KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The difference in the 49ers 31-10 loss on Sunday was sustaining possessions and making big plays. Kansas City did just that; the 49ers did not.
The Chiefs used their play-makers early and often , which in turn created a fluid offensive attack in their victory at New Arrowhead Stadium.
Kansas City failed to have a runner total more than 100 yards against the 49ers rush defense, but both Jamaal Charles (12 carries, 97 yards) and Thomas Jones, (19 carries, 95 yards and a touchdown) certainly came as close as you can get.
"They executed and made the plays. We did not" head coach Mike Singletary said after his team lost for the third straight week.
Rookie wide receiver Dexter McCluster also helped out significantly, catching three passes for 69 yards and a touchdown. Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and tight end Tony Moeaki both caught touchdown passes as well.
After both teams traded second-quarter interceptions, the Chiefs got on the scoreboard first, following a Brandon Flowers' interception with a 31-yard touchdown pass from Matt Cassel to McCluster on the very next play from scrimmage.
Once Kansas City took the lead, it was their's for the rest of the game.
Kansas City's offense gave the 49ers defense more trouble in the third quarter, when Thomas Jones fielded a snap from center, handed off to McCluster who then pitched it back to Cassel so the quarterback could launch a 45-yard touchdown pass to Bowe.
The formation's success earlier in the game on a fourth-down conversion sucked in the 49ers defense on the touchdown pass and allowed Cassel to air out the deep ball before the 49ers could catch up to Bowe in the end zone.
On their next possession in the third, Kansas City marched 61 yards on eight plays to score on an impressive 18-yard touchdown catch by Moeak,i who hauled the ball in with only his right hand. The touchdown signaled Cassel's first, three-touchdown performance in a Kansas City uniform. He finished the game 16-of-27 for 250 yards.
The Chiefs often found room to run, especially on screen passes. The Chiefs used their weapons to pick up 21 first downs, Cassel's 250 passing yards and 207 rushing yards, quite the opposite of the 49ers offensive production which totaled 11 first downs and 251 net yards.
"Certainly, there's a lot of room for improvement," said quarterback Alex Smith on a day in which neither he, nor the 49ers offense could gain traction in a difficult road environment. "They got us."
Smith was sacked five times, three of which were provided by Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali. The running game didn't fare much better.
Frank Gore was bottled up for most of the day on the ground, averaging a mere 2.9 yards per carry, but made most of his impact in the passing game. He had a game-high nine catches for 102 yards.
"They played a great game," Gore said. "We just didn't get it going."
Gore's 41-yard catch in the fourth quarter set up a 12-yard touchdown catch by Josh Morgan on the game's final play. The touchdown didn't matter, but the end result did. The 49ers are now 0-3.
Much like the 49ers season-opening loss in Seattle, the first quarter didn't indicate a lopsided outcome would take place.
Midway through the opening period in a scoreless game, cornerback Shawntae Spencer picked off his first pass of the season. Spencer stepped in front of a Cassel sideline pass intended for Bowe, but the 49ers could not capitalize on the turnover.
They failed to capitalize on much else for that matter.
The 49ers gave the ball back to Kansas City when Smith's pass intended for Michael Crabtree was deflected by cornerback Brandon Flowers, who kicked the ball back to himself while falling to the ground. The fortunate bounce paid off when Cassel hit McCluster for his first touchdown pass of the day and Kansas City would continue to roll from there.
The 49ers seemed to respond by moving the ball into Kansas City territory thanks to a pair of catches by Crabtree. But a 49ers flea-flicker on third down from the Chiefs 33-yard line was well-defended by the defense forcing Smith to throw the ball away. Joe Nedney converted a 51-yard field goal to cap the eight-play, 45-yard drive.
It was the only scoring the 49ers would get for quite some time, as Morgan's late touchdown was the only other score.
Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop could not answer Nedney's field goal on the next drive, missing on a 38-yard field goal attempt, but would later make a 32-yard kick to give Kansas City a 10-3 lead to close out the first half.
The Chiefs added to their lead with Cassel's touchdown passes to Bowe and Moeaki in the third quarter, and a Thomas Jones 3-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, capping another frustrating road performance by the 49ers.
"We did not execute on either offense or defense," Singletary said. "We'll have to evaluate the film and make some decisions going forward."
Clearly disappointed by the outcome of Sunday's game, the 49ers locker room was dead silent afterwards. The players knew the outcome didn't reflect the way the team can play, but only the final score matters.
"That's our situation right now. We just have to watch film, correct our mistakes and be ready to put in work once again for another game against Atlanta," linebacker Joe Staley said. "We have our work cut out for us. We have ourselves in a little hole right now. It hurts. But we still have a lot of football left."