San Francisco 49ers at Kansas City Chiefs
By: Athlon Sports | 9/24/10, 4:41 PM EDT
San Francisco is angry. Kansas City has some swagger. Both teams want to test themselves in a contest that could alter both their paths. The 49ers are 0–2, and tight end Vernon Davis all but guaranteed that his team will beat the 2–0 Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. “We will win this game,” he said Wednesday, and word quickly spread through a Chiefs’ locker room that has begun to show some pride for the first time in years. Kansas City thinks it is on the right path, and the 49ers believe they’re far better than they’ve shown. The result of Davis’ prediction could show which team is closer to being correct.
Keys for the Chiefs
• Quarterback Matt Cassel simply has to improve. He has struggled through his team’s first two games, and the whispers in Kansas City have begun to wonder who the Chiefs might target as their next attempt at a franchise quarterback. For now, the team is standing behind Cassel, instead shifting blame toward wide receivers and blocking, but it’s clear that the Chiefs’ quarterback is the team’s weak link.
• Kansas City has to be better at defending opponents’ tight ends. San Diego’s Antonio Gates and Cleveland’s Benjamin Watson had no trouble against the Chiefs, often taking advantage of Kansas City’s rookie safeties, Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis. The Chiefs are now going against Davis, one of the league’s best at his position.
Keys for the 49ers
• If San Francisco can prevent big returns, they’ll have an advantage against the Chiefs, who likely wouldn’t be 2–0 if not for touchdown returns. Kansas City scored on a kickoff return in Week 1 and an interception return in its second week. The 49ers are more talented than the Chiefs, and if they keep Kansas City’s X-factors in check, they could cruise.
• Quarterback Alex Smith had perhaps his best game as a pro last Monday against New Orleans, and San Francisco needs him to repeat that performance as often as possible. Smith will play in a difficult atmosphere in Kansas City, and mistakes could compound on the former No. 1 overall pick. Smith’s mobility could cause headaches for the Chiefs, and if his arm is accurate again, he could exploit a young and inexperienced secondary.
After his big words, all eyes will be on Davis on Sunday. He was right, after all; the 49ers are better than their record indicates, but none of that matters until a team starts winning. The Chiefs are off to their best start in five years, and like their first two contests, plenty has to go their way to keep things close and give them a chance to win. If San Francisco can minimize its own mistakes, it’ll have a clear advantage. 49ers 21–17