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Chiefs’ Jerick McKinnon is making the most of his limited touches

The veteran running back once again gave Kansas City a big play during Sunday’s victory over San Francisco

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at San Francisco 49ers Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Chiefs headed into Sunday afternoon’s game hoping to bounce back from their tough Week 6 loss to the Buffalo Bills and head into their bye week with a win — but they would have to do it against one of the NFL’s top defenses. The San Francisco 49ers were looking to avenge their Super Bowl LIV loss to Kansas City and move above .500 for the season.

After the 49ers took a 3-0 lead to begin the game, the San Francisco defense showed why it is one of the league’s best. On third-and-7, quarterback Patrick Mahomes targeted rookie wide receiver Skyy Moore on in-route, but 49ers’ safety Talanoa Hufanga intercepted it. Four plays later, the 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo hit wideout Ray-Ray McCloud for an eight-yard touchdown pass that gave San Francisco a 10-0 lead.

Mahomes and the Chiefs responded as they often do. Two touchdowns from wide receiver Mecole Hardman (and one from running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire) sparked a 21-6 run that gave Kansas City a 21-16 lead midway through the third quarter.

The turning point

With four minutes left in the third quarter, the Chiefs were driving downfield — hoping to put some distance between themseleves and the 49ers. But a holding penalty called against offensive tackle Andrew Wylie gave Kansas City a first-and-20 at the San Francisco 38-yard line. After two incomplete passes, the Chiefs were staring at third-and-20. Without a gain on the next play, Kansas City would have to attempt a 55-yard field goal — and just before halftime, placekicker Harrison Butker had already missed a 39-yard attempt. Any positive yardage would have made it an easier attempt — but it would still be only a one-score lead to a 49ers team that was having little trouble moving the ball.

Mahomes took the snap and you could see the play developing perfectly. The offensive linemen let the pass rushers through while left guard Joe Thuney and center Creed Humphrey set up nicely in front of running back Jerick McKinnon, who caught a screen pass. Nice blocks by Thuney and Humphrey — along with great patience and vision from the veteran running back — resulted in a 34-yard catch-and-run that gave Kansas City a first-and-goal at the 49ers’ four-yard line.

Head coach Andy Reid called the perfect play at the perfect time — while McKinnon did the same thing he had done against the Las Vegas Raiders two weeks earlier: he turned in a 30-yard gain on a crucial down that most teams wouldn’t convert, keeping a drive alive and giving his team a spark.

On the very next play, the Chiefs scored a touchdown that was eventually followed by two more — while the defense came alive, allowing San Francisco only one more touchdown on the way to a 44-23 victory.

The bottom line

McKinnon has had only 42 touches in 2022, gaining 235 scrimmage yards. While that 5.6 yards-per-touch doesn’t jump off the page, you cannot deny some of the big plays he has made. It is said that numbers don’t lie — and while I agree with that, I will add that sometimes, numbers don’t tell the entire story.

When the Chiefs have needed a big play — and a spark — McKinnon has delivered. He may not have a big role in Kansas City’s offense, but it is an important one. If the Chiefs take another championship this season, he will have made big plays that helped them win it.

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