Christian McCaffrey couldn’t save the 49ers’ offense from itself, nor could he help the defense.
Despite an early 10-0 lead and a gift of a muffed Kansas City Chiefs punt (kicked after a false start and from the KC 38), the 49ers continued to stall with the ball and got picked apart without it. The result was a 44-23 loss.
It started nearly as well as possible. The first drive stalled after a failed Deebo Samuel run and a third-down throw to Brandon Aiyuk was broken up.
But a prompt Troy Polamalu-esque interception from Talanoa Hufanga — channeling his mentor with a fingertip grab off the ground following a Tashaun Gipson breakup — set the 49ers up for a quick touchdown response. Jimmy Garoppolo bought time and found a diving Ray-Ray McCloud for an impressive touchdown catch to give the 49ers that 10-point lead.
No lead, though, is safe against the Kansas City Chiefs. That’s probably not a point any 49ers fan needs reminding of.
The visitors promptly led an incisive drive of their own, ending with an 8-yard Mecole Hardman touchdown. They secured multiple chunk plays from clever designs, without much pressure coming towards Patrick Mahomes. That would be a theme.
San Francisco, for its part, stalled out inside the Kansas City half, with Jimmy Garoppolo taking a sack on third down. It concluded with a 50-yard Robbie Gould field goal to stay up 13-7. This, too, would be a theme; of the 49ers bringing field goals to a touchdown fight.
Kansas City proceeded to gouge the 49ers on the ensuing drive, going 90 yards on 10 plays. It ended, once again, with a Mecole Hardman touchdown. He was essentially untouched on a 25-yard carry to the end zone.
The ending to the half was pretty indicative of where these two teams were at.
Trailing by just a point, inside of the final four minutes, the 49ers worked their way to the Kansas City 29-yard line with a first down.
Two of the next three plays were a hold and a sack. San Francisco even negated a too many men penalty on the Chiefs. They committed a false start on a would-be 51-yard field goal, which apparently pushed them out of Robbie Gould’s field goal range.
That set up a Mitch Wishnowsky punt… from the Kansas City 38-yard line. That was negated by a muffed fumble from the Chiefs, recovered by Samuel Womack III at the 11-yard line.
But a different variety of ignominy followed. On a third down, after running, then throwing to Deebo Samuel — who ran out of bounds, allowing the Chiefs to hang on to their timeout — Jimmy Garoppolo threw a fluttering duck to the end zone, well over the head of Ray-Ray McCloud.
It was picked off by Joshua Williams, and may have been a pick-six if not for an ankle tackle by Brandon Aiyuk. Only by the grace of a low block on Nick Bosa did the 49ers avoid giving up a touchdown. They lucked out with a missed Harrison Butker field goal, too.
But none of that materialized in anything positive.
In the second half, the Kansas City juggernaut ripped San Francisco’s defense apart piece by piece.
The defense, previously the strength of this team, seemed completely unable to tackle the Chiefs’ skill players. There were an astonishing number of missed assignments, all while the defensive line — save for a single Nick Bosa sack — failed to get home.
Here’s a stat that tells you how dominant Kansas City was: they did not punt until late in the fourth quarter.
They had six touchdowns, one interception, one missed field goal, one punt and a kneel.
The 49ers? Two touchdowns, three field goals, one punt, one safety, two interceptions, one fumble and a kneel.
This game was a failure in every facet.
The special teams unit probably had the best game given the fumble recovery, but they also let the Chiefs start the second half at the 49ers’ 33-yard line. Isiah Pacheco returned the ball 52 yards and was pushed out bounds well after the play by Jauan Jennings for an additional 15 yards.
The defense was gouged, and could not get Kansas City off the field. One third-and-20, with the 49ers down just 21-16, turned into a 34-yard gain courtesy of a Jerick McKinnon dump screen.
The loss was cemented, for all intents and purposes, when the Chiefs turned a 3rd-and-11 into a 57-yard completion to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. He beat Charvarius Ward — who didn’t seem like himself after nursing a groin injury this week — badly.
They allowed the Chiefs to rack up 532 net yards, have 10 plays of 20 or more yards, and go 6-of-8 on third down (with one of those coming late). Every penalty they committed was capitalized on by the Chiefs, and even when they were in favorable situations, it seemed not to matter.
And the offense? Ahh, the offense.
It wasn’t good enough, again. It’s an offense averaging 20.8 points per game. It scored 23. They consistently stalled out with missed opportunities and penalties just past midfield.
While Chiefs were picking them apart on the other side, the offense couldn’t seem to put the ball in the end zone.
McCaffrey had some good moments, with 62 net yards on 10 touches, but he wasn’t enough to solve their woes. Aside from a few nice Brock Purdy throws late (he also overthrew the ball on an interception), there’s not much to like about what was on display Sunday.
The 49ers got beaten. Resoundingly. They appeared in a class well below the Chiefs. Their defense was put on notice, and the offense still hasn’t figured it out.