KANSAS CITY, Mo. – All eyes will be on Chiefs (2-2) quarterback Alex Smith this Sunday, who faces his former team for the first time since being traded to Kansas City in 2013.
Smith, the first overall pick in the 2005 draft by the 49ers (2-2), led the team to the NFC Championship game in 2011, but was benched the following year in favor of current 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The following offseason, the Chiefs hired coach Andy Reid who quickly traded for Smith.
Despite returning to the city where he started his career, Smith isn’t thinking about getting revenge on the team that traded him or showing up the man who replaced him.
“I’m trying to get a win,” Smith said. “I could care less about the stats and out-dueling anybody.”
Offensive coordinator Doug Pederson doesn’t see any changes in Smith this week either.
“He came in on Tuesday and got his film work in and he’s been good all week,” Pederson said. “He studies and prepares like I’ve never seen a quarterback prepare before, he does a nice job there. He’s treating it like the next game on our schedule.”
Reid, who had a homecoming of his own in 2013 in a week three trip to Philadelphia, says it’s just another game on the schedule.
“All the distractions, going home and all that – it doesn’t mean anything,” Reid said. “You’re there to play the game and once you’ve said hi to your buddies it’s over.”
TALE OF THE TAPE
• The Chiefs rank fourth in rushing (145.3 yards per game) and 28th in passing (207.3 yards per game).
• The 49ers rank seventh in rushing (138.5 yards per game) and 22nd in passing (212.3 yards per game).
• The Chiefs rank 19th against the run (116.5 yards per game) and eighth against the pass (221.5 yards per game).
• The 49ers rank second against the run (69.8 yards per game) and seventh against the pass (217.5 yards per game).
THE LAST TIME
Kansas City has won four of their last six games against the 49ers, including a 31-10 victory in Arrowhead Stadium in 2010, but they have not played in San Francisco since 2002, a 17-13 victory for the 49ers.
This Sunday will be the 12th meeting between the Chiefs and 49ers, with the 49ers holding a 6-5 series lead, including wins in the last four games in San Francisco. The home team has won the last eight games in this series. This will be Kansas City’s first game in Levi’s Stadium.
JENKINS RETURNS TO SAN FRANCISCO
While it will likely not be as highly touted as Alex Smith’s return, wide receiver A.J. Jenkins will start the second game of his career in relief of the injured Donnie Avery. Jenkins was the 49ers first-round pick in 2012 but failed to live up to expectations and was traded to Kansas City before ever catching a pass for San Francisco.
Jenkins, like Smith, isn’t changing his approach despite returning to where his career began.
“I’m just more focused on myself and trying to get myself ready to play,” Jenkins said. “[I] can’t go down there with all these emotions on my first start. It’s not going to be a good thing if I’m so emotional about going back, so [I’ve] got to stay focused, got to stay in my playbook, got to just keep it simple.”
Despite Jenkins not having much success this season, offensive coordinator Doug Pederson sees similarities between him and Avery.
“Really he and A.J. are very similar in style, they are both speed guys,” Pederson said. “They’re two similar receivers, but the biggest factor, I think, is the experience Donnie has over A.J.”
OFFENSIVE LINE IMPROVING
After allowing 11 sacks in the first three weeks, the Chiefs offensive line allowed just two last week against the New England Patriots and looked much improved as the running game amassed more than 200 yards.
“They’ve really jelled over the course of the last four ball games,” offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said. “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.”
In addition to Hudson and McGlynn, guard Zach Fulton and tackle Eric Fisher have also improved, according to Pederson.
“They are understanding the game so they get more confidence and just allowing their talent to show,” Pederson said. “I think it comes with the territory there, and I think it comes with experience and playing. You practice it and it carries over into the game. It gives you all the confidence in the world to go play and play at a high level.”
STEPHENSON ELIGIBLE TO RETURN
Right tackle Donald Stephenson was suspended for the team’s first four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Ryan Harris has manned the right tackle spot in Stephenson’s absence. However, coach Andy Reid says Stephenson will not regain his spot in the starting lineup immediately.
“Not right now, no,” Reid said when asked about whether Stephenson would start this week. “He’s just going to get himself back into the swing of things. He’ll rotate in there during practice, hadn’t done any football for a month. We’ll let him kind of get acclimated here again.”
While he won’t start immediately, Stephenson says he’s excited to be back with the team.
“I felt at home as soon as I got back,” said Stephenson. “I couldn’t wait to get back. The first day they said I could come back, that’s what I did.”
Chiefs coach Andy Reid, on if he had any advice on returning to San Francisco after coaching in Philadelphia last season:
“What I did, I just ordered a cheesesteak and then went and coached.”
Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton on whether the defense is playing more man-to-man or zone coverage this season:
“Well, one I wouldn’t tell you if it was or wasn’t…. I don’t know honestly. I can’t tell you what the statistics are, but I would say pretty close[to last season].”
Chiefs offensive lineman Donald Stephenson on what it was like having to watch the Week 1 loss at home:
“I thought the guys played their butts off, they fought hard. It was just tough to watch.”
While the Chiefs have played well lately, they face a major test on both sides of the ball on the road in San Francisco. In addition, they’re going to the west coast just six days following an emotional win on Monday Night Football.
The Chiefs are at their best when the running game is effective, but the 49ers strong defense will test the young Chiefs offensive line and do their best to limit the effectiveness of running back Jamaal Charles. Quarterback Alex Smith must make plays in the passing game to keep the defense honest, something he has struggled with in the past.
Defensively, the Chiefs must slow down 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and while Kansas City has a strong pass rush, he is at his best when escaping the pocket.
The Chiefs must keep Kaepernick in the pocket and force him to make plays through the air. Additionally, the secondary will have to continue its strong play against a quality receiving corps.
A short week, a long trip and a talented opponent hand the Chiefs their third loss.
Outcome: 49ers 28, Chiefs 17