In a Super Bowl rematch, the 49ers hang with the Chiefs until they do

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When the Kansas City Chiefs took a 28-16 lead late in the third quarter at Leva Stadium yesterday, I thought the game was basically over. The San Francisco 49ers blew a 10-point lead earlier, but the memories of Super Bowl LIV in 2020 are surely still fresh. Anyone who knows Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense knows that being under 50 points is dangerous.

After KC scored late in the third quarter, the 49ers put together an impressive drive on their next possession, culminating in George Kittle’s 15-yard touchdown run early in the fourth. It was 28-23 and San Francisco was still hanging in there, even though they weren’t really.

Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs haven’t been kind to the San Francisco 49ers in their last two meetings. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

On previous possessions, Kansas City converted multiple 3-and-longs into big first downs. So, after the Niners cut the lead to five points, KC was deep in their own territory on 3rd and 11 when Patrick Holmes launched a 50-yard bomb to Marquez Valdez-Scantling that led to another Chiefs touchdown a few games.

The dry autumn air in Santa Clara felt deflated. It was 35-23 and I started switching channels to watch baseball, hockey and basketball. (October is the month of sports overload.)

But wait, maybe the 49ers can pull off a reverse Super Bowl and put together a comeback. What’s the worst that could happen? I mean, sure, the 49ers were pinned in their own end zone, but Jimmy G probably won’t get sacked for his second safety of the season… Oh, yeah, he will. Having scored an inglorious two points, the “Chiefs” scored again as if they were playing Madden and had cheat codes.

“44-23 just like that,” the announcers said. And just like that, the San Francisco 49ers fell to 3-4. Even with plenty of the right ingredients, it’s unclear what the Niners will be cooking for the second half of the season.

The Chiefs, after crushing the 49er, are dreaming of a comeback yesterday. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

An overly simplistic narrative would be that last night’s game speaks volumes for this year’s 49ers: they have immense talent and explosiveness. They can put points on the board. They can pressure (and sometimes stifle) the other team’s offense. However, whatever positives the 49ers have, they feel patchy and inconsistent at best — though of course multiple injuries hampered the Niners’ consistency and rhythm.

Let’s not forget the two dominant narratives: yesterday’s red-and-gold debut and the return of Christian McCaffrey to the Bay Area, who was acquired in a surprise trade last week from the Carolina Panthers. a dunk (if you can mix sports metaphors) of sports intelligence. “Should the 49ers have gone all-in?” ESPN asked about the trade. The Christian McCaffrey trade shows just how desperate Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers are“, read one line of the headline.”The San Francisco 49ers trade for CMC is an obvious desperation move“, another repeated.

(*After the last Warriors game, Stephen Curry, a Charlotte native and Carolina Panthers fan, said, “We send Christian McCaffrey to the Niners and then we win. [The Panthers beat Tom Brady and the Bucs on Sunday.] So, I don’t know who won this trade yet.”)

“Christian McCaffrey has arrived, but the 49ers offense still has a long way to go,” he wrote Athletic, which was not as grim and dark as the other editions. “No. 23 [McCaffrey] no doubt a game changer. His speed, his mobility, the energy that floats around him when he touches the ball was so evident. And this is taking into account the restrictions that have just arrived. With his acquisition, the 49ers’ ability to make the big play has increased significantly.”

Stanford Cardinal tight end Christian McCaffrey, seen in his 49ers debut yesterday, had 38 yards on eight carries and two catches for 24 yards. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

“We’ve got to go,” quoted Brandon Ayuk, who had 82 yards on 7 receptions yesterday. Athletic. “We have to do everything we can to try and put points on the scoreboard. I just feel like we have too many people — too many, too many game-changing people — to score 23 points,” Ayuk said, referring to the 49ers’ anemic offensive performance last night.

Well, 23 points would be great, assuming the defense was in shape and somehow contained Kansas City’s prolific offense. But this obviously did not happen.

Here’s another dominant narrative from yesterday: the long-awaited return of tight end Nick Bosa, who sacked Patrick Mahomes, along with offensive lineman Trent Williams. Talanoa Hufanga was “questionable” with a concussion but played yesterday and even grabbed a deflected Patrick Mahomes pass for an interception.

Clearly, though, the 49ers were outplayed and outplayed.

Nick Bosa is a welcome sight for 49er fans. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Is the sky falling, 49er fans? Was the McCaffrey trade “worth it?” Will the defense recover and find its form again? [Insert cheesy aphorism here:] The proof is in the pudding.

The 49ers face the 3-3 Rams in Los Angeles next week. Nine easily handled Los Angeles in Week 4. Can they find their footing again and put together a winning season?

Top image: Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

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