Chiefs’ play selection, special teams highlight lows from 22-17 loss to 49ers

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Oct. 5, 2014; Santa Clara, CA; Chiefs coach Andy Reid (left) has a discussion with line judge Mike Spanier (90) during the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium. Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Oct. 5, 2014; Santa Clara, CA; Chiefs coach Andy Reid (left) has a discussion with line judge Mike Spanier (90) during the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium. Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Chiefs offense started hot Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, and then the wheels came off in the second half.

From questionable play calling to special teams, the Chiefs can’t blame anyone except the reflection in the mirror for Sunday’s disappointing 22-17 loss to the 49ers.

This postgame piece featuring highs and lows normally starts with the good, but it’s best to start with the bad given how Sunday’s loss could carry sting into the Week 6 bye.

LOWS

• The Chiefs’ offense was humming in the first half, gaining 170 total yards. The team’s first series turned into a 12-play, 81-yard touchdown drive on the game’s opening drive, marking the first opening-drive touchdown from the offense since Week 17 of the 2013 season. But for all the first-half momentum, the Chiefs finished with 265 yards on the game, totaling just 95 yards the rest of the game.

• Coach Andy Reid’s play selection came under scrutiny on a third-and-1 play when he called for a play-action pass, which 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks batted down at the line of scrimmage. An argument could be made the 49ers are stout against the run, but running back Jamaal Charles had 80 yards rushing on 15 carries (5.3 yards per carry average). Conventional wisdom would be to put the ball in Charles’ hands. And the play calling is a direct reflection of the Chiefs gaining 95 total yards in the second half.

• Special teams are normally an area of strength for the Chiefs, but the unit proved a letdown in the fourth quarter. The Chiefs allowed the 49ers to convert a fake punt from the 29-yard line into a first down, which the 49ers turned into 3 points after marching down the field. The Chiefs later inexplicably had 12 men on the field with the 49ers lining up for a long field goal attempt. The 5-yard penalty gave 49ers the first down with 4:19 remaining in the game. The 49ers chewed up clock and came away with another field goal from kicker Phil Dawson, who went 5-of-5 on attempts.

• The 49ers dominated time of possession, a whopping 36:04 to the Chiefs’ 23:56. Of course, a lot of this points to the Chiefs’ play selection. Establishing and sticking with a run game chews up the clock, while incomplete passes kills it. The Chiefs went through a stretch in the second half when eight of nine plays were passes.

• The 49ers appeared to go after cornerback Marcus Cooper early and often, capping it off when quarterback Colin Kaepernick found wide receiver Stevie Johnson for a 9-yard touchdown pass. Johnson appeared to push off Cooper within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage, but Cooper needed to match the physicality. Cooper, of course, battled a knee injury in the week leading to the game.

HIGHS

• Rookie running back/wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas showed his explosion on his first two official touches of his career. The first came on a 28-yard punt return early in the third quarter. The second came when he took a screen pass from quarterback Alex Smith 17 yards for a touchdown down the left sideline. Thomas lined up in the backfield with Jamaal Charles on the touchdown play. Perhaps a preview of what’s to come when the Chiefs return from the bye?

• Tight end Travis Kelce had a 2-yard touchdown catch early in the first quarter, marking the third straight game he has found the end zone. Unfortunately, Kelce only had two catches for 15 yards on three targets for the game.

• The Chiefs got wide receiver Junior Hemingway involved early, targeting him four times which he turned into four catches for a career-high 50 yards. Hemingway picked up the slack for wide receiver Donnie Avery (groin), who underwent surgery Friday morning. But like Kelce, Hemingway wasn’t heard from much the rest of the game. See the play calling mentioned in the “Lows” section.

• The Chiefs totaled three sacks: Defensive end Allen Bailey totaled 1 ½ splitting a sack with defensive tackle Dontari Poe, and outside linebacker Justin Houston had a sack. Houston, who enters the final year of his contract, has six sacks on the season. The Chiefs as a team have 15 sacks on the season, ranking as the fourth-most in the league.

• Running back Jamaal Charles passed Larry Johnson as the second-leading career rusher in team history with 6,018 yards. All that separates Charles from Priest Holmes is 52 yards.