Patrick Mahomes leads the Kansas City Chiefs against San Francisco on Sunday in a rematch of their 2020 Super Bowl victory in an NFL Division Chiefs showdown.
The 27-year-old quarterback leads the NFL’s most successful offensive unit against a 49ers team that allows the fewest yards and the second-fewest points in the league.
“They’re still a great football team,” Mahomes said Wednesday. “A big part of that squad is still there and they’ve gotten better and better. So I understand it’s going to be a challenge because I’ve played against them before and I know how many great players they have on that defence. “
Niners coach Kyle Shanahan hasn’t forgotten the masterful Super Bowl 54 Most Valuable Player Mahomes play, whose 17 touchdown passes this year include 15 from 20 yards or less and just four to wide receivers.
“There aren’t many people as good as him in the history of football,” Shanahan said. “He’s one of the best throwers on the planet. And the way he can move. He doesn’t always do it all the way (sprint), just running away from people, but the way he fills space and create time.”
At 4-2, the Chiefs sit atop the AFC West division while the 49ers, 3-3, top Atlanta and the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC West with a 2-0 mark in divisional play.
The Chiefs produce the most touchdowns of any NFL team when they get inside an opponent’s 20-yard line.
“We absolutely have to be on high alert for this,” 49ers linebacker Dr. Greenlaw said.
If the 49ers can keep Kansas City from scoring after deep drives, it could be crucial.
“We talked about it,” Niners defensive end Nick Bosa said. “It could definitely be a big turning point in the game, if we’re able to stop them getting seven.”
This season, the 49ers rank 13th in stopping teams that get inside their 20, with haters converting those trips into touchdowns 54% of the time.
Mahomes rallied the Chiefs with two touchdowns to beat the 49ers 31-20 in Super Bowl 54, a movie Shanahan rewatched to analyze how to stop a repeat.
“I don’t like watching it. But this week it wasn’t that. I watched it for schematic reasons,” Shanahan said. “When you stop stuff, it’s usually right when the game starts. That’s why they’ve always been good.”
One of Mahomes’ top targets is Travis Kelce, whose seven touchdown receptions this year include six from under 10 yards.
The 49ers are hoping to prove they belong with the best teams in the NFL even after quarterback Trey Lance suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 2 and was replaced by Jimmy Garoppolo, leaving during most of the last three seasons.
“We’re there with everyone. Most of this league is pretty close to the same place,” Shanahan said. “A few teams are ahead of everyone, a few behind everyone. We have as many chances as anyone in this league.”
– Undefeated Eagles inactive –
Four division leaders are absent this week – the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles (6-0), defending champion Rams Buffalo Bills (5-1) and Minnesota Vikings (5-1).
The only team among the four NFL clubs with the best record to enter the field this weekend is the New York Giants, who are 5-1 in Jacksonville (2-4).
The only game this week between teams with winning records sends Indianapolis (3-2 with a tie) to Tennessee (3-2).
Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa returns after missing two games with a concussion when the Dolphins host Pittsburgh.
Other Sunday competitions include Cleveland at Baltimore, Tampa Bay at Carolina, Atlanta at Cincinnati, Detroit at Dallas, Green Bay at Washington, New York Jets at Denver, Houston at Las Vegas and Seattle at Los Angeles Chargers. Chicago will visit New England on Monday.