Our 49ers.com writers are back to break down four pressing topics in the San Francisco 49ers (1-1) Week 3 road game against the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs (2-0).
Here's a preview of Sunday's contest in our weekly "Four Downs" series.
First Down: What is a key stat that will be vital to a 49ers win?
Joe Fann: Red Zone Success
The 49ers can't afford to leave points on the board against a Chiefs team that boasts the league's top-scoring offense. You don't need me to remind you that the 49ers have had their deficiencies inside the 20-yard line so far this season. San Francisco is just 3-of-8 in red zone opportunities through two games. They'll look to be more efficient in Week 3. Conversely, anytime the 49ers defense can hold the Chiefs to three points rather than a touchdown in the red zone, will be a win for San Francisco.
Keiana Martin: Total Offense
I'm a firm believer in hit them where it hurts. The Chiefs defense has given up more than 400 passing yards in each of their last first games and allowed 65 combined points to opposing offenses. Jimmy Garoppolo has a great opportunity in Week 3 to ignite the 49ers passing game. Despite how many yards Garoppolo throws for, the 49ers drives must result in Joe's aforementioned success in the red zone.
Second Down: Who is the 49ers X-factor?
Joe Fann: Reuben Foster
There's no overstating what Foster's return means to the 49ers defense. Whenever he's been healthy, the linebacker has been a game-changing player. The 49ers will desperately need Foster to knock the rust off quickly and make plays against the Chiefs. It's been apparent through two games how important the middle linebackers are in Robert Saleh's defense. Fred Warner had double digit tackles in each of his first two games and Elijah Lee posted a game-high 12 tackles in Week 2. Expect to see Foster around the ball all game long.
Keiana Martin: Marquise Goodwin
The 49ers are hopeful they’ll get their speedy receiver back in Week 3. San Francisco's offense has certainly missed arguably their top wideout since he went down with a quad injury in the first half against the Minnesota Vikings. Kyle Shanahan mentioned that there were times where receivers didn’t get open fast enough which contributed to Jimmy Garoppolo absorbing a whopping six sacks against the Lions in Week 2. The return of a speedy threat like Goodwin only opens more options in Shanahan's playbook.
Third Down: Which Chiefs skill player must the 49ers slow down?
Joe Fann: Tyreek Hill
The Chiefs have so many playmakers on offense that it's hard to just pick one. Hill is arguably the NFL's best "home run hitter," and he's capable of scoring a long touchdown at any moment. What makes Hill so special is he can be used in a variety of ways. He'll burn you on a jet sweep, a nine route or a punt return. Kyle Shanahan said on Wednesday that the 49ers can't allow the Chiefs any freebie touchdowns. One missed assignment isn't costing you an explosive play against Hill, it's costing you six points. The 49ers need to make the Chiefs drive the field on Sunday, and that starts with limiting Hill's big plays.
Keiana Martin: Patrick Mahomes
Mahomes is off to a record-setting start to the season. The second-year quarterback has thrown for 582 yards and 10 touchdowns over the first two weeks. San Francisco has a tall task at hand slowing down Mahomes and his arsenal of weapons in the passing game. It will take all levels of the 49ers defense to put Mahomes in uncomfortable situations and force bad throws.
Fourth Down: What is your bold prediction?
Joe Fann: Jimmy Garoppolo throws for 300 yards and three touchdowns
Kyle Shanahan said in his locker room speech last week that the passing game needed to improve. Well, Garoppolo and Co. should have an opportunity to get going on Sunday against Kansas City's 32nd-ranked pass defense. It's a game that could turn into a shootout given how talented the Chiefs offense is from top to bottom. If that's the case, the 49ers will need a monster performance from Garoppolo.
Keiana Martin: Patrick Mahomes throws his first interception of 2018
Mahomes has yet to throw an interception in 2018. The 49ers defensive backs have yet to log a pick through two weeks of the regular season. That will change in Week 3. Both Kirk Cousins and Matthew Stafford chose to heavily target the side of the field opposite Richard Sherman. If Mahomes decides to follow suit, I believe the 49ers will be prepared accordingly.