For the second time this season, the Kansas City Chiefs defeated a team they last met in the Super Bowl, dealing a 44-23 home loss to the San Francisco 49ers — Kansas City’s first victory in San Francisco since December of 1971.
But from the opening kickoff, it appeared that the 49ers were well-motivated to avenge their 31-20 defeat in Super Bowl LIV. Using newly-acquired running back Christian McCaffrey even more than expected, San Francisco marched down the field to take a 3-0 lead with a field goal — and then intercepted Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ second throw of the game to get the ball at the Kansas City 34. Four plays later, the 49ers led 10-0 with just over eight minutes elapsed in the game
But then the Chiefs settled down, going on a 28-6 scoring spree that gave them a 28-16 lead near the end of the third quarter. The teams traded touchdowns. Then Frank Clark sacked Jimmy Garoppolo in the end zone for a safety, giving the Chiefs a 37-23 lead — and the ball — with less than nine minutes remaining. Five plays later, it was a 44-23 lead after a 45-yard touchdown pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster. On the next 49ers drive, a Chris Jones strip-sack slammed the door shut.
The Chiefs won the opening coin toss, electing to defer their decision to the second half. So 49ers received the opening kickoff at home, settling for a booming touchback by kicker Harrison Butker.
San Francisco first moved the chains by finding tight end George Kittle over the middle of the field; he beat linebacker Nick Bolton for an 18-yard gain. On the next play, Bolton played enough defense to force an incompletion on another target to Kittle. Newly-acquired Christian McCaffrey then gained 10 yards on a handoff up the middle, followed by a nine-yard run to get deeper into Chiefs’ territory. The usual starter Jeff Wilson then gained 12 yards on another under-center handoff.
Inside the red zone, the 49ers fell into third down with three yards to convert. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo tested rookie cornerback Joshua Williams on a slant route to wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk; Williams made a clean, aggressive play on the ball to force an incompletion. The 49ers settled for a 30-yard field goal, which was successful. Five minutes into the game, they took a 3-0 lead.
Kansas City took over at their own 25-yard line, handing off to the new starter at running back: rookie Isiah Pacheco; he had a short gain. Quickly getting into a third down, Mahomes forced a throw over the middle past the sticks to rookie Skyy Moore — but a 49ers safety broke it up, allowing the opportunity for his teammate to intercept the pass. San Francisco took over at the Chiefs’ 34-yard line.
The 49ers took advantage quickly by taking a shot to wide receiver Deebo Samuel down the field — and he made an impressive catch over cornerback Jaylen Watson. Two plays later, the Chiefs failed to get pressure on Garoppolo, who took his time to find wide receiver Ray Ray McCloud in the end zone. The score made it 10-0 with over six minutes to go in the opening period.
Starting from their own 27-yard line, a nine-yard completion to tight end Travis Kelce set up a short-yardage third down — but the Chiefs took their first timeout before running a play. Out of the break, a play-action fake left Kelce wide open in the flat. He earned 27 yards, going down at the 49ers’ 37-yard line.
After a first-down incompletion, Mahomes was rolled out left by design — scanning the field until he found wide receiver Mecole Hardman between defenders for 18 yards. From inside the red zone, a six-yard run by Edwards-Helaire set up third down at the 13-yard line. A touchdown pass to Kelce was taken off the board by offsetting penalties — but the Chiefs moved the chains on the next play with a quick throw to wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster.
With a new set of downs, the Chiefs used a jet sweep action to get Hardman in open space; following some great open-field blocks, Hardman worked his way into the end zone for a touchdown. The nine-play drive gained 73 yards, getting the score to 10-7 in favor of San Francisco.
With time dwindling down in the first quarter, the 49ers started with an incompletion on a straight drop back. A short run by Samuel set up third down, but the 49ers converted by picking on reserve cornerback Chris Lammons, covering Aiyuk; 21 yards later, the 49ers were near midfield, going into the second period with a 10-7 lead.
McCaffrey gained 25 total yards on the next two plays, dicing through the Chiefs’ defense to near the red zone. Two unsuccessful passes followed, setting up third down — where defensive tackle Chris Jones overwhelmed the 49ers’ right tackle to wrap up Garoppolo for a sack. The 49ers had to take the 50-yard field goal, converting it to stretch their lead to 13-7.
The Chiefs began their third possession of the game at the 23-yard line, quickly resetting the chains with a quick slant to tight end Jody Fortson. Running back Jerick McKinnon followed that with an eight-yard run up the middle, but the 49ers forced Kansas City into third down after an incompletion. Mahomes moved the chains with a hard count, setting up on San Francisco’s half of the field.
Passes to Smith-Schuster and tight end Noah Gray moved the chains twice. From an under-center formation on first down, Mahomes turned and handed off to Hardman on a jet sweep — and a wall of blockers led him into the end zone for the second time in the game. The 25-yard run capped a 10-play, 90-yard drive and gave Kansas City a 14-13 lead midway through the second quarter.
The 49ers took over from the 14-yard line after a good special teams play by the Chiefs’ Marcus Kemp. They got out of the bad field position with two big plays by Kittle, the second gaining 34 yards and getting into Kansas City territory. That was followed by a 17-yard completion to Aiyuk. After a few offensive penalties, linebacker Willie Gay furthered the 49ers’ setback by sacking Garoppolo on an edge blitz. That set up a third down where the 49ers needed to gain 14 yards; they used the two-minute warning to prepare for it.
Garoppolo dropped back looking to convert, but the Chiefs’ unique pass-rush scheme collapsed the pocket enough to bat the pass down. On the ensuing field-goal attempt, the 49ers were called for a false start — and it pushed them out of the range to kick. They punted away, but Skyy Moore muffed the punt — giving San Francisco possession at the Chiefs’ 12-yard line.
Two short plays set up a third down with three yards to go. The Chiefs blitzed Garoppolo, forcing a bad decision to throw up into tight coverage. Joshua Williams high-pointed the pass at the goal line, securing it and returning it to the Chiefs’ six yard line. His first-career interception set up the Chiefs’ offense with a drive before halftime; there was 1:28 remaining and they had one timeout.
Travis Kelce got them out of the hole, gaining 22 yards on a play down the left sideline. Then, Mahomes found wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling 40 yards down the middle of the field, squeezing it in between defenders at the 49ers’ 30-yard line. Then, Mahomes found Smith-Schuster on a back-shoulder sideline throw to gain 20 yards.
From the six-yard line, the Chiefs’ faced third down with 16 seconds to go — but an illegal, low block by McKinnon backed the Chiefs up to the 21-yard line. Kansas City settled for a field goal, but kicker Harrison Butker missed a 39-yard attempt wide right — keeping the Chiefs’ lead at 14-13 going into halftime.
A long return with a 15-yard penalty tacked on the end set the Chiefs up deep into 49ers’ territory to start the second half. Mahomes found Valdes-Scantling on a sideline throw for 14 yards to open the drive, then Edwards-Helaire took an off-tackle handoff 16 yards to the end zone. The quick score made the Chiefs’ lead 21-13.
The Chiefs’ defense responded with two stops on the 49ers’ first two plays of their drive. On third down, Garoppolo beat the blitz with a quick throw to fullback Kyle Juszczyk; safety Justin Reid missed a tackle that could’ve stopped him short of the sticks. On the next snap, the 49ers gained 15 yards on the ground with a nice cutback by Wilson.
Past midfield, the 49ers faced third down — but easily converted with a 10-yard run up the middle; it took advantage of the Chiefs’ defense trying to run a pass-rush game. A first-down blitz forced Garoppolo into a short completion, which was followed by a tackle for loss by Nick Bolton. On the third-down attempt, Bolton forced an incompletion with good coverage on Kittle. The 49ers were forced into a field-goal attempt, converting the kick to tighten the Chiefs’ lead to 21-16.
On the Chiefs’ next drive, the Chiefs quickly got to midfield with an 18-yard catch by Kelce; he saved a lobbed-up throw by Mahomes, who was hit as he released it. Two snaps later, the Chiefs needed two yards to convert on third down — but they gained 15 yards with an intermediate out route to Smith-Schuster. However, a holding flag on right tackle Andrew Wylie set the Chiefs back on the next snap.
With 20 yards to go on third down, the Chiefs caught the 49ers sleeping with a delayed screen to McKinnon — who maneuvered through impressive open-field blocks to move the chains and get inside the five-yard line. From there, Mahomes found wide receiver Justin Watson crossing the end zone to score a touchdown. The Chiefs’ lead was extended to 28-16, with three minutes to go in the third period.
Looking to answer, the 49ers started with a holding penalty — but the Chiefs bailed them out when cornerback L’Jarius Sneed was called for defensive pass interference on a downfield throw. Yet, San Francisco held on the following play to back themselves up once again. A few big gains set them up at the Chiefs’ 27-yard line as the third quarter ended.
The 49ers faced third down with 10 yards to go after the Chiefs forced two incompletions. Garoppolo threw a contested pass to George Kittle in the end zone — who beat cornerback Jaylen Watson in single coverage. The touchdown shrunk the Chiefs’ lead to 28-23.
Looking to secure their lead, the Chiefs didn’t start hot: edge rusher Nick Bosa beat Wylie around the edge for a sack. A run by Pacheco set up third down, where Mahomes utilized a clean pocket to find Valdes-Scantling streaking down the field, running behind the 49ers’ defensive backs for a 57 yard gain. Two snaps later, Smith-Schuster took a quick pass and gained 20 yards — which set up Hardman to score on a jet sweep for the third time. The three-yard rush pushed the score to 35-23 in favor of Kansas City
Looking to answer, the 49ers got backed up due to a special-teams penalty. A few snaps later, a drop back on second down ended in a sack by defensive end Frank Clark and defensive tackle Khalen Saunders. From the six-yard line, Garoppolo looked to pass — but Clark’s speed rush beat left tackle Trent Williams around the edge. He snuck up behind Garoppolo to force a safety, adding on to the Chiefs’ 37-23 lead.
The Chiefs took possession, churning up yards on the ground with Pacheco. He gained 23 yards combined on back-to-back carries to open the drive. A few snaps later, Smith-Schuster gained 14 yards on a sideline pass — which ended up setting himself up to score from 45 yards out on the following play. The third-down conversion blew the game open to 44-23 with time running out for the 49ers.
In desperation mode, the 49ers tried to put a drive together — working their way to midfield — but then Chris Jones happened: once again, Jones beat the right tackle on a one-on-one pass rush to earn a sack, this time forcing a fumble that the Chiefs recovered.
The Chiefs pulled Mahomes at this point, letting backup quarterback Chad Henne finish out the game that was suddenly out of hand. He proceeded to lead a three and out, giving way to the Chiefs’ first punt of the afternoon.
The 49ers matched the Chiefs’ decision to pull Mahomes, taking out Garoppolo before taking possession with just over three minutes to go. Backup quarterback Brock Purdy used the two-minute drill to make his way into Chiefs’ territory. He eventually took a shot at the end zone, but overthrew his target; the ball was easily intercepted by safety Juan Thornhill.
A few snaps later, the Chiefs had sealed the 44-23 win.
Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker converted all six of his point-after attempts for the game. With less than 20 seconds to go in the first half, he missed his first try at a field goal — a 39-yard attempt that sailed wide right.
Rookie Skyy Moore got one chance to return a punt, muffing the kick and setting the 49ers up deep in Chiefs territory.
Rookie Isiah Pacheco had five kick returns in the game, the longest gaining 48 yards: to open the third quarter, Pacheco returned a kick down the left sideline to set up a touchdown drive.
Punter Tommy Townsend didn’t punt until Mahomes had been pulled from the game. His lone punt traveled 33 yards, landing inside the 20-yard line.
|Yards per play||9.1||6.2|
|Yards per rush||5.30||4.80|
|Passing Gross Yards||423||369|
|Passing Net Yards||417||343|
|Yards per pass||11.30||6.70|
|Rushing first downs||4||6|
|Passing first downs||19||18|
|Penalty first downs||1||1|
|Third down (Made/Att/Pct)||6/9/67%||8/14/57%|
|Fourth down (Made/Att/Pct)||0/0/0%||0/0/0%|
|Goal to go (Made/Att/Pct)||3/3/100%||1/1/100%|
|Red Zone (Made/Att/Pct)||4/5/80%||2/5/40%|
|Extra Points (Made/Att)||6/6||2/2|
|Field Goals (Made/Att)||0/1||3/3|
|Two-Point Conv (Made/Att)||0/0||0/0|
|Gross Punting Avg Yds||33.0||29.0|
|Net Punting Avg Yds||33.0||29.0|
|Total Rtn Yds (No KOs)||7||2|
|Punt Returns (Num/Yds)||1/0||0/0|
|Kickoff Returns (Num/Yds)||6/130||4/64|
|Int Returns (Num/Yds)||2/7||1/2|
|Time of Possession||26:15||33:45|
|Jeff Wilson Jr.||7||54||7.7||0||15|
|Jeff Wilson Jr.||0||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|Ray-Ray McCloud III||4||65||16.3||1||22||4||5|
|CHIEFS FUMBLES||FUM||LOST||FF||REC |
|49ERS FUMBLES||FUM||LOST||FF||REC |
|Samuel Womack III||0||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|Carlos Dunlap II||2||1||1||0.0||0.0||0||1||1||0||0||0||0|
|Tashaun Gipson Sr.||5||5||0||0.0||0.0||0||0||1||0||0||0||0|
|Kerry Hyder Jr.||1||0||1||0.0||0.0||0||0||1||0||0||0||0|
|CHIEFS KICK RET||NO||YDS||AVG||LG||TD|
|49ERS KICK RET||NO||YDS||AVG||LG||TD|
|Ray-Ray McCloud III||4||64||16.0||22||0|
|CHIEFS PUNT RET||NO||YDS||AVG||LG||TD|
|49ERS PUNT RET||NO||YDS||AVG||LG||TD|