49ers vs. Chiefs: Q&A with Travis Steffen of FanSided’s KC Kingdom

San Francisco 49ers vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

Niner Noise’s Chris Wilson checks in with Travis Steffen of FanSided’s KC Kingdom to preview the San Francisco 49ers’ Week 3 matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs.

In advance of the San Francisco 49ers’ upcoming road game against the offensive powerhouse Kansas City Chiefs, Niner Noise’s Chris Wilson and KC Kingdom’s Site Expert Travis Steffen discussed the two teams, and what to expect during the Week 3 showdown

You can check out Chris’ answers to Travis’ questions about the 2018 49ers in Travis’ Friday article on FanSided’s KC Kingdom.

As expected, many of the questions about Kansas City’s fast start to the season focused on the Chiefs’ explosive offense — led by standout quarterback Patrick Mahomes — but he also snuck in a quick question about former 49ers QB Alex Smith.

Here’s Niner Noise’s Q&A exclusive with Travis Steffen:

CW: Over the first two games of 2018, Kansas City Chiefs’ QB Patrick Mahomes has thrown 10 touchdown passes, and no interceptions, in just passing 55 attempts. Known as a “gun-slinger” coming out of Texas Tech, Mahomes has become hyper-efficient at the NFL level. Has Mahomes significantly changed his style of play from his college days?

"TS: Patrick Mahomes has exceeded even Kansas City Chiefs fans’ expectations, which is hard to do when the hype train was full speed ahead going into the season. Andy Reid does a fantastic job designing his offense around his quarterback’s strengths. If you go back and watch last season, this season’s offense doesn’t look even remotely close. We see a lot of five-wide, empty sets to spread out the defense. It worked well against Pittsburgh last week. Mahomes is playing with the same style, just more efficient, and his ability to read defenses before the snap has improved to go along with his exceptional ability to read defenses post-snap."

CW: While the Chiefs’ passing game has been explosive this season, their running game has appeared to take a back seat. Compared to 2017, running back Kareem Hunt has seen similar usage on the ground, but has averaged just 3.6 yards a carry. Does Hunt look different in 2018, or are his statistics simply skewed because he’s yet to break off one of his signature long runs?

"TS: When you look at the box score from the first two weeks of the season, it looks like Kansas City does a good job of splitting the run and pass evenly. That’s not the case. The Chiefs have run the ball late in the game to drain the clock with their lead. It also has been a case of the passing game working so well that the run game isn’t needed to get the passing game going. Mahomes averaged over 11 yards per attempt last week. Kareem Hunt looks just as explosive last year and having Spencer Ware back from injury as well, they have the weapons. Reid has been lining up the running backs like slot receivers in the five-wide formations. The offensive line has looked good against the pass rush, but the run blocking still needs work. However, if the Chiefs need to run the ball in a given game, they will be able to."

CW: The 2-0 Chiefs are currently favored by 6.5 points over San Francisco. What do the 49ers need to do on Sunday to leave Kansas City with a victory?

"TS: Coming into Arrowhead on Sunday for the Chiefs home opener, and Patrick Mahomes’ first start at home as THE guy, the stadium is going to be electric. Especially after finally getting a win against Pittsburgh on the road. I have a hard time seeing the 49ers defense slowing down this offense. If San Francisco wants to come out ahead, they will have to win in a shootout. Kansas City’s secondary is still concerning. Even with that being said, Jimmy Garoppolo will have to be putting up double what he did last week if he wants a win against the Chiefs. The only way to beat Kansas City right now is just scoring more points."

CW: Who is one player on Kansas City’s roster who Niner fans may not know much about, but will impress on Sunday

"TS: I can give you a couple of players that fans might not know much about that could surprise. Wide receiver Chris Conley is a good start as he is in the final year of his rookie deal and has yet to have much production in the Chiefs’ offense. That was due to the quarterback position when Alex Smith was in town. With Patrick Mahomes, Conley has more opportunities to shine. The only thing holding him back now is the number of weapons in front of him with the addition this offseason of Sammy Watkins. On defense, it has to be inside linebacker Anthony Hitchens. He got off to a slow start after being banged up in the preseason, but he’s led the defense in tackles two weeks in a row now. He’s not the best coverage linebacker, but if you try to run the ball, he will lay down a punishing hit."

CW: I’m sure you’re sick of talking about Mahomes (unlikely), so here’s a quarterback question that’s close to Niner fans’ hearts. After seven up-and-down seasons in San Francisco, he was extremely successful in Kansas City — at least during the regular season. How does the Chiefs’ fan base feel about QB Alex Smith?

"TS: Alex Smith did some fantastic things for Kansas City. He took us from being the worst team in the league back to the playoffs in his first season. Unfortunately, the playoffs were where he and Andy Reid struggled. The two were too much alike in their conservative play. Smith was great to Kansas City on and off the field. When the Chiefs traded up 17 spots to draft Patrick Mahomes, Smith was a true professional and took Mahomes under his wing. We wouldn’t likely be talking about a start to this season as being this explosive if Smith didn’t spend a year coaching up Mahomes. Everyone in Kansas City is grateful for everything Smith did here. While we were ready to move on to the franchise quarterback of the future — the first one in over thirty years — we all wish Alex Smith great success in Washington."

CW: What’s your game score prediction for Sunday’s game — and why?

"TS: I would say my prediction is that Kansas City comes out winning 38-28. Being in Arrowhead, I might even pick a higher score. Like I said earlier, Garoppolo will need to double what he’s done the first two weeks to stay in this thing. He will have to get back to his play from last season. I do think the 49ers see an uptick in their offense this week given the Chiefs’ secondary issues, but Mahomes coming to Arrowhead will be an experience of a lifetime for fans in attendance."

49ers' starters remain unclear for Week 3. dark. Next

In addition to his work at KC Kingdom, Travis Steffan also hosts Kansas City Chiefs podcast Arrowhead Report. You can follow Travis on Twitter @SteffenNFL.