
Going into the regular season, left guard Cam Erving was a question mark on the offensive line. The presumption was that if Erving couldn’t hold down his position alongside Eric Fisher, we were going to see problems. So far, Erving has done a good job — even getting kudos for his play — and as a whole, the line has allowed just two sacks thus far, while Mahomes has run roughshod over opposing defenses. That’s a good sign.
But the 49ers could present the Chiefs offensive line their toughest challenge yet. DeForest Buckner, Sheldon Day and Solomon Thomas are all solid pass rushers, and the 49ers have notched five sacks so far. If the Chiefs offensive line can keep the 49ers pass rush at bay, we can start to breathe a little easier about them — and Mahomes will be able do his thing.
2. Can the defensive line get pressure on Jimmy Garoppolo?
After being named the 49ers starting quarterback late last season, Garoppolo led the team to a 5-0 record to close out the year and then received a then-record five-year $137.5 million contract with the 49ers.
But so far in 2018, he hasn’t been that impressive, with one pretty good game against the Detroit Lions and a really bad opening game against the Minnesota Vikings. Has Bill Belichick — who got a second-round draft pick in exchange for Garoppolo last year — managed to pass off another Matt Cassel to an unsuspecting team, or is it just that Garoppolo isn’t getting the protection he needs?
The 49ers have given up nine sacks to start the season. So here’s an opportunity for Chris Jones and Dee Ford — who have been among the few bright spots on the Chiefs defense — to make a statement. They could use one.
3. Is 49ers running back Matt Breida the real deal — or not?
Breida — an undrafted free agent signed by the 49ers in 2017 — led the NFL in rushing after Week 2. But 138 of his 184 yards came against a suspect Detroit Lions defense in Week 2.
So it will be up to the Chiefs run defense to prove (or disprove) Breida’s credentials. The Chiefs weren’t very impressive against the run in Week 1 versus the Los Angeles Chargers, but were much better against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 2 — albeit against a Steelers team that all but abandoned the ground game after the first quarter. How Breida does against the Chiefs will say a lot about how the offseason moves to shore up the run defense are shaping up.
4. Can Dave Toub keep working his magic?
Honestly, it’s pretty unfair to the rest of the league. During the last five seasons, not only has the Chiefs special teams coordinator managed to make quite a few teams look pretty bad, turning one unheralded player after another into a kick-return touchdown threat, but during the offseason, he was instrumental in drawing up the new kickoff rules — giving him a leg up on designing plays out of the new formation.
In Week 1, Tyreek Hill returned a punt for a touchdown against the Chargers. In Week 2, Toub fooled the Steelers into thinking their intentional short punt had actually gone long, resulting in a 54-yard return by De’Anthony Thomas that led to a Chiefs touchdown.
What is Uncle Dave cooklng up to show the Arrowhead crowd in the home opener?
5. Which record will Patrick Mahomes break next?
As Good Morning Football host Peter Schrager pointed out on Thursday, until Mahomes came along, only one NFL quarterback — Jeff Hostetler — had won three consecutive road games to begin his career. Since Mahomes will be playing at home, he’s going to have to settle for a tie on that one.
But if Mahomes throws four touchdown passes on Sunday — which certainly doesn’t seem unthinkable — he’ll have three straight games with four. All the way back to 1920, only ONE player has ever done that: Peyton Manning.
Manning did it twice — once in 2004 for the Indianapolis Colts and once in 2013 with the Denver Broncos. But Manning, of course, was well into his career for the first streak — not starting his second through fourth games as a professional! And Manning is finished with his career. If he ties Manning on Sunday, Mahomes could still extend the streak to four the following week.
Against the Denver Broncos.