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Chiefs vs. 49ers Week 7 Scouting Report: Grades and Key Matchups

The Scouting Report for Sunday’s Chiefs vs. 49ers game is produced by The 33rd Team’s Scouting Department, led by former Eagles, Cardinals, and Ravens personnel executive T.J. McCreight and assisted by scouts Justin Casey, Kevin Cohn and Evan Pritt.

Travis Kelce vs. George Kittle

  • There are several reasons that Travis Kelce is such a productive player and it starts with Andy Reid. Reid’s offense is extremely creative in the ways that they get Kelce to the open spots and dead areas in zones. Not only does Kelce align as an in-line tight end, but he will also split out as well a step off the line of scrimmage. Oftentimes, when Kelce is split wide they will short motion to get him on the move and limit the defender being able to get hands-on him and disrupt his route.
  • Kelce is outstanding at finding the ‘dead area’ in zones and will weave and stem the defenders within the zone defense. Even though he may not be facing man coverage at certain times, he still will run a man route concept on the defender to create separation.  Just a slight weave will turn the defender's hips to give him just that bit of separation that he needs to get open.
  • After he gets open, Kelce has outstanding ball skills and body control to make a play on the ball, even if he has the defender near him. He can snatch the ball or ‘box out’ the defender with his big body to make the catch.  He can bend for the low ball, catch it in a crowd and take a hit and he can track the ball over his head with his eyes.
  • With his ability to just need a bit of space to get open and make a play, it makes him even more dangerous in the red zone. When you add up his ability to get open, size, toughness, ball skills, body control, and ability to score touchdowns in the red area, he is incredibly difficult to defend.
  • What is most impressive is the way he can run with the ball after the catch. He is extremely strong and can pump his lower body to carry the defender for extra yards.  He also has a rare stiff arm and you see smaller defenders bounce off and hit the turf as he continues up the field looking for the next victim.
  • The 49ers do have linebackers that are capable of defending Kelce. Dre Greenlaw and Fred Warner both have the speed, instincts, and athleticism to get in his area and attempt to make a play.  When aligned in-line, look for the 49ers to get their hands on Kelce to disrupt his route before he gets to the linebacker level.  The best way to slow him down is to hit him off the line and then use your linebackers with movement skills and length to flood his zone.
  • The 49ers also have an outstanding tight end that has been dealing with a groin injury in George Kittle. Kittle is a bit better blocker than Kelce and does a nice job controlling people in the run game.
  • They work to get Kittle the ball on the run and out in space so they can use his run-after-catch skills to defeat opponents. Kittle is a bit more explosive than the smooth Kelce. Kittle also has outstanding hands and ball skills. I really like how he can make plays in a crowd and he has top-level concentration with the ball moving through defenders’ arms and hands.
  • Kittle is outstanding with the ball in his hands. He is explosive, tough, and relentless.  Kittle will lower his pads and deliver a blow to knock people off of their spot.
  • His numbers have been down because of his injury, but when he is at full strength he is a load to handle in both the run and the pass game.
  • Advantage- Kansas City

Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel vs. Chiefs’ Corners

  • Deebo is 15th in the NFL in team target percentage at 26.9% and seventh in yards after catch (266). He also has 136 yards rushing and is averaging 5.91 yards per carry.
  • The only player who has been targeted more on WR/TE screens this season is Cooper Kupp. Jimmy Garappolo threw both of his interceptions last week when targeting Samuel. He lines up left, right, slot, in bunch sets, and in the backfield.
  • You rarely see a receiver who can set the tempo with his physicality like Samuel. He has such a strong lower body and embraces contact so much that you have to rally to the ball when he has it in his hands because the first player rarely brings him down cleanly.
  • Brandon Aiyuk has nine fewer targets than Samuel but only two fewer receptions. He is coming off his most productive game with 8 catches for 83 yards and 2 TDs. He will line up on both sides of the formation, but he is more of a pure outside receiver. He has rare length and explosiveness. He has the ability to be a good route runner, but he needs to clean up his technique to get the most out of his ability.
  • The Chiefs are ranked 32nd in QB rating against (107.5) and TD passes allowed (15). They have also allowed 20 completions of 20+ yards which ranks 21st and have only intercepted one pass. Quarterbacks are completing 69% of their passes against the team which ranks 30th.
  • The top WRs they have faced all excelled (Stefon Diggs: 10-148-1TD; Mike Williams: 8-113-1TD; Mike Evans: 8-103-2TDs; Davante Adams: 3-124-2TDs)
  • Last week, Rashad Fenton was out with a hamstring injury, and he had been starting since first-round pick Trent McDuffie was injured in the opener. 2022 fourth-round pick, Joshua Williams from Fayetteville State, saw his first significant action, playing 55 snaps in the nickel package. Williams has rare length and movement skills for the position, but his inexperience was apparent. He showed tremendous explosion and timing coming on a corner blitz, but he whiffed on Josh Allen and took out his own guy coming from the other side. He is built to be a disruptor in press coverage but was poor in his execution against the Bills. He got beat by Gabe Davis for a long TD when he was in good position but fell out of phase trying to locate the ball.
  • Between Williams, McDuffie, and Jaylen Watson they have a group of very talented rookies who are learning on the job. L’Jarius Sneed is the one corner they have with experience who also has the physical ability to play at a high level.
  • McDuffie returned to practice last week and was a full participant in all 3 days of work, so he could return at any time. They could really use him this week.
  • While Jimmy Garappolo is not on the level of Tom Brady, Josh Allen, or Justin Herbert, he has been playing well. There should be plenty of opportunities for Samuel, Aiyuk, and Kittle to make plays in this game.

JuJu Smith-Schuster vs. 49ers' DBs

  • With every passing week, it is clear Patrick Mahomes is gaining more trust in Smith-Schuster. He is coming off a season-high 113 yards receiving on 5 catches and his first TD of the year. He has become the second option for Mahomes behind Kelce.
  • JuJu lines up all throughout the offensive formation. He does not run a huge variety of routes, most of them come as crossers, out routes, or curls within 10 yards, but he does this very effectively. He has good foot quickness to set up his routes and ability to sink and snap his hips. He has good hands and is not afraid of going over the middle. The most impressive part of his game is his ability to understand what Mahomes wants to do when the play goes off schedule. They seem to have a comfortability with each other to freelance when things break down. He has emerged as another safety valve for Mahomes and the Chiefs offense with reliable hands and crisp route running ability.
  • The 49ers have been one of the best defenses in football this season but are banged up in the secondary. Jimmie Ward is questionable with a broken hand and they lost Emmanuel Moseley for the year to a torn ACL. They could activate Jason Verrett this week, but coming off a knee injury it’s unclear how much he will play or how effective he will be. Charvarius Ward, the former Kansas City Chief, was a big off-season acquisition for the 49ers and has played well. Through all of this, the defense has still found ways to be very productive in the passing game. They rank second in yards passing allowed per game (168.3) and fourth in yards passing allowed per play (5.46). They are also second in points per game allowed (14.8) and 13th in interception rate (2.70%). They have more interceptions (5) than passing TDs allowed (4).
  • San Francisco is primarily a zone coverage team, they run zone on 71% of their coverages which ranks first in the league. They will show various looks in their zone coverage. They will show soft coverage and playback on the majority of long yardage situations, but will not be afraid to show press either. In short-yardage situations, they almost always play tight press. They have very similar body types at corner, they have good length and the ability to run. This allows them to play off coverage and react to what is going on in front of them. They flip their hips and transition well and their coaching is clear good because they play fast and react quickly. In press coverage, they play tough, get hands-on immediately, and do a nice job of disrupting routes. Deommodore Lenoir is coming on as a player and will see significantly more time with the loss of Moseley. The impact of Charvarius Ward’s groin injury in Week 6 was felt in the secondary, but he is expected to play which will be a big boost for them. They know they have the guys in the secondary to dictate terms.
  • I expect the 49ers to cover JuJu in a similar fashion they did with Cooper Kupp. They had the most success on Kupp when they played him tight and got hands on him from the snap. Kupp had his most success when they let him get a free release and get into his routes. JuJu isn’t quite the same player as Kupp but has a similar playing style. San Francisco has been somewhat susceptible to under routes over the middle, which JuJu does well. With JuJu lining up in different places, and the 49ers being a left/right corner team, JuJu will see different players lined up across from him throughout the game. The 49ers DBs will have to be sound in their technique and disrupt JuJu off the line. They play the Rams twice a year and have a very creative offensive-minded head coach in their own right, so I don’t expect the 49ers to be thrown off by the different looks Andy Reid throws at them, but it will be important for them to continue to play sound football and not get overwhelmed by whatever they do see thrown at them from the Chiefs offense.

Extra Points

  • This is a rematch of Super Bowl LIV. There are some new faces, but the cores of the organizations are the same.

Chiefs’ Keys to Victory

  • Continue to be creative with Kelce, especially in the red area. Short motion, removed from the line and in the slot. Work to avoid defenders from being able to get hands-on and disrupt.
  • Keep Deebo Samuel and George Kittle bottled up, so they can’t set the tempo with their physical style of play.

49ers’ Keys to Victory

  • Attack the inexperienced Chiefs corners.
  • Establish the run and control the time of possession battle.
  • Play assignment-sound defense against Mahomes with so many injury replacements.