Chiefs defense should have no question about primary focus vs. 49ers

The Kansas City Chiefs will have to play better defensively to stop San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey in Super Bowl LVIII.

Arizona Cardinals v San Francisco 49ers
Arizona Cardinals v San Francisco 49ers / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers dismantled the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV, 31-9. After the game, Buccaneers' players began spilling the secrets quarterback Tom Brady gave them on how to attack the Chiefs defense.

"Tom [Brady] preached all week ... their run defense wasn't that good," Leonard Fournette said in his postgame press conference. " ... I take pride in knowing those guys don't want to tackle. Sometimes you make a guy miss, but at the same time, punch them in the mouth [and] at the end of the game, they're not going to want to tackle, and that's exactly what happened."

Three years later, the San Francisco 49ers could still take Brady's words of wisdom into their own Super Bowl matchup against Kansas City.

Chiefs run defense could struggle to tackle 49ers RB Christian McCaffrey

If a defense wants to stop the 49ers offense, they have to begin by stopping the key cog in the machine. It's no secret: San Francisco's offense runs through Christian McCaffrey.

The Chiefs run defense allowed 3.4 yards after contact per carry, third-most in the league. Kansas City also ranked 24th in rushing yards allowed per play (4.5) during the regular season.

McCaffrey, meanwhile, averaged 3.4 yards after contact and 0.23 broken tackles per carry, per PFF. He led the league in rushing yards before contact (510) and after contact (510) — the first player to lead the NFL in both categories since 2017, per NFL Next Gen Stats.

It will take more than just defensive tackle Chris Jones to tackle McCaffrey, who also led all running backs in receptions and receiving yards when he lined up on the perimeter this season. The Chiefs secondary will have its hands full with tight end George Kittle and wide receivers Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel, but they'll have to account for McCaffrey as well.

"It's scary to watch with all of the weapons they have," Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said. "He's one piece of it — a big piece of it, right? ... He's explosive, a real smart football player. But he's not the only one. They are all over the place on this particular unit." 

San Francisco acquired the dynamic running back in a midseason trade with the Carolina Panthers during the 2022 NFL season. Since then, McCaffrey has a league-best 3,792 scrimmage yards and 38 total touchdowns. The 49ers have a 26-6 record (.8125 win percentage) in games McCaffrey has played in.

San Francisco won its last Super Bowl in 1994 with head coach Mike Shanahan and wide receiver Ed McCaffrey. Now Kyle Shanahan and Christian McCaffrey will attempt to follow in the footsteps of their fathers. It's up to Kansas City to stop them.

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