The last time the 49ers encountered the Kansas City Chiefs, the Chiefs scored 44 points while gaining more than 9 yards per play. That was in last season.
This time around, both teams are quite similar, except that the 49ers have a new defensive coordinator — Steve Wilks. In 2022, it was DeMeco Ryans, and he had no answers against Andy Reid. Couldn’t stop the run or the pass.
What change will Wilks make?
First, Wilks has to decide what to do against two- and three-tight end formations, because the Chiefs use those heavy personnel groupings quite frequently.
When the Lions used those groupings, Wilks made no adjustments. He simply stuck with the 49ers’ typical Wide 9 front, and the Lions bulldozed it. The Chiefs can do the same thing.
Which means Wilks needs to make an adjustment. The Wide 9 front is designed to capitalize on teams that are playing from behind and trying to pass to catch up.
It’s not designed to stop the run against teams using lots of tight ends. So when the Chiefs go big on offense, Wilks should use a five-man defensive front, which has much less space between the defensive linemen.
Bringing an eighth defender down into the box could be disastrous because the Chiefs have Patrick Mahomes, the best quarterback in the NFL, and he will take shots downfield and complete them if the 49ers dare him to. So the 49ers will have to find a way to stop the Chiefs running game with seven defenders.
We’ll see if Wilks makes an adjustment.