Heading into Super Bowl 58, there's more than a couple issues the 49ers have to fix to beat the Chiefs. But if they can't fix their effort levels, they won't stand a chance against Kansas City.
The San Francisco 49ers defense has played well for three quarters this playoff run, and even that might be overstating their play. From allowing the Green Bay Packers to move the ball with ease until the fourth quarter to allowing 31 points to the Detroit Lions, 24 in the first half.
Some of that has been schematic issues resulting in wide-open players, others simply the byproduct of playing good players on the other team.
But a few too many of the Niners' defensive miscues have come from a lack of effort on defense.
This touchdown by Jahmyir Gibbs in the NFC Championship game has been making the rounds as a prime example, as multiple players -- most prominently midseason acquisition Chase Young -- seem to give up on the play, allowing Gibbs to make it to the end zone. The 49ers' run-defense woes could also be attributed to poor pursuit and worse tackling, along with a lack of discipline in run fits:
Steve Wilks and John Lynch call out 49ers' defensive effort
Both defensive coordinator Steve Wilks and general manager John Lynch have called out the 49ers' lack of effort on defense at times.
"We've got to make sure that we play every down as if it's going to be the difference in the ball game. And you could see on those particular plays, it wasn't to our standard. Those guys understand and know that and quite honestly it was embarrassing."
Lynch echoed those points, noting that "effort is a non-negotiable" and that "those aren't plays that we're proud of... I'd be real surprised if I saw [that] again."
That the 49ers brass has to publicly comment on effort is a concerning sign for this team. If the Niners cannot get ready to play in the NFC Championship game and give their 100 percent in a game to determine if they'll play in the Super Bowl, there is no guarantee that they'll find that extra gear in the big game itself.
And against a Kansas City Chiefs team that is explosive and has shown (against these very 49ers) how quickly they can change the tide of a game, not having effort will cement a loss for San Francisco.