The Niners and the Chiefs have made it to SB LVIII because they each do so many things well. Many of the same things, in fact.
But they also share a common flaw. Neither team’s defense can stop the run at an elite level.
The team that figures out a way to hide its own weakness and exploit its opponent’s will fly back home with the Lombardi Trophy in tow.
Hit “playoff rewind” for a moment. The Packers abused the 49ers on the ground. The Lions broke off chunk running play after chunk running play, particularly in the first half.
And think back on this. The Chiefs didn’t come anywhere close to stopping the Bills on the ground. And the only thing that aborted the Ravens’ rushing attack vs. Kansas City was Baltimore offensive coordinator Todd Monken, who handed the ball off to his running backs exactly six times in a game in which he was never behind by more than ten points.
Christian McCaffrey and Isaiah Pacheco are both licking their chops.
For all of their high-profile players, the 49ers’ defensive front gets knocked backwards way too easily and way too often. (Kinda remind you of the Cowboys?)
The Chiefs’ defensive back-end personnel is excellent, and made more so by d.c. Steve Spagnuolo’s exotic and sometimes off-the-wall blitz packages. But even this creates a dilemma for Kansas City. Sure, they’ll be tempted to give second-year 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy a thorough checking out against added pressure. But if you get too blitz-happy against SF, McCaffrey will kill you. He will kill you dead dead. He’ll just run right past the blitzes on his way to the end zone. McCaffrey is a touchdown machine.
The Niners’ defense may be in even more of a bind. Their top priority has to be to keep Mahomes from throwing for 350 yards and four touchdowns. Their second priority has to be to keep Patrick Mahomes from throwing for 350 yards and four touchdowns.
And their third priority…
See where I’m going with this?
The surest way to guarantee Mahomes throws for 350 yards and four touchdowns is to blitz him. Mahomes loves it when you blitz him. He PREFERS to face blitzes. And remember that the San Francisco safeties are average on a good day.
So we’re just now getting around to deciding how to handle Pacheco? The man who runs, as someone recently said, “like he’s angry at the ground”? Niners’ d.c. Steve Wilks likes to play it pretty vanilla, especially compared to his K.C. counterpart, Spags.
Remember, when you blitz, your LBs and DBs are running with their backs turned away from the QB. Now that scamp Mahomes is liable to RUN for 70 yards.
Spagnuolo will have his hands full dealing with a Niners’ offense that includes CMC, Kittle, Deebo and Ayuk. And stop even insinuating that Purdy is merely a “system quarterback.” No. He’s a stud. (More on that tomorrow.)
San Fransisco can spread you thin.
But my first impression is that Mahomes can break you apart.
I wouldn’t want to be either of those DCs.
Right now I think… that I think…that I’d rather be Spags than Wilks.
But then I get to thinking that Marquez Valdes-Scantling’s game-sealing catch against the Ravens notwithstanding, the Kansas City WRs still suck.
That may give Wilks a little bit of welcome squirm-room.