San Francisco 49ers vs. Kansas City Chiefs: Who has the edge in the Super Bowl?
SUPER BOWL LIV
San Francisco 49ers vs. Kansas City Chiefs at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami
Time: 3:30 p.m. PST
TV: Channel 11
49ers pass offense vs. Chiefs pass defense
San Francisco might be run-based, but it’s not a one-dimensional offense. If the Chiefs zero in on stopping the run, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is capable of making them pay with the pass. Tight end George Kittle, and receivers Deebo Samuel and Emmanuel Sanders, have all had big games, and receiver Kendrick Bourne is somewhat of an X-factor. Losing rookie free safety Juan Thornhill to a torn knee ligament was painful for the Chiefs, but Tyrann Mathieu is excellent. Kansas City has found a way to hide deficiencies by playing a lot of zone, mixing up coverages, blitzing and playing from ahead.
While the contrasting styles of the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs will be on display in Super Bowl LIV, the game also will see plenty of firsts.
49ers run offense vs. Chiefs run defense
This is the biggest mismatch in favor of the 49ers. Their running game is a three-headed monster, and a focus of Kyle Shanahan’s offense. San Francisco gets to the outside really well, and Raheem Mostert is explosive and capable of putting up gaudy numbers. The Chiefs have gotten better against the run in the second half of the season, but the only great back they faced was Tennessee’s Derrick Henry in the AFC championship game. He’s a straight-ahead, hit-you-in-the-mouth runner. The speedy 49ers present a different challenge. Defensive tackle Chris Jones, effective against the pass, could be a liability against the run.
Chiefs pass offense vs. 49ers pass defense
The most dramatic advantage on either side. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes is phenomenal and has a full array of receiving talent with sure-handed tight end Travis Kelce, and speedsters Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman and Sammy Watkins. The 49ers have slower corners and like to play a lot of zone, but they’re going to have to play man coverages sometimes, and that’s where the Chiefs can take advantage. The pressure is on San Francisco’s front four not just to get Mahomes off his spot, but also to sack him. Forcing him to scramble only invites problems with his ability to make off-schedule plays.
Tight ends Travis Kelce and George Kittle have played huge roles in lifting the Chiefs and 49ers, respectively, into the Super Bowl. What will they do Sunday?
Chiefs run offense vs. 49ers run defense
Kansas City doesn’t have much of a running attack. LeSean McCoy is pretty much a nonfactor, and Darwin Thompson is a rookie who hasn’t played much. The team relies mostly on Damien Williams, who is capable of busting a long run now and again, but is average between the tackles. San Francisco’s run defense clamped down on Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook, who was terrific in the first round against New Orleans. Defensive ends Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead have done a good job of crashing down and containing the runs. San Francisco is underrated against the ground game.
The Chiefs weren’t phenomenal on special teams this season, but have been terrific in the playoffs. Kicker Harrison Butker is consistent, and Dustin Colquitt is a Pro Bowl-caliber punter. Hardman is a scary returner. San Francisco’s Robbie Gould is coming off a poor season, statistically, but he has missed only one kick since the beginning of December, and that was on a block. Rookie punter Mitch Wishnowsky has been slightly disappointing for a fourth-round pick, and has not consistently nailed his kickoffs. Wind can fluster him a bit, and that could be a factor Sunday.
Rabid Chiefs fans Nikki Bailey and Rob Walkowiak are getting married Sunday, their reception taking place when the Chiefs are playing the 49ers in Super Bowl LIV.
Two excellent coaching staffs, both with the head coaches, Andy Reid of the Chiefs and Kyle Shanahan of the 49ers, plus their full complement of coordinators. Reid and Shanahan are two of the best play callers in the NFL, and the defenses have flourished under Robert Saleh (San Francisco) and Steve Spagnuolo (Kansas City). This would be a push, but for the experience on the Chiefs staff. Neither coach has won a Super Bowl, but Reid is far more seasoned.
FARMER’S PICK >>> Taking nothing from Garoppolo and Shanahan, but Mahomes and Reid are a better quarterback-coach combination. Kansas City’s defense improved in the second half of the season and will make enough stops. The 49ers will pressure Mahomes, but the quarterback still will make his share of plays. When the 49ers are in zone coverage, Mahomes will look for Kelce, and in man, one of those Kansas City playmakers is going to step up — Hill, Hardman, Watkins, Williams. What does San Francisco have to do? That four-man front has to get some sacks. It’s not enough to just pressure Mahomes because he’ll kill with his feet, even if just buying time. The 49ers are going to have to play keep-away with the run to both set up the play-action and keep that quick-strike offense on the sideline. Lastly, the Chiefs fell behind early in both playoff games and came roaring back. They’re emboldened by that and have concrete examples of why they’re never really out of any game.
CHIEFS 31, 49ERS 27
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