49ers blow Christian McCaffrey debut, outclassed by Chiefs in Week 7
By Peter Panacy
The 49ers didn’t have close to enough answers to stave off Patrick Mahomes and the mighty Chiefs offense in Week 7, and the flaws are notably apparent.
The way the San Francisco 49ers look right now, they’re not a playoff team.
True, the Niners’ Week 6 loss to the Atlanta Falcons was heavily influenced by injuries, but head coach Kyle Shanahan’s squad still outclassed Atlanta but failed to win. Then, in Week 7 against the NFL’s best scoring offense in the Kansas City Chiefs, San Francisco was again outclassed in both phases of the game.
It almost seemed miraculous the 49ers were trailing 14-13 at the end of the first half considering how strange that ending was. The Niners were in a position to take a lead, but a false start on a field-goal try resulted in a punt, one which Kansas City muffed and San Francisco recovered.
Except quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo tossed an ill-advised interception, and quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs marched all the way down the field with less than two minutes remaining, only to be flagged for their own costly penalty that nullified a touchdown, which was followed by a missed field goal.
After that, though, Mahomes and Co. blew the doors open on the 49ers defense.
KC pulled off the lopsided XX-XX victory at Levi’s Stadium, dropping the Niners to 3-4 on the season, and the fact Shanahan’s offense was still struggling despite the blockbuster addition of All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey earlier in the week is wholly telling.
Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers offense sputter in the red zone
Trading field goals for touchdowns typically isn’t a good solution when facing Kansas City, especially knowing no other team has been better in the red zone than KC.
Garoppolo’s red-zone gaffe towards the end of the second quarter not only cost San Francisco a chance at putting much-needed points on the board, but it opened up the chance for the Chiefs to score twice on opposite ends of the half.
Kansas City managed an easy touchdown drive to open up the third quarter, too.
In total, the Chiefs were 4-of-5 in the red zone, while the 49ers went 2-of-4 here. After KC got out to a 28-16 lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter, Garoppolo finally managed to hit tight end George Kittle for a much-needed touchdown that made the game more interesting:
All on National Tight Ends Day, too, as Kittle finished with six catches for 98 yards. And that touchdown was his first of the season.
Yet one can fairly question the overall ineffectiveness of Shanahan’s red-zone offense, as that was the last gasp of hope before things completely fell apart. Even when backed up in its own territory with Garoppolo taking yet another safety, his second on the year that made it 37-23 in favor of the Chiefs, which followed his running into a sack the previous play.
And Garoppolo fumbled on the last-ditch attempt to get back into contention, too.
Sure, settling for three field goals turned out to be disastrous. But there are far more deep-rooted problems with San Francisco. And with coordinator DeMeco Ryans’ defense crumbling as the second half drew on, the lack of complementary football turned into a truly disastrous outing for the red and gold.
Perhaps it’s time to accept Ryans’ defense isn’t exactly as elite as it was thought to be not so long ago.
Christian McCaffrey shows prowess in 49ers debut
No matter what, the Niners were going to have a tough time handling Kansas City despite the addition of McCaffrey, who only had a couple of days to learn a limited amount of Shanahan’s complex playbook before kickoff.
Nevertheless, McCaffrey made his impact felt early, starting his San Francisco tenure with two carries of 10 yards and 9 yards, respectively.
The 49ers’ first few drives were methodical, and McCaffrey played a role in that by serving as a rushing option, a receiving option and even a pass-catching decoy.
In total, the 2019 first-team All-Pro recorded 38 yards on eight carries and hauled in two passes for 24 yards, and it’s clear the Niners offense was a bit more balanced with him in the fray.
It was nowhere close to enough, though.
Both San Francisco’s offense and defense must do some serious soul-searching after such a humbling loss against a playoff contender, but at least the 49ers face a familiar foe against which they’ve had plenty of success in recent years, the Los Angeles Rams, in Week 8.
A loss there, however, would be devastating to Shanahan and Co.