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Chiefs vs. 49ers final score: 3 things from Alex Smith's losing return to San Francisco

Alex Smith's return to San Francisco didn't lead to "blood and guts." Instead, fans got a war of attrition between two eerily similar teams.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers won in a battle of attrition against Kansas City in Week 5. The Chiefs were the stronger team in the first half, but wore down late. The San Francisco 49ers' offense picked up momentum as the clock ticked on, but struggled to finish drives and settled for five field goals on the day. The result was an incredibly tight game between two shockingly similar teams.

Alex Smith's return to San Francisco didn't lead to many fireworks, though that shouldn't be surprising given the quarterback's temperament. He upstaged Colin Kaepernick with two touchdown passes to Kaepernick's one, but threw an interception to Perrish Cox just before the final two-minute warning to seal the 22-17 win for the 49ers.

Both running games featured -- Frank Gore averaged 5.9 yards per carry to Jamaal Charles' 5.3, and San Francisco was much stronger on the ground as a team with 171 yards to 90 for Kansas City. Gore's steady running late helped Kaepernick connect on big plays down the field. Brandon Lloyd made a spectacular catch on a 29-yard gain that led to the Phil Dawson field goal that gave the 49ers the lead for good.

Three things we learned:

1) There may not be two more identical teams in the NFL

From 3:05 left in the third quarter of a 17-16 game:


The 49ers had run one more play and gained 1 more yard. Yards per play, third-down conversion rate, yards per rush, yards per pass -- all nearly identical. Objectively, this was an eerie game to watch. Both teams want to accomplish the same things with similar pools of talent -- big pass catchers, big offensive lines and dynamic running backs.

The only difference was how talent was leveraged. The Chiefs got unexpected contributions from the likes of De'Anthony Thomas and Junior Hemingway, but couldn't match big plays in the second half.

It's hard to beat down the Chiefs too harshly for this loss. This game might be a coin flip on a neutral field.

2) This is Jamaal Charles' Chiefs team

Attention was on Alex Smith, naturally. He didn't quite have a "blood and guts" performance in him, however, instead turning in something much more workmanlike. No, it was Jamaal Charles who played like he had something to prove. He emphasized Sunday that he is the most important piece on the Chiefs, rushing for 80 yards at 5.3 yards per carry and keying the Kansas City offense against a stout defense. Charles opened up the game for Smith early, and the Chiefs struggled when he wasn't featured. It will be behind Charles (and a bit of Knile Davis) that the Chiefs go on to have any kind of success this season.

3) This is Colin Kaepernick's 49ers team

And let's give proper due to a great, veteran crew of wide receivers while we're at it. Kaepernick finally connected on his deep shots in the second half, and that made him a more threatening player. He squeezed every ounce of juice out of Steve Johnson (one catch for one touchdown) and Brandon Lloyd, who did this:


The 49ers are a run-first team, but they are lethal if they can complement Gore and Carlos Hyde with deep strikes in the passing game. Kaepernick and his wide receivers hadn't been on the same page often up until Sunday. Now they're showing they may be able to fulfill their massive potential.