The Chiefs defense comes into the game as the strength of the team. They've given up just 28 points through the first two games. If they can keep it at 14, the Chiefs stand a pretty good chance of winning.
Chiefs head coach Todd Haley brought up a couple of players' names this week when talking about the 49ers. Consider these key players for the 49ers:
QB Alex Smith: Todd Haley mentioned a couple of times his mobility so that's something to keep in mind. Chiefs defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel said this week they're aware of Smith's abilities and that just means they have to pay more attention to rushing lanes. Smith shouldn't be the biggest of the Chiefs problems on defense.
- TE Vernon Davis: He said this week he thinks the 49ers will win this game, which is no surprise (what else is he supposed to say?). He is one of the two major keys to stopping the 49ers. The Chiefs were hurt in weeks past by tight ends Antonio Gates and Ben Watson so stopping Davis is a major point of emphasis.
RB Frank Gore: Todd Haley loves this guy and I can see why. Gore does it all and does it well. If the Chiefs stop Gore, I think they can stop the 49ers. It's (almost) that simple. He's averaging 75 yards rushing and 50 yards receiving per game.
The Chiefs overall goal on defense this week will be stopping Frank Gore. He's the most important piece of the 49ers puzzle so taking him out of the game could go a long way to winning. Chiefs defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel said this week that what they do is find the opponent's strength and try to take that out of the game.
Here are three key goals for the Chiefs defense:
- Put the game on Alex Smith's shoulders. Like Kansas City, San Francisco has question marks at quarterback. So the Chiefs should help them answer those by putting the game on his shoulders. Smith has not shown he can consistently carry his team and is mistake-prone.
- No big plays. This will be a goal every week but this week it means even more. The Chiefs can't let the 49ers get one big play and score. They need to let Smith and the rest of the offense consistently beat them on long drives. The reason I say that is because I don't think the 49ers can do that.
- Setting the offense up. The Chiefs have needed unconventional touchdowns over the last two weeks to win. Will another come from the defense? That's impossible to predict but at the least the defense can help set the Chiefs offense up in solid field position. Whether it be by turnover or just playing good defense while the 49ers are in their own territory, the offense will probably need some help.
Strength vs. Strength: Can the 49ers run the ball?
They're about average in the league through the first two games but with Gore they absolutely can rush the ball.
Gore has 150 yards on 37 rushes this season so he's capable of rushing the ball. He's been one of the league's best over the last few years and Todd Haley remembers his old NFC West divisional rival while he was with the Cardinals.
The 49ers will likely be trying to run the ball anyway to take the crowd out of it. That makes the Chiefs job that much more important.
Projecting the Chiefs
- Leading tacklers: Derrick Johnson, Eric Berry
- Interceptions: Brandon Carr
- Forced fumbles: Derrick Johnson
The Chiefs will need a turnover from someplace. Those two are as good of a guess as any.
The keys are RB Frank Gore and TE Vernon Davis. Take Gore out of the game, and I think the Chiefs win. If Davis is limited, the Chiefs have taken away arguably Alex Smith's best option.