Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes has been the talk of the league after the first two games, and he will try to keep it going on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers in the Chiefs’ first home game of the season.
The Chiefs are one of seven teams that are 2-0, but Kansas City is the only 2-0 team that played its first two games on the road.
Mahomes was outstanding in both, being named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week after each of the Chiefs’ first two games.
Mahomes has thrown 10 touchdown passes, an NFL record for touchdown passes after two games, and he has yet to throw an interception. His passer rating of 143.3 leads the NFL by a sizable margin. The Chiefs lead the NFL in scoring (40.0 point per game) in large part because of Mahomes’ excellence.
Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid notes Mahomes has not been perfect, however.
“Everything has not been roses up to this point,” Reid said. “It looks like it, but that has not been the case. He has a ton of things to work on.”
Mahomes, in his first full season as a starter, agrees.
“There’s always places you can get better on this offense and this team,” Mahomes said.
Nonetheless, it appears Reid knew what he was doing when he traded away last year’s starting quarterback, Alex Smith, and handed the team over to Mahomes in his second season as a pro.
Reid is still concerned about how Mahomes will react when he faces a little adversity.
“As defensive coordinators study and see these things, they will throw different wrinkles at you and you have to rise up every week,” Reid said. “That’s not a simple part of this. In this business it’s not so much about what you did the week before, it’s about what you do today. We have to keep answering these different challenges.”
The 49ers (1-1) will be the next team to try to slow down Mahomes, but they will need to improve on defense to do it. They rank 23rd in the league in total defense after a 24-16 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in the opener and a 30-27 victory over the Detroit Lions last week.
However, the 49ers add an important ingredient this week as linebacker Reuben Foster is back after serving a two-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policies on personal conduct and substance abuse.
“Everyone knows how good of a tackler he is,” 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said. “But he’s also good in coverage. He can blitz the quarterback. He can do a lot of things. Just having his presence out there, just from a leadership standpoint, guys gravitate to him. We really enjoy having him around.”
The 49ers also are hoping to get another starting linebacker, Malcolm Smith, back this week after he missed the first two games with a hamstring injury.
Rookie Fred Warner, who has manned the middle the last two weeks, leads the team with 19 tackles, so Shanahan was unsure at midweek what his linebacking alignment would look like on Sunday.
“Reuben hasn’t been here in two weeks (and Wednesday was) going to be Malcolm’s first day of full practice,” Shanahan said Wednesday. “So we want to see how all of those guys do and it’ll be a tough decision at the end of the week, but a tough decision I’m going to be happy to have to make.”
The 49ers have a big defensive line, led by 6-7, 300-pound defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. He currently ranks second in the league with 3 1/2 sacks on the season.
Offensively, the 49ers are looking for Jimmy Garoppolo to be the sensation he was last season, when he was 5-0 as a starter. He had a rough start against the Vikings, throwing three interceptions in his first NFL loss as a starter. He was solid last week, completing 18 of 26 passes for 206 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
But Garoppolo was sacked six times in that game. Pass-rushing has not been a strong suit for the Chiefs so far this season, as they have just two sacks.
The surprise for the 49ers last week was running back Matt Breida, who had 138 rushing yards against the Lions and leads the NFL in rushing yardage after two games with 184. His impressive 8.4 yards per carry also lead the league.
Kansas City has allowed opposing team to average 4.5 yards per rushing attempt, which ranks 23rd in the NFL, and the Chiefs will need to shore up that department against Breida and the 49ers.
The Chiefs have a major running threat of their own in Kareem Hunt, who led the NFL in rushing last season with 1,327 yards. He is not off to a great start this season, however, averaging just 3.6 yards per carry. He was limited to 48 yards in last week’s 48-38 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers.
Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill has not been a disappointment, though. He has 259 receiving yards, which ranks third in the NFL, and he has done it on just 12 receptions, giving him an average of 21.6 yards per catch.
At times, he figures to be matched up against 49ers four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Richard Sherman.