If you were to draw up the ideal way for the Kansas City Chiefs to head into the bye week, it would be with a comfortable, well-executed win — and no major injuries. We got just that on Sunday, as the Chiefs pulled away in the second half on the way to a 44-23 blowout win over the San Francisco 49ers.
The offense was efficient and explosive. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes spread the ball around and receivers made plays. Even against one of the league’s best pass rushers, the offensive line looked more like the unit we’ve expected to see. And the defense actually got to the opposing quarterback — and forced turnovers.
Sure... there were some sloppy moments — mostly in the first half — but you have to feel good about how this group responded to a 10-point deficit and buried its opponent.
Here are some of the Chiefs who stood out in San Francisco. And yes... I had to reach a bit to find a couple of losers.
Note: Applying the labels “winners” and “losers” is not intended to be a judgment on the talent or character of any of these players. It’s just a simple way to grade their performance in a single game. No disrespect is intended.
Patrick Mahomes: I nearly put him on the losers list last week after an interception started and ended the Chiefs’ offensive drives against the Bills. In San Francisco, things once again started off ugly. Mahomes tried to force a ball to Skyy Moore that ended up being picked off. But that would be the last big mistake Mahomes made. He distributed the ball to 10 different pass-catchers. His three touchdown passes each went to a different receiver and he was only two yards short of having three 100-yard receivers.
#SackNation: Maybe they heard the buzz about the Chiefs needing to trade for a pass rusher. Maybe they just got a lead and smelled blood in the water. But whatever it was that got into these guys, it was great to see the Kansas City defensive front finishing some plays. Chris Jones had a first-quarter sack that forced a field goal — and then a fourth-quarter strip sack that gave Kansas City the ball near midfield. Not to be outdone, Frank Clark and Khalen Saunders combined for a second-down sack inside the 49ers’ 10-yard line. Then on third down, Clark blew past all-world left tackle Trent Williams and sacked Jimmy Garoppolo for the safety that effectively put the game out of reach. George Karlaftis had a quarterback hit and a batted pass — and Carlos Dunlap had a tackle-for-loss and a pass breakup. It was a really solid game for the the team’s four main pass rushers.
JuJu Smith-Schuster: In Week 6, we thought the Chiefs had a No. 1 wide receiver emerging. On Sunday afternoon, Smith-Schuster did nothing but confirm it. He once again broke free for a long touchdown catch and ended the game with well over 100 yards receiving. No longer just a reliable intermediate target who can move the chains, Smith-Schuster’s targets are creeping up — along with his production. There’s no reason to think that he won’t be the main guy from here on out.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling: The former Green Bay Packers wideout is a very different type of receiver than Smith-Schuster, but his results on Sunday were also undeniably positive. Valdes-Scantling torched the San Francisco secondary for 57 yards on a third-and-11 right after momentum seemed to have shifted. The 49ers had just scored a touchdown and came back on defense with a sack of Mahomes. With the Chiefs facing third-and-long at their own 19, the five-point lead could have shifted in a hurry — but then Valdes-Scantling broke free. The rout was on.
Mecole Harman: When an offense puts up 44 against one of the best defenses in the league, it shouldn’t be surprising to see multiple receivers on this list. But Hardman surprised everyone by putting up a hat trick. First, he got open for a big 18-yard strike early in the game. Then he scored on a jet sweep to each side of the field — and caught another touchdown pass for good measure. Finally healthy, Hardman was running hard — and looked like a dangerous weapon in this offense.
The Chiefs' offensive line: It’s tough to single out one of these guys — but after a couple of rough weeks, the big uglies got it done in San Francisco. Both Chiefs running backs averaged over five yards per carry, Mahomes was only sacked once and the jet sweeps and screens were particularly well-blocked and effective. We need a hat tip to the tight ends as well, because Noah Gray, Travis Kelce and Jody Fortson all were shown clearing the way for some of the biggest plays of the game. The Kansas City offense was humming on Sunday, producing over 500 yards at an astounding nine yards per play. When everything works for everyone who touches the ball, you don’t even have to watch the All-22. You already know that the offensive line turned in an elite performance.
Juan Thornhill: The fourth-year safety was everywhere on Sunday, leading the team with 11 tackles and two passes defended. Then with less than two minutes left in the game, he made Juan more play to cap this one off, intercepting San Francisco backup quarterback Brock Purdy in the end zone. It was a great day for the Kansas City safety, who is putting together a pretty solid season.
Skyy Moore: Let’s get this out of the way: it’s not all his fault. Moore hasn’t really been a punt returner before — but the Chiefs have asked him to be their guy. Then on offense, Mahomes seems to be forcing balls to him that might not really be there. But the bad results are starting to pile up. The promising rookie was targeted just once on Sunday. Just like with the final snap against the Buffalo Bills, the the pass was intercepted. On this one, it appeared that Moore wasn’t in the right spot. Then — with two minutes before halftime — Moore was again caught looking indecisive while fielding a punt. Once again, he fumbled it away. It was another tough day for the rookie, who had to watch three other receivers shine ahead of him.
Leo Chenal: I’m not sure that the rookie linebacker has been particularly bad — but so far, I haven’t noticed much positive from him, either. On Sunday, he was seen in significant early snaps with the base defense — and was often unable to make a stop. Early in the game, the 49ers had success running the ball and targeting their tight ends and backs. To my eye, Chenal struggled in those snaps. It’s a positive that Chenal is getting snaps with the defense; the experience will serve him well. But thus far, he doesn’t have much to show for it: just one solo tackle against San Francisco and three on the season.
Harrison Butker: First, the good: the Chiefs’ placekicker was 6/6 on extra points against the 49ers. But in a moment right before halftime that could have been significant, he missed his only field goal attempt. We’ve seen it before: the Chiefs struggle to execute right before the half and lose any positive momentum they had. In such moments this season, a field goal could have made (and will continue to make) all the difference. Luckily, the offense was dominant in the second half, so the missed field goal made little difference. Still, it’s something to monitor. Butker is a key piece of the team. He needs to be consistent again.