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Super Bowl Preview: Can the 49ers Run Defense Stifle the Chiefs Run Game?

February 1, 2020

Image Credit: Andrew Giesemann

 

 

 

When you have a quarterback like Patrick Mahomes it’s fair to suggest that your offense will live by the pass and die by the pass. Luckily for the Kansas City Chiefs, it’s been more feast than famine in their passing game. The 49ers come into the Super Bowl touting the number-one pass defense in football, allowing only 169.1 net yards per game; that’s the best mark in a decade. If the 49ers are able to limit KC through the air, will they find success on the ground?

 

KC’s commitment to the pass, even with the lead, often took the ball out of Damien Williams’ hands, relegating him to receiving duties or pass blocking. With only 111 attempts on the season, Williams lead the team with only 498 yards on the ground. Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy employed a running back by committee approach much like the 49ers but with less success, as backing up Williams is LeSean McCoy, and while Shady isn’t the threat he was in Philadelphia earlier in his career, he was an effective backup, carrying the ball 101 times for 465 yards. 

 

With the Chiefs as pass a first, second, and third offense, their line was built to keep Mahomes upright, not to open up rushing lanes. Former first overall pick Eric Fisher is the team’s best lineman and shines in pass protection where he allowed only one sack, but run blocking is where the left tackle struggles, posting a 52 score as run blocker according to Pro Football Focus. In fact, right tackle Mitch Schwartz is the only starter on Kansas City’s line that posts a score above 60 from PFF. 

 

Their team total of 1,569 yards ranked twenty-third in the NFL and only five teams had fewer then their 375 rushing attempts. If Kansas City struggles in the air, and there’s a very real possibility they may, they could be forced to lean on their running game for the first time this season. Making a fundamental change to your offense in the biggest game of the year could have disastrous effects on their offense and help the 49ers hoist their first Lombardi trophy in 25 years. 

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