Chiefs Overcome Early Deficit to Defeat San Francisco, 44-23, in Rematch of Super Bowl LIV

The Chiefs climbed out of an early hole to put together a dominant victory on Sunday

The Kansas City Chiefs fought back from an early double-digit deficit to put together a dominant victory on Sunday, defeating the San Francisco 49ers, 44-23, at Levi's Stadium.

In fact, after falling behind by 10 points midway through the first quarter, the Chiefs went on to score touchdowns on six of their next seven possessions while only allowing 13 points the rest of the game.

"I'm proud of our team for the job that they did," said Head Coach Andy Reid. "I like the way that our guys approached the game. They came out and didn't get caught up in [the 49ers' excitement]. They didn't get caught up in being down by 10 points. They just kept playing."

Quarterback Patrick Mahomes completed 25-of-34 passes for 423 yards and three touchdowns in the game, tossing a quick "pop pass" to wide receiver Mecole Hardman on the Chiefs' second possession that Hardman took around the edge for an eight-yard touchdown. The score completed a nine-play, 73-yard series that featured two third-down conversions and narrowed the 49ers' early 10-point advantage.

San Francisco answered with a 50-yard field goal by kicker Robbie Gould, but the Chiefs then responded with another touchdown drive – a 10-play, 90-yard series – that resulted in yet another score for Hardman, who took a handoff on a jet sweep before breaking free for a 25-yard touchdown. The score completed the longest touchdown drive that San Francisco's defense had allowed all season, and despite the early hole, Kansas City had the lead for the first time all day midway through the second quarter.

San Francisco appeared to be in position to reclaim the advantage a bit later, however, following a muffed punt by return man Skyy Moore deep in Chiefs' territory late in the first half. The 49ers took over at Kansas City's 12-yard line trailing by only a point, but rookie cornerback Joshua Williams intercepted quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the end zone to thwart the San Francisco threat. It was the first interception of Williams' young career, and it couldn't have taken place at a better time.

"I know [Moore] wanted that play back, [and after the interception], he came over and said, 'thank you'. That's Skyy," Williams said. "I'm glad we got the opportunity to stop them from putting points on the board. That was just a big turning point in the game."

The Chiefs went on to miss a field goal in the closing seconds of the first half, meaning that Kansas City maintained only a one-point lead at the break, but the Chiefs began the second half on fire and never looked back.

First, return man Isiah Pacheco brought the opening kick of the third quarter all the way into 49ers' territory, marking a 48-yard return. The Chiefs then cashed in on the premium field position, as tailback Clyde Edwards-Helaire capped a three-play, 33-yard series with a 16-yard touchdown run.

That put Kansas City up by eight points, and while San Francisco answered with a field goal, Mahomes proceeded to lead yet another touchdown drive on the Chiefs' next possession with a four-yard scoring strike to wide receiver Justin Watson. The play was made possible thanks to a tremendous effort a bit earlier by tailback Jerick McKinnon, who converted a 3rd-and-20 by hauling in a screen and weaving his way through traffic to move the chains.

It was part of a huge day on third down for the Chiefs, who converted six of nine opportunities while averaging more than 20 yards-per-play.

The Chiefs' efforts on that drive meant that Kansas City now possessed a double-digit advantage after overcoming one earlier, but the 49ers didn't go away. Garoppolo threw the ball eight times on San Francisco's next series, completing numerous passes for big yardage before hitting tight end George Kittle for a 15-yard score that pulled San Francisco within five points.

Pro Bowl defensive end Nick Bosa then sacked Mahomes on the Chiefs' next drive, presenting Kansas City with a long third down deep in its own territory. One of the defining moments of the game soon followed, however, as Mahomes found wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scanting for a 57-yard gain deep down the field that moved the chains and set up a three-yard touchdown by Hardman – his third of the day – a handful of snaps later.

The series – which also included a 20-yard grab by wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster – demonstrated how effective the Chiefs' varied offensive attack can be.

"We have guys everywhere on this offense, and the receivers obviously had a big day today," Mahomes said. "The tight ends have had big days, and the running backs have had big days, too. That's going to be who we are as an offense. It's going to be everybody. As long as it all starts up front and the offensive line plays like they did today, we'll have a good day as an offense. We have a lot of playmakers on this team."

Hardman, meanwhile, entered the record books with his big game on Sunday by becoming the first wide receiver in the Super Bowl Era to tally multiple rushing touchdowns and a receiving touchdown in a single game. He was one of several Chiefs' pass-catchers to compile an outing to remember, joining Smith-Schuster, who caught seven passes for 124 yards and a touchdown.

Smith-Schuster's touchdown – which occurred on the Chiefs' next possession – also took place on third down and covered 45 yards, essentially putting the game out of reach with yet another big play from Kansas City's offense.

In total, the Chiefs racked up eight plays on Sunday of 20 yards or more. That feat was even more impressive considering the competition, as the 49ers entered Sunday's game with the No. 1 total defense and the No. 2 scoring defense in the league.

"I think it's [the result of] the hard work we're putting in. It's [our] chemistry," Smith-Schuster said. "Patrick trusts all of us and puts the ball where it needs to be for us to go out and make plays. As you saw today, the tight ends were catching balls, the receivers were catching balls, Mecole scored, I scored, and [Mahomes] just spread the ball around."

It wasn't just the offense, either, as the defense also managed to put some points on the board with a safety by defensive end Frank Clark midway through the fourth quarter. It was the Chiefs' first safety since late in the 2020 season and marked one of five sacks for Kansas City on the day.

"[Last week], we had so many opportunities late in the game where we could have capitalized, whether it was a pass rush or a pass we could have caught. I think the focal point this week was capitalizing on those opportunities," said defensive lineman Chris Jones. "We played a great team today, and we know it's a hostile environment, so we capitalized on those opportunities. We gave ourselves a chance to win."

The Chiefs also kept their collective foot on the gas throughout, preventing San Francisco from scoring late when safety Juan Thornhill picked off 49ers' backup quarterback Nick Purdy in the end zone. It was one of three takeaways for the Chiefs' defense in the game, and overall, the Chiefs became the first team since 2020 to record 5+ sacks, multiple interceptions and a safety in a single game.

Altogether, contributions from all three phases helped lead to a dominant victory on Sunday that moved Kansas City to 5-2 on the season while preserving sole possession of first place in the AFC West. Additionally, Sunday marked the third time in the last four weeks that Kansas City faced either the No. 1 or No. 2 scoring defense at the time in the NFL. The Chiefs went 2-1 in those games, averaging 35 points across the three contests.

"We lost a couple of games that we wanted to win, but when you look back on it and you're 5-2 and you're first in the AFC West, you can't ask to be in a better position," Mahomes said. "So, now we have to recalibrate, get off our feet, get our bodies back and then learn. When we come back, we're going to be ready to go and [we'll] try to make a push to get to the playoffs and then try to get to the Super Bowl."

In terms of injuries, Coach Reid didn't have any news to report following the game. He added that Kansas City will hopefully get cornerback Trent McDuffie (hamstring), defensive end Mike Danna (calf) and cornerback Rashad Fenton (hamstring) back following the bye week.

The Chiefs will now enjoy some time off during their bye week before returning to GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium to take on the Tennessee Titans on Nov. 6.

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