By Ryan Bukowiecki (@ryanbski)
Super Bowl Sunday has come at last and football fans in both Kansas City and San Francisco are celebrating their moment in the spotlight. Still, the final game of this season carries that typical bittersweet taste to it as it will be the last time we see NFL action until the preseason kicks back in August.
Football fans that don’t have a particular rooting interest mainly are hoping for a competitive game. Go out with a bang before the curtain draws. Certainly on paper it sets up that way with what looks like two evenly matched teams with a ton of talent. A great saying in fighting is that styles make fights, these two teams have contrasting styles and both do what they do well at extremely high levels.
The Chiefs have the best player in football right now with quarterback Patrick Mahomes. This air raid attack is the construct of head coach Andy Reid, looking for his first Super Bowl win and cementing his legacy to all the contractors. Smash mouth football is the name of the game for the 49ers.
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Head coach Kyle Shanahan schemes a dominant rushing attack and smart offense lead by quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. It’s the total package with the Niners as they have the best defense in football lead by defensive end Nick Bosa and cornerback Richard Sherman. The Chiefs have some dogs on defense as well setting up a showcase of stars that will hopefully be remembered as a great game. Here are the keys for both sides getting a win.
Kansas City Chiefs
- Mahomes must be great
- Defense has to stop the run
- Can the offensive line meet the challenge?
- Don’t give up extra possessions
What a luxury it must be having Mahomes as quarterback. Not only is he deadly with his arm but he understands and executes so many other aspects of quarterbacking. Its very hard to sack him and to contain this offense, Mahomes has only been held under 23 points once in his career.
Sure, the 49ers will present problems and they boast the top pass rush in football. It will be up to the battle of the receivers against the secondary, if Mahomes is able to diagnose and get the ball out quickly then the Niners are in trouble. The offensive line play from the Chiefs is key because if they force the 49ers to blitz in order to get pressure it will leave one on one chances for Mahomes downfield.
Defensively the Chiefs are looking to do exactly what they did to the Titans which was stop the run. Overall they succeeded and they forced the Titans into a position of throwing the ball more than they would like. No doubt that the Chiefs want to make Garoppolo beat them and not that run game.
Lastly, where the Chiefs can get into trouble is if they start slow and give away possessions i.e. turnovers. Ball security is obviously huge in the Super Bowl but the Chiefs also can’t afford to give the Niners extra attempts to score.
San Francisco 49ers
- Establish the run
- Keep Mahomes in the pocket
- Win the line of scrimmage
- Garoppolo will have to complete some throws
For San Francisco, their season has been sparked by a renaissance for old school football — running the ball and defending with conviction. Easily the best rushing offense and best defense in the NFL. Certainly the defense has to do its part and try to slow down KC. It will be impossible to just shut down the Chiefs but can the Niners win enough battles on defense to keep the Chiefs scoring to a minimum.
Part of that success will come to fruition by keeping Mahomes in the pocket. Sure Mahomes is no slouch in the pocket but he’s absolutely impossible to defend when he can use his legs and arm in the open field to create.
Another calling card of the Niners has been their physicality as a team. They have to absolutely win the line of scrimmage both on offense and defense to win the game and both of their lines should have themselves a good day based on the matchup. Establishing the run is so important for the 49ers, from there they can set up play action and just gash teams. That matchup of the Niners running attack versus the Chiefs run defense seems to be an underlying key matchup. If it isn’t that then it will be Garoppolo and if he can play well enough to lead his team to the finish line.
There will be a few throws and a few times in the game where it will rest on the shoulders of Garoppolo. His ability to make the those throws feel like the deciding factor when its all said and done. Enjoy what should be a terrific finale to a great NFL season.
Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears and professional football for WARR