(CBS Local) — Can a healthy Kansas City Chiefs offense be stopped? That seems to be a popular question in the week leading up to Super Bowl LIV in Miami. Frankly, it was a popular question certain weeks during the regular season.
The Chiefs offense lacked key pieces at various points during the regular season. Patrick Mahomes was out mid-season with a dislocated kneecap. Wide receiver Tyreek Hill suffered an early-season shoulder injury that sidelined him until mid-October and then was slowed later with a hamstring issue. Wide receiver Sammy Watkins missed a couple games, Only tight end Travis Kelce played every week.
In the playoffs, with all their weapons on the field, Kansas City has been unstoppable with the ball, scoring 86 points in two games. Mahomes has completed 46 of 70 passes for 615 yards and eight touchdowns. Kelce had 10 receptions for 134 yards and three touchdowns against the Houston Texans. Watkins pulled down 10 catches for 114 yards and a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans. Is Hill next, or wide receiver Mercole Hardman, or wide receiver Demarcus Robinson?
Inside The NFL analyst and NFL Hall Of Famer Ray Lewis seemed uncertain if the Chiefs can be contained. “I don’t know if there’s a secondary, I don’t know if San Fran’s secondary has seen, nobody has, seen the 4×100 track team that is about to come,” wondered Lewis. “I think when they’re on offense, they are one of the most explosive offenses that we have probably ever seen, when you think about player per player. I don’t know, I’m really hesitant to say that any defense can stop them. So I’m really interested to see this game.”
It’s a tall order, but if any defense can slow the Chiefs’ passing onslaught, it’s the San Francisco 49ers‘. The San Francisco unit, itself ravaged by injuries for the second half of the regular season, has grown healthy again. Defensive end Dee Ford, linebacker Kwon Alexander, and safety Jaquiski Tartt all returned in time for the playoffs, and the difference has been noticeable. The 49ers held Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings scoreless in the second half of their divisional-round game then blanked Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in the first half of the championship.
The Chiefs’ passing game presents another level of challenge than the Vikings and Packers. And the way to limit big pass plays may be along the defensive line rather than back in the secondary. The 49ers have racked up nine sacks so far in the playoffs, along with many more quarterback pressures. Rookie defensive end Nick Bosa is a big part of that. “Not that it is a surprise, but whoever the left tackle is is going to have to figure out a way to block Nick Bosa.” says Lewis. “If not, he will ruin the game the way that Von Miller ruined the game against Carolina a few years ago.”
The 49ers would prefer Bosa, rather than Mahomes, do the ruining this Sunday. The Kansas City quarterback excels at freelancing when pushed from the pocket. But if Bosa, Ford and the rest of the San Francisco pass rush can force quick throws, that may shorten shorten the field enough to give the secondary a chance.
You can catch Ray Lewis along with Phil Simms, Brandon Marshall, Michael Irvin, and host James Brown on Inside The NFL every Tuesday night at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Showtime.