ReFo: Chiefs @ 49ers, Week 5
With both teams coming off big wins against intra-conference rivals, the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers played the crossover game as the league’s two West divisions continue their year-long rivalry. Storylines were aplenty in this one with Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith making his return to San Francisco while the 49ers dealt with week-long speculation about unrest in the locker room.
As for the on-field product, a field goal-fest came right down to the wire as the Chiefs had a chance to win the game as they took over with 2:12 to play, but they fell short as Smith threw two errant passes, the second of which was intercepted for a game-clincher. Both offenses moved the ball at times, but the defenses cracked down in their own end, leading to five Phil Dawson field goals being the difference in the game.
Here’s a look at the key performances from the game.
Kansas City Chiefs – Performances of Note
Alex Smith, QB: -1.7
Breakdown: If Smith was looking for a game to break free from the “game manager” label, and he’s had a few through the years, this was not one of them. Only three of his 17 completions went beyond 10 yards and his two touchdowns were more about scheme (Travis Kelce walking in on a wide receiver screen) or outstanding work from his playmakers (De’Anthony Thomas breaking a tackle and outrunning the defense on a running back screen). Smith did flash his quick release and decision making throughout the game, but when it came time to make big plays, he just didn’t do enough in this one.
Signature Plays: Smith’s best work came in the quick game as he used pop passes and quick slants to keep the 49ers off balance. However, on the game’s final drive, Smith pulled out his worst two throws of the day, first throwing late to the sideline for a near game-ending interception and then overthrowing tight end Anthony Fasano down the seam, right into the waiting arms of cornerback Perrish Cox to seal the game.
Justin Houston, OLB: +4.0
Breakdown: Houston continued his strong season with a disruptive effort, especially as a pass rusher. He didn’t have many opportunities to make plays in the running game as the 49ers generally ran away from him, but he picked up a sack and three hurries on 21 rushes and he kept his one targeted pass in front of him in coverage.
Signature Plays: With 8:28 to go in the third quarter, Houston’s quick bull rush on right tackle Jonathan Martin was enough to flush QB Colin Kaepernick from the pocket, but Houston was then able to shed and track him down for the sack. He beat Martin right off the snap on three other occasions and he got inside RG Alex Boone when rushing up the middle on one play.
Marcus Cooper, CB: -3.8
Breakdown: It’s been a rough start to the season for Cooper who was once again beaten throughout the game despite surrendering only four catches on nine targets. Three of the four catches went for first downs with the other going for a touchdown and he had little to do with the other incompletions. Cooper is now grading at -8.9 in coverage this season and quarterbacks have a passer rating of 140.2 when throwing into his coverage.
Signature Plays: Whether it was Brandon Lloyd losing him on a deep ball at the 11:29 mark of the second quarter or Stevie Johnson swatting him away with a nifty route at the goal line for a wide-open touchdown, Cooper was the culprit on too many easy throws.
San Francisco 49ers – Performances of Note
Joe Staley, OT: +7.3
Breakdown: The 49ers made an effort to run behind Staley and LG Mike Iupati (+3.4 run block) and it proved to be a good strategy. It was an uncharacteristic game for San Francisco who eschewed their “power” running attack for more of a zone scheme and Staley was a key to the game as he won on the edge throughout the game. He worked in tandem with Iupati to get good movement on RE Allen Bailey a number of times and when you throw in a perfect day in pass protection on 34 dropbacks, it was one of the finer left tackle performances of the season.
Signature Plays: Staley led the charge on the first snap of the game, getting good movement on Bailey for a six-yard gain and he later reached and sealed him to set up an easy cutback for RB Frank Gore, good for a 13-yard gain at the 9:28 mark of the third quarter.
Justin Smith, DE: +2.9
Breakdown: Yet another classic day for Smith who made life easier on his teammates in the running game, even though they were often unable to take advantage. Despite getting in on only two total tackles, Smith continually won at the line of scrimmage and forced running backs to alter their paths. He also managed to force a fumble on RB Jamaal Charles. If there’s one complaint, it’s his lack of pass rushing production as he was shut out on 22 rushes.
Signature Play: Smith nearly forced a game-changing turnover at the end of the first half as he poked the ball free from Charles deep in Kansas City territory, but Charles managed to fall on it. His work against LT Eric Fisher at the 5:41 mark of the third quarter was a great example of his ability to create for teammates as he stood Fisher up in the point of attack forcing Charles to bounce outside where LB Michael Wilhoite was waiting to make the tackle for a one-yard gain.
Colin Kaepernick, QB: -2.2
Breakdown: The roller coaster ride continues for Kaepernick who constantly flashes the ability to make plays few other quarterbacks can make, but is also alarmingly bad at some of the “simple” throws. He was still a little quick to feel pressure on occasion, one week after that being a major issue against the Eagles. He also had a similar mishap from the previous week as he telegraphed a slant route in similar fashion to his pick-6 to Eagles free safety Malcolm Jenkins. This time it was FS Ron Parker breaking on the ball and merely deflecting it as Kaepernick was fortunate that it didn’t go 90 yards the other way. It was another game of “wow” throws mixed with head scratchers for Kaepernick.
Signature Plays: The near-interception to Parker was one of two extremely poor throws for Kaepernick as he kicked off the second half by forcing an in-route to WR Michael Crabtree who was blanketed by CB Sean Smith on yet another pass that should have been a turnover. Of course Kaepernick comes back with a pinpoint deep dig route at the 11:10 mark of the third quarter and we see his mesmerizing potential. If he can get a handle on the short game, he can be one of the league’s most dangerous quarterbacks given his downfield accuracy and game-changing ability in the running game.
PFF Game Ball
Joe Staley had a dominant outing in the run game and in pass protection making him an easy choice for this week’s game ball.
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