The San Francisco 49ers (2-2) defense played lights out last weekend as they held the Philadelphia Eagles offense to just 217 total yards. Can they have a repeat performance? Although anything is possible, to think they will hold Kansas City Chiefs (2-2) RB Jamaal Charles and that offense to 217 total yards with no offensive touchdowns may be a little too optimistic. However, I do believe they will make the Chiefs one-dimensional, which is where I begin.
Through three games, Charles has racked up 115 yards and one touchdown while adding an additional eight catches for 39 yards and two touchdowns. A player that is coming off a high, as Charles had a fantasy football stat line as he scored three touchdowns while rushing for 92 yards in the process, the 49ers will need to bottle him up on initial contact just like they did with Eagles RB LeSean McCoy. So how do they stop another top five running backs in the NFL? By bringing down Charles on initial contact while setting the edge.
Let’s be honest, the Chiefs will ensure that Charles gets his 20-plus touches this Sunday. Now, whether that will come to fruition remains to be seen, as the 49ers garner the No. 2 ranked rush defense. A stingy defense that has already faced a plethora of Pro Bowl running backs this season with Bears RB Matt Forte and McCoy while also facing solid running backs in Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray and Cardinals RB Andre Ellington, you can be sure that the 49ers rush defense is dialed in as they prepare for Charles, and it all starts with the 49ers front seven.
Anchored by NT Ian Williams, he has done a tremendous job so far this season as he routinely occupies multiple blockers. A player that is coming into his own as last season was cut short due to a low block, Williams is looking the part of a viable nose-guard. Not to mention, the 49ers have two stout run defenders on the bookends with DE Justin Smith and DE Ray McDonald, you can be sure those three players will have their way on Sunday as they set the edge. If Charles is unable to get outside the tackles, look for ILB Patrick Willis and ILB Michael Wilhoite to benefit as they anticipate Charles in the middle while maintaing their gap integrity.
Willis has been a stud so far this season as he leads the team in tackles with 23. A player who has yet to record double digit tackles in a game, look for that to change on Sunday, as I predict him to have a stat line around 12 tackles, and 1.0 sack. The true leader of the defense who has a knack for making the big hit, it should be no surprise if Willis brings the pain to Charles on initial contact.
A very elusive runner who is a home-run threat every time he touches the ball, the 49ers will need to bring down Charles on initial contact as head coach Andy Reid loves to use him on screens, flats, and of course in the running game. And with the 49ers already facing four really good running backs to start the season, look for that experience to fuel their rush defense as they already look in mid-season form.