Image Credit: Andrew Giesemann
It is no secret that one of the keys to the Kansas City Chiefs’ success on offense has been built around the track star-like wide receivers and their ability to be the fastest players on the field. Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman highlight the speed the Chiefs’ offense brings to the table. Hill posted a 4.24-second 40-yard dash at his pro day in 2016 and Hardman a 4.34 at the scouting combine a year ago. One of the few things that cannot be taught to a football player is fleet of foot and the Chiefs have it in spades. How can the 49ers keep up?
Boundary Cornerbacks Playing Smarter and not Harder
The San Francisco 49ers held the number one pass defense in the entire league this season and that was not by accident. Veteran cornerback Richard Sherman led a revamped (and healthy) secondary to their best season since Deion Sanders was suited up in the red and gold 25 years ago. Sherman’s ability to share his knowledge and experience with fellow cornerback Emmanuel Moseley enabled Moseley to greatly improve as the season went along and supplant Ahkello Witherspoon in the starting lineup. Neither cornerback boasts top-end speed but both have learned to play smart in order to keep opposing receivers in front of them. Both effectively use the safeties to help them cover over the top when they know they have them at their disposal.
A Fully Healthy Pass Rush Doing Their Thing
While the secondary has seen a great improvement from season’s past, much of that can be attributed to the top-notch pass rush. When the combination of Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner are all healthy, they have proven to be more than any offensive line has been able to handle all season long. This eliminates the amount of time Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes could have to allow his wide receivers to get far downfield, no matter how fast they are. Keeping Mahomes contained in the pocket and not allowing him to extend the play with his legs will be a key factor for the defensive line to put their stamp on the game.
Safeties Keeping Everything in Front
Safeties Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt entered the 2019 season as a much-maligned pair. Neither could remain healthy throughout a full season and many fans were tired of them not living up to their potential. That was completely thrown out this season as for a majority of it, they have been key to the success of Robert Saleh’s defense. Ward and Tartt both possess the athleticism to cover plenty of ground in the back end up the secondary and those limits will be pushed on Sunday. Since Sherman and Moseley do not have top-end speed, the safeties must be ready to take away the go routes from Mahomes and his weapons.
The Shark Needs to Eat
Nickel-cornerback K’Waun Williams has been one of the most underrated players on this 49ers defense since his signing way back in 2017. He has been a jack of all trades for Saleh with his versatile skill set in the secondary. Not only has he been solid in coverage, Williams is also a great tackler and an extremely quick blitzer off the edge, earning him the nickname of “The Shark” among his teammates. The Chiefs love to put Tyreek Hill in the slot and Williams will have his hands full trying to keep the piece of shit child abuser who shouldn’t be allowed to play football anymore Pro Bowler from putting up monster numbers. The short and intermediate routes will be tested early and often with the effectiveness of the pass rush eliminating many of the longer routes and this is where Williams can shine. He will need to put together one of the best games of his career if the 49ers want to hoist the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday night.
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