Out of the 32 teams in the NFL, the San Francisco 49ers boast the league's second-best defense based on yards allowed per game (287), only topped right now by the Detroit Lions (267).
As with all good defenses, their success starts up front with the defensive line, in their case led by five-time Pro Bowler Justin Smith. In four games, Smith already has three of the fives sacks recorded by the team this season.
For the Kansas City Chiefs to be victorious on Sunday, they will thus once again need their offensive line to play well, a task that has become a bit easier as it remains intact.
After blows to line personnel from injury and suspension at the beginning of the season, the starters will be playing in their fourth-consecutive game together, and that has allowed for both improvement and cohesion.
"I think they've really gelled over the course of the last four ball games," offensive coordinator Doug Pederson explained this week. "Rodney (Hudson) is the commander-in-chief up there and he keeps those guys intact. Mike McGlynn has improved each week.
"It is a group that's coming together, and it's good to see. They will continue to grow and get better as the year goes on."
As the starting five improve with playing time, the Chiefs continue to have further reason for optimism. This week, third-year right tackle Donald Stephenson returned to the team after a four-game suspension.
"You bring him back and you bring him back slowly," Pederson said, detailing the plan for Stephenson. "He's another player that will have some opportunities as we go. It just gives you depth whether he's in there or Ryan (Harris) is in there, it gives you depth at the offensive line position, which is something that you need.
Back at practice on Wednesday at the University of Kansas Training Facility, Chiefs working on preparation for San Francisco
Although Pederson admitted Stephenson wouldn't start due to the lack of football repetitions during the time he missed, it's likely he will see at least some time.
"Anytime you miss four weeks of football you're going to be a little bit slower and a little bit sore as the practices work on," he said. "He's another one you work into the mix and get him involved. Get him a handful of plays.
With opponents in mind, a strategy set and a key reinforcement on the way back, the offensive line and the rest of the Chiefs practiced indoors Friday in their final preparation for the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.
To beat their highly ranked defense, the Chiefs will need to win the battle in the trenches, something that has appeared more and more possible in the past few weeks.
- WR Donnie Avery (core muscle) and S Eric Berry (high ankle sprain) did not practice and are listed as out for the game against the San Francisco 49ers.
- Andy Reid on Avery's surgery: "Things went well."
- LB Tamba Hali (knee) and CB Marcus Cooper (knee) were limited.
- RB Jamaal Charles (ankle), LB Tamba Hali (knee), CB Sean Smith (groin), RB/WR De'Anthony Thomas (hamstring) and LB Frank Zombo (hamstring) are all listed as probable for the game; CB Marcus Cooper (knee) is listed as questionable.