Niners' Defense Faces High-Scoring Chiefs

Young, new starting QB Patrick Mahomes, who's thrown for 10 TDs in two games, will be a challenge for a so-far shaky defense

The 49ers are energized after picking up their first victory of 2018. Getting win No. 2 Sunday will likely be much more difficult, however.

The 1-1 Niners travel to Kansas City to tackle the 2-0 Chiefs, who rank as one of the NFL’s most impressive teams so far. Under the guidance of first-year starting quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs rank No. 6 in the NFL in total offense, averaging 405.5 yards per game. In two games they’ve outscored every other team in the NFL, with 80 points.

Mahomes has dazzling stats. He has 10 touchdown passes – with no interceptions – and a quarterback rating of 143.3, which is No. 2 in the NFL. Mahomes has averaged 10.6 yards every time he throws a pass, and he has a fine crew of receivers, including the swift Tyreek Hill on the outside and one of the league’s best tight ends in Travis Kelce. The 49ers, who rank 23rd in the NFL in total defense, will have to slow down Mahomes and Co. if San Francisco has any chance to win at Arrowhead Stadium where the Chiefs always play well in front of an energized fanbase. One plus for the 49ers will be the return of star linebacker Reuben Foster after missing the first two games because of a suspension.

Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan says he’s watched Mahomes’ tape from his first two games and says “he’s played unbelievable.”

The Chiefs let veteran quarterback Alex Smith leave this offseason – he’s now in Washington – because they knew Mahomes was ready to run the offense. Chiefs coach Andy Reid has praised Mahomes for his intelligence, strong arm and playmaking skills. He knows Chiefs fans are in love with Mahomes after just two games but he’s trying to temper expectations.

“I understand the excitement,” Reid told reporters this week. “I get it. I mean, everyone’s excited. He’s gone through two games. He’s heading for Game 3 and he’s just trying to get ready for a good football team. I know it’s not very colorful, but that’s about what it is.”

The Chiefs also have a terrific running back in Kareem Hunt and a fine offensive coach in Reid, who always comes up with some new wrinkles in every game, says Shanahan.

That’s one of the things Mahomes loves about playing for Reid.

“There’s always plays that coach Reid just draws up every single week,” Mahomes told the Los Angeles Times. “I always say that they always work. He just gets on the board in his room and just starts drawing plays. The possibilities are endless.”

Oddsmakers believe Mahomes and the Chiefs should keep their winning streak alive. They’ve made Kansas City a 6½-point favorite to beat the 49ers Sunday. Kickoff is set for 10 a.m. (Bay Area time).

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