Analysis Opinion

Three things to know about the San Francisco 49ers

The Kansas City Chiefs are headed to Miami to play in Super Bowl LIV and will playing in their first Super Bowl in 50 years. It’s been a great season for the Chiefs, but to make the season truly magical they will have to get through the San Francisco 49ers.

The San Francisco 49ers are, obviously, a very good team. They won the NFC West with a 13-3 record and were the No. 1 seed in the NFC throughout the playoffs. They dismantled the Vikings 27-10 in the Divisional Round and had a 27-0 lead over the Packers before winning 37-20 in the NFC Championship. The Chiefs will have their hands full. Here are three things Chiefs fans should know about the San Francisco 49ers

  1. Run, Run, Run

The San Francisco 49ers owned the best rushing attack in the NFC during the regular season (144.1 YPG) and trailed only the Baltimore Ravens in the entire NFL. They feature three different running backs: Raheem Mostert, Matt Breida, and Tevin Coleman. Mostert led the team in rushing this season with 772 while Breida had 623 and Coleman had 544. All three running backs are home run hitters and have enough speed to take any run all the way. San Francisco fans even call Breida “The Cheetah” (we all know who the real cheetah is).

The 49ers have continued their dominant rushing attack in the playoffs averaging an outstanding 236 YPG. Coleman led the way against the Vikings with 105 yards while Mostert gashed the Packers with 220 yards and four touchdowns. This team rides the hot hand and they do not have set roles for their running backs like we’ve seen other teams do in the best. The entire playbook is available regardless of what running back is out there, making the 49ers very difficult to defend. Coleman did dislocate his shoulder in the NFC Championship Game but the 49ers expect him to be ready for Super Bowl Sunday.

Part of the reason the 49ers are so successful on the ground is because the entire offense has bought into running the ball. Their offensive line is already very good and fullback Kyle Juszczyk and tight end George Kittle are arguably the best run blockers at their position. Kittle has even expressed how much he enjoys blocking. This team is fully committed to the run and the Chiefs should expect a heavy dose of run plays.

2. They only bring four

The 49ers do not blitz very often. They are only blitzing on 20 percent of plays, good for 29th in the NFL. They also get a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Quarterbacks on under pressure nearly 29 percent of the time against San Francisco, 2nd best in the NFL. Translation, the 49ers defensive line is so good that they don’t have to blitz to make opposing quarterbacks uncomfortable.

Their defense is led by rookie sensation Nick Bosa who had 9 sacks in the regular season and 3 in the playoffs for the 49ers this year. Bosa has 90 quarterback pressures and is a force in the run game as well. Bosa was taken 2nd overall in the 2019 NFL draft and the rest of the defensive line group are former first rounders as well: DeForest Buckner (2016), Arik Armstead (2015) and former Chiefs first rounder Dee Ford (2014). The way these four players can get after opposing quarterbacks allows the 49ers to drop more into coverage without bringing extra help. While the 49ers defense is solid everywhere, their secondary could be thought of as the “weakest link”. It’s going to be up to the Chiefs offensive line to protect Mahomes and give him an opportunity to test that theory.

3. George Kittle

George Kittle is an animal at the tight end position. He runs great routes, breaks tackles and is the highest graded run-blocking tight end in the NFL. HE finished the regular season with 85 catches, 1,053 yards and 5 touchdowns. That includes missing two games due to injury and being in a run-first offense. Kittle was rewarded for his efforts this year by being named first-team all-pro.

Since Kittle has entered the league in 2017, he is Pro Football Focus highest graded tight end at 92.5. Travis Kelce is right behind with a grade of 91.6 during that same time frame. There’s no question Kittle and Kelce are the two best tight ends in the league and while us Chiefs fans believe Kelce is the best, Kittle has a very strong case to the throne as well.

A key in the Super Bowl will be stopping Kittle, something the Chiefs have struggled to do against tight end all season. The Chiefs have allowed tight ends to catch 98 passes against them this year, 2nd highest in the NFL while the 49ers defense is one of the best defending tight ends. While Kelce uses his shiftiness and route running to get open, Kittle is more of a bruiser. Kittle has broken 45 tackles since 2017 and has over 1,700 yards after contact, both most amongst tight ends. The Chiefs first priority should be stopping the run, but they need to do whatever they can to make sure Kittle doesn’t hurt them in the passing game either. Easier said than done.

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