KICKOFF: Sunday, 12 p.m. CT
SITE: Arrowhead Stadium
TV: FOX, Chris Myers, JC Pearson, Jay Glazer
2006 NFL RANKINGS: 49ers: offense 4th (11th rush, 6th pass); defense 25th (22nd rush, 24th pass). Chiefs: offense 27th (5th rush, 30th pass); defense 8th (24th rush, 3rd pass)
SERIES HISTORY: 10th meeting. San Francisco leads series 9-6 and has won the last two matchups, which were played in 2000 and 2002 at San Francisco. The last time the teams met in Kansas City, the Chiefs won 44-9 in 1997, snapping an 11-game 49ers winning streak in Steve Mariucci's first season as San Francisco head coach. The most memorable meeting was in 1994, when former 49ers great Joe Montana, acquired by Kansas City via free agency, led the Chiefs to a 24-17 win at Arrowhead over the QB who replaced him, Steve Young, who went on that season to lead the 49ers to their last Super Bowl championship.
KEYS TO THE GAME: With QB Damon Huard making his second start in place of injured Trent Green, the Chiefs will pound away with RB Larry Johnson until a 49ers front seven that lacks bulk proves it can stop him. The Chiefs do need Huard to take a few shots down field to soften the defense, but how aggressive they are could depend on if LT Kyle Turley is able to play. Kansas City will have to put some points on the board, however, because the 49ers suddenly have a balanced offense featuring playmakers in RB Frank Gore and WR Antonio Bryant. Gore's drawback has been fumbles in each of the first three games, and rookie Michael Robinson likely will take more short-yardage snaps. QB Alex Smith is showing a lot of poise, but the Chiefs still want to test his mettle by getting an early lead and forcing him to win the game while having limited weapons outside of Bryant.
FAST FACTS: 49ers: Smith has thrown 108 passes without an interception this season and has a streak of 132 overall. He had career highs in completions, attempts, passing yards and rushing yards in last week's lost to Philadelphia. Chiefs: Huard is 5-2 in his career as a starter. ... Johnson has rushed for at least 100 yards in six of eight career starts at home. ... TE Tony Gonzalez needs three catches to pass Ozzie Newsome (662) for second-most all-time among tight ends.
BY THE NUMBERS: 61 -- Number of passing yards Smith needs to match his total of 875 for all of last season. Smith started seven games last season. 18 -- Games, out of 22, the Chiefs have won over NFC competition at Arrowhead Stadium since 1995. The streak includes the 1997 win over the 49ers.
QUOTES TO NOTE
--- "Good teams are going to make plays against you. We all know that. But there are certain ones that we have control of and we have to minimize those -- or eliminate them completely. We'll continue to work on those and get on that track." -- 49ers coach Mike Nolan.
--- "We can't expect him to be Trent Green because he isn't." -- G Brian Waters said when asked whether the team was growing more confident in QB Damon Huard.
49ERS GAME PLAN: The 49ers must show good balance on offense and do anything possible to string together some first downs early in the game. The 49ers opened last week against the Eagles with three three-and-outs. The offense does a good job, once it stays on the field for a little while. Don't be surprised to see quarterback Alex Smith test the Chiefs secondary early to soften them up for Frank Gore's running. It hasn't taken long for Smith to work a nice rapport with tight end Eric Johnson, who is a more polished route-runner than rookie Vernon Davis, who is expected to miss a month with a broken leg. Smith also has to get the ball into the hands of play-maker Antonio Bryant, who is the 49ers' biggest weapon in the passing game. Defensively, the 49ers must be prepared to face the power running of Larry Johnson. The 49ers lack some bulk on defense, especially when they're in a 3-4 defense, so rookie DE Melvin Oliver will likely get a lot of playing time and must help clog up the running lanes. Inside linebackers Derek Smith and Jeff Ulbrich will be challenged often, as the Chiefs are likely be very stubborn with their run game with quarterback Damon Huard at the controls. Huard makes his second start in a row for injured Trent Green (concussion). Prior to this season, Huard had not started a game since the 2000 season with the Dolphins.
CHIEFS GAME PLAN: Clearly, the Chiefs need to produce more big plays on offense, though doing that means giving Huard more freedom with the offense, a risk the Chiefs say they're willing to take. And other than some fumbling problems, Huard has not shown any reason to doubt he can make all the throws. He hasn't been intercepted, and when on the rare occasions the Chiefs have allowed him to go downfield, he has been effective.
Going downfield could be problematic, however, if LT Kyle Turley (questionable with back soreness) is less than full strength or has to be replaced by Jordan Black, a fourth-year utility lineman better suited to the guard position than tackle, let alone left tackle.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
--- 49ers quarterback Alex Smith vs. the Chiefs secondary. Smith struggled in his rookie season, throwing 11 interceptions in nine games. Kansas City's secondary, which is the most decorated unit on the Chiefs' defense, has just one interception so far this season. Smith, meanwhile, has not thrown a pick in three games this year.
--- 49ers defensive line vs. Chiefs offensive line. The Chiefs want to air it out more than they did last week against the Denver Broncos, meaning the line, particularly LT Kyle Turley (who sat out of practice throughout the week), will have to protect QB Damon Huard better than it did Week 1 against Cincinnati (seven total sacks). San Francisco has 12 sacks in three games.
--- 49ers LT Jonas Jennings, who held up well in pass protection last week after coming back from an ankle injury, vs. Chiefs RE Jared Allen, who has recorded 21 sacks in his brief NFL career.
--- 49ers WRs Antonio Bryant and Arnaz Battle, who give San Francisco a pair of good pass-catchers as well as blockers, vs. Chiefs CBs Ty Law and Patrick Surtain, who have 21 combined years of experience in the NFL.
--- 49ers SS Tony Parrish/Mark Roman, who have been sharing the duties in the 49ers secondary, vs. Chiefs TE Tony Gonzalez, who has a team-high 12 catches and a touchdown in the Chiefs' first two games.
-- 49ers DT Bryant Young, who shows few signs of slowing down in his 13th NFL season, vs. Chiefs RG Will Shields, considered one of the all-time greats at his position with 11 Pro Bowl appearances.
49ERS: TE Vernon Davis (right fibula) is expected to miss four weeks with the hairline fracture he sustained during their 49ers' game last week against the Eagles. … RB Frank Gore (ribs) is expected to play Sunday after practicing throughout the week and being upgraded from questionable to probable. … RB Maurice Hicks (ankle) is expected to play after practicing this week. … WR Taylor Jacobs (hamstring) is likely to miss another week of action with a strain he sustained Sept. 17. … RB Michael Robinson has a shoulder bruise but is expected to play after practicing this week. … LG Larry Allen (left knee) sustained a sprain of his medial collateral ligament on the opening drive of the 49ers' first game of the season and is expected to miss at least another week. … TE Delanie Walker (separated right shoulder) practiced this week for the first time since sustaining his injury in the final exhibition game and is probable to make his pro debut against the Chiefs.
CHIEFS: LT Kyle Turley, who has not practiced since last week with soreness in his back, was downgraded from probable to questionable late in the week and his status for the game won't be decided until kickoff. Should Turley - who quit football with back problems in 2003 -- not be able to play, Jordan Black will fill in at left tackle. … QB Trent Green is out for Sunday's game, still recovering from the concussion he suffered in Week 1. Damon Huard will again start in his place, though the Chiefs want to give Huard more freedom than he had in a lackluster 9-6 loss to Denver two weeks ago, a day in which Huard completed only one pass downfield, a 37-yard gain to Eddie Kennison.
Game breakdown: 49ers vs. Chiefs
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