1. The offense is still good
After last week’s ugly performance, the offense didn’t waste any time getting back on track.
On the first third-down of the game, Quarterback Pat Mahomes connected with starting running back Damien Williams on a wheel route out of the backfield that went 62 yards for a score. The offense kept churning on the second drive by feeding Williams, wide receiver Sammy Watkins, and all-pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill - who had three catches on the way to the red zone. On third down from the 15 yard line, Mahomes scrambled around and dove for the first down marker while absorbing a hit that the crowd reacted to with an audible gasp. He was two yards short, and head coach Andy Reid settled for a 25 yard field goal.
It was relieving to see the offense score on both of their drives. They ended up with 142 total yards, four first-downs, and were two-for-three on third down while they were in the game. Mahomes finished eight for ten for 126 passing yards and one touchdown. Tight end Travis Kelce was the only starting weapon that didn’t see a target.
2. Is it time to worry about free Big Macs?
The starting defensive line was made up of defensive ends Frank Clark and Alex Okafor — and also tackles Chris Jones and Derrick Nnadi. There wasn’t much pressure on the first drive against the 49ers, but Jones made back to back great plays with a run stuff on third-down and a pass deflection on fourth-down deep in their own territory. The lack of penetration of the pocket on 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo continued into the second drive, and allowed for some easy third-down conversions. They tried out a creative pass rushing package with Tanoh Kpassagnon inside for Nnadi — alongside blitzes by safety Dan Sorensen and linebacker Anthony Hitchens — but no one got home to disrupt the quarterback.
Finally — on a third down during the third 49ers possession — Frank Clark beat all-pro left tackle Joe Staley quickly and brought Garoppolo down to get the first three-and-out of the day for the Chiefs defense. It was the only sack for the first-team, and might’ve been the only real pressure they produced.
Tanoh Kpassagnon easily got through the 49ers second-team offensive line on the first third-down of the second half, and recorded his second sack of the preseason.
The defensive line didn’t show much to be excited about when getting to the quarterback. The Chiefs defense led the NFL in sacks last year, but replaced two of their top three pass rushers. Let’s hope the new unit shows further improvement before week one.
3. Where was Carlos Hydeing?
Damien Williams was heavily involved during the first two drives of the game. He hauled in three catches and racked up 76 total yards — 62 of them coming on his touchdown catch. Darrel Williams was the first back to spell Damien, but Darwin Thompson followed him soon after and broke a tackle during an eight yard gain on his first catch. Those two finished out the first half, and Carlos Hyde did not take a single snap with the first-team offense. He finally saw a carry late in the third quarter.
There was no report of an injury to Hyde. It’s hard not to wonder about his status to make the 53 man roster. Thompson has shown good ability to potentially be a third-down change-of-pace back — not only for his receiving ability but also some impressive reps in pass protection. Initially, Hyde’s role on this roster was to be the veteran back that already knows how to do the small stuff like pass blocking. If the young backs can do that well, it may be time to find a team that would give compensation for Hyde’s services.
4. Pass coverage deja vu
The first-team Chiefs pass coverage may have given some Chiefs fans deja vu.
There was multiple mishaps on the first few defensive possesions. On the first third-down the defense faced in the game, Damien Wilson drew a defensive holding penalty that extended the drive. Bashaud Breeland bit on a double move on 3rd down during the second drive that resulted in a long gain. Reggie Ragland and Charvarius Ward looked confused as Matt Breida was left wide open in the endzone later in that drive. There was also a big miscommunication late in the third quarter that left a receiver wide open deep down the field, but the 49ers couldn’t connect.
Garoppolo didn’t look particularly sharp, but the defense gave him a lot of open throws. The first-string run defense improved from last week, but the pass defense came back to earth after a good performance in preseason week two. As I talked about earlier in this piece, the pass rush didn’t look great either. If both departments can’t get it going, the defense may look closer to the 2018 squad than we hoped.
5. The QB2 of the future?
Current second-string quarterback Chad Henne only got one drive in this contest. He was replaced by rookie undrafted free agent rookie Kyle Shurmur late in the first half. Shurmur connected with wide receiver Demarcus Robinson deep down the sideline on his second pass, but the second offensive pass interference flag of the game on the Chiefs brought it back.
After a short drive that Shurmur got sacked twice on, the backup Chiefs offense got back on the field and had a very impressive drive. Shurmur led the offense 92 yards down the field in 13 plays — taking up 7:52 minutes of game time. He hooked up with rookie receiver Mecole Hardman three times on the drive for a total of 40 yards. On a fourth and short deep in San Francisco territory, Shurmur kept the ball on a zone read play and gained 15 yards. That setup second-year receiver Byron Pringle to score on a jet motion run to the left side.
The Chiefs would love to find a backup to Mahomes for the future. Henne’s contract is up after this season, and they are hoping Shurmur or Litton can show enough to take over the spot and be a cheap option there for a few seasons. Shurmur is making his case this preseason — and tonight was his best performance yet.