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Sunday, September 26, 2010
Wrap-up: Chiefs 31, 49ers 10

By Mike Sando

What it means: The 49ers will take an 0-3 record into Atlanta and their strength will be tested. Having three of the first four games on the road put the 49ers at risk for a slow start, although winning at least one of the first three seemed like a reasonable expectation. Allowing more than 450 yards to the Chiefs did not. The schedule eases some after Week 4 and the other teams in the division aren't exactly perfect (Seattle and Arizona were outscored 72-21 in Week 3, after all). This division race is still only beginning. The key for San Francisco will be weathering the rough start emotionally and psychologically. Coach Mike Singletary's leadership style will be tested. Singletary talked last week about having more than one gear as a coach. Can he really mix it up? Or will his reaction to the disappointing start consist of backing up a few steps and ramming into the wall even harder?

Big Revelation: The 49ers' powerful defense can be exposed by teams with speed on offense. New Orleans' Reggie Bush had some success early in the Saints' game at San Francisco last week. The Chiefs' Jamaal Charles was a track star in college. Fellow Kansas City running back Dexter McCluster has big-play ability. The 49ers countered with a big, rugged front seven, but they had problems containing the Chiefs' speed on the outside. With the 49ers paying attention to the Chiefs' big-play perimeter threats, Kansas City beat them for a 45-yard touchdown on a trick play. Running back Thomas Jones took the snap and handed off to McCluster, who tossed back to quarterback Matt Cassel. Cassel tossed three touchdown passes, becoming the third quarterback this season to post a passer rating in triple digits against the 49ers.

Hindsight: The 49ers might have been better off sticking with Adam Snyder at right guard. Snyder started the Monday night game against New Orleans and the offensive line played what Singletary called its best game since he's been on staff. Snyder is a versatile veteran. Singletary put youngster Chilo Rachal back into the lineup against the Chiefs, as promised, once doctors cleared Rachal to return. I wondered why the 49ers would mess with a good thing, particularly given that Rachal has hardly been a consistently productive performer. The offensive line seemed to fall apart Sunday. Officials flagged Rachal for holding to wipe out an 11-yard scramble by Alex Smith. The 49ers probably could have used a veteran at right guard to help calm rookie right tackle Anthony Davis, who struggled and lost his cool, drawing a 15-yard penalty for fighting.

It's a team game: Smith's success against the Saints had much to do with the 49ers' strong running attack in that game. The Chiefs took away the 49ers running game and Smith wasn't going to make up the difference, particularly in that environment. Smith needs strong support to succeed.

Trending: The 49ers haven't looked very good when trying to get cute. They stalled on a third-down play last week when Brian Westbrook took a direct snap and found no running room. They tried a flea-flicker against the Chiefs and fooled no one. Trick plays are not the sign of creativity on offense. They're also tougher to pull off when key elements of the offense aren't working very well. The Chiefs had the 49ers' running game under control.

Trending II: Smith is not having much success connecting with tight end Vernon Davis on those familiar routes down the middle. The team hasn't tried many of them, either. Are defenses taking it away? Have the 49ers not done enough to exploit Davis' physical advantages? Those are questions I'd like to see answered.

Youth not served: San Francisco entered the 2010 season with the youngest starting offense in the league. That youth should serve the team well in the long term, but the immaturity has betrayed the 49ers in both road games this season. Michael Crabtree struggled in the opener at Seattle. Davis' struggles at right tackle stood out Sunday.

Coaching watch: The Chiefs were the second team this season with answers for everything the 49ers tried. Seattle had some additional familiarity with San Francisco based on having Jeff Ulbrich, Michael Robinson and Scot McCloughan on their side. That type of familiarity can be overrated, but it probably helped Seattle because the Seahawks had a new staff. Seattle also made some in-game adjustments that paid off well. Chiefs coach Todd Haley had a handle on the 49ers' defense after a successful run as the Cardinals' offensive coordinator. My initial impression was that Kansas City won the coaching battle in this game. Of course, the 49ers also got beat Sunday on both lines and that has much to do with making coaches look smart.

What's next: The 49ers visit the Atlanta Falcons in Week 4, followed by home games against Philadelphia and Oakland.