The road to Super Bowl 54
The Kansas City Chiefs versus the San Francisco 49ers
January 31, 2020
With the Super Bowl approaching on February 2nd between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs, it is important to look back at the biggest moments throughout the season that narrowed down twelve teams down to two.
The 2019 NFL regular season ended December 29 with many storylines emerging throughout the playoffs. The regular season saw the Baltimore Ravens earn the best record, the San Fransisco 49ers emerge as a powerhouse, the New England Patriots maintain their excellence, and the New Orleans Saints dominate on offense. The most common theme with the teams in the playoffs is their amazing quarterbacks. Names like Lamar Jackson (Ravens), Drew Brees (Saints), Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs), Aaron Rodgers (Packers), Carson Wentz (Eagles), Russell Wilson (Seahawks), and Deshaun Watson (Texans) terrorized opponents all year. The other playoff teams which included Titans, 49ers, Bills, Patriots, and the Vikings relied more on defense and strong run games.
Beginning with the AFC (American Football Conference), the Patriots have had a hold on the league since the early 2000’s, making the playoffs 21 of the last 26 years and winning six Super Bowls throughout that span. This achievement has been possible because of the duo of quarterback Tom Brady and Coach Bill Belicheck. However, with Brady now being 42 years old and having lost in the first round of this year’s playoffs, it seems like this dynasty may not last much longer.
On the other hand, the team that defeated them, the Tennessee Titans, have proven that dominant running backs can still power a team to victory. Derrick Henry had an amazing first two games and helped the Titans pull off upsets against the Patriots and Ravens. The Ravens were shocked after going 14-2 in the regular season and losing to a wild card team. This doesn’t take away from Jackson’s record-setting year, earning over 3,000 passing yards, 1,200 rushing yards, and 43 touchdowns. However, none of these top teams made the Super Bowl. Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City Chiefs) has demonstrated that exceptionally athletic quarterbacks can carry football teams. Mahomes’ success is also due to the help of his veteran head coach, Andy Reid.
In the NFC (National Football Conference), spectators saw once again how important it is to get a first round bye, as the Saints’, who had Super Bowl previously, aspirations were upset by the 6-seeded Vikings. Russell Wilson capped his MVP-type season with a win against the Philadelphia Eagles before being knocked out by Aaron Rogers and the Green Bay Packers.
The NFC championship included the two highest seeds, the Packers and the 49ers, which both had earned bye-weeks and were well-rested. The 49ers made a comeback after going 4-12 last season and having had the second worst record in the league. This season will be the team’s first Super Bowl appearance since 2013. Their second overall selection in last year’s draft, Nick Bosa, helped create one of the best defenses this year, and Jimmy Garropolo, who has been under constant doubt, proved his haters wrong and played great all year. Post-season experience wasn’t needed for this team when they faced the Packers. Coach Kyle Shanahan (49ers) has created a roster with plenty of chemistry that will look to bring home its first Super Bowl victory since 1995.
Overall, Super Bowl 54 will feature two unique teams. The 49ers who succeed through their running game and strong defense, and the Chiefs who put points up through the passing game. Championships tend to go to teams that play better defense, but it will be a thriller to see which team will pull off the win in Super Bowl 54.
The case for the Chiefs
This game has all the makings of a classic, as one of the league’s most potent offenses, headed by Patrick Mahomes, will take on the stout defense of the Niners, led by rookie EDGE Nick Bosa, LB Fred Warner and CB Richard Sherman. Both teams bring weapons on each side of the ball, and the game should be tightly contested through all 4 quarters. However, the Chiefs have the advantage over the Niners, as K.C’s dynamic offense will prove to be too tough of a task for the 49ers to stop, even though they boasted one of the best passing defenses in the league this year.
The Chiefs offense has used several different scheme and personnel looks this year, which has played a major part in their success. They have used spread concepts, such as the Air Raid offense, efficiently at a consistent level in the NFL even though it’s been criticized by many in the league as a college offense, and the team has been extremely successful with Mahomes in the shotgun formation. Andy Reid, the Chiefs head coach, has been known to use RPOs (run-pass options) from both inside and outside zone schemes to combat different looks given by the defense, as well as giving the Chiefs’ playmakers a chance to get the ball with room to gain yards.
The league knows that Kansas City’s running game has been somewhat lackluster, ranking 23rd in the league in rushing yards during the regular season, but its passing offense, which ranked 5th in the regular season, has been so effective and rarely turns the ball over, which more than makes up for their lack of an efficient run game with weapons like Kelce, Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman at Mahomes’s disposal.
The 49ers offense has been no slouch this year either, as George Kittle, Jimmy Garoppolo and a 3-headed monster at running back for most of the season propelled them to the 4th-ranked offense in the league. The team has showed their dominance in this category by scoring 64 points in their playoff games against the Vikings and Packers, which included a 220-yard and 4 touchdown performance from breakout star running back Raheem Mostert.
While the Chiefs played Derrick Henry well in the AFC Championship Game, they still had the #25 run defense in the league, which doesn’t spell well for them considering the dynamic zone scheme the 49ers run and how well they have executed it as of late. The Niners will have to ground-pound if they want to have a shot in the game, as Kansas City’s defense finished 8th in the league in passing yards given up, a sound improvement from last season.
San Fransisco’s defense ranked 2nd in total yards against and yards per play this season while also ranking inside the top-5 in team sacks. They have the advantage in the trenches, as Kansas City’s offensive line has struggled a bit this year. However, with a quarterback like Patrick Mahomes, who has shown off his dual-threat ability and can make plays happen in motion while avoiding pressure, it’s a bit of an unknown as to how much the defense will help San Francisco. Audiences have seen Kansas City rack up points against top defenses all season, such as 33 against the Ravens and 26 against the Bears. They’ve proven they’re capable of standing up to top defenses. They have also put up 86 points through 2 playoff games and their offense has essentially been an unstoppable force since the 2nd quarter of the Divisional round game against the Houston Texans.
It’s hard to envision the 49ers getting anything going through the air on Sunday, as they have shied away from the passing game (Jimmy Garoppolo attempted only 8 passes in the NFC Championship Game). Coupled with Kansas City’s stout pass defense, it’s evident that the 49ers will run the ball for a majority of the game. However, the Chiefs have held opposing running backs to 3.76 yards per carry in the playoffs. As dominant as San Francisco has been on the defensive side of the ball, the Kansas City offense is a different beast that will prove too tough to stop.
The Chiefs defense will hold up against the Niners offense and will give their offense plenty of time to work with, ultimately leading to the team’s first Super Bowl win since 1970 and potentially the first of many for Patrick Mahomes.
The case for the 49ers
The 49ers have been nothing short of amazing this year as they went from 4-12 last season to 13-3 this year behind their speed and versatility.
They have battled through star quarterback’s Jimmy Garoppolo’s season ending injury from last year by making multiple offseason roster additions, draft picks, and coaching changes. The 49ers’ talent is unquestionable as they proved all the haters wrong, picking apart the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
The Kansas City Chiefs have a very talented offense, but the team’s defense has been questionable for most of the season. The 49ers defense is undoubtedly better than the Chiefs’. Both of these teams have extremely talented offenses, but the game will ultimately come down to the defense, and the 49ers have a much better roster. This talent is especially helpful in tough situations at the end of games when someone needs to step up to make a key play.
Super Bowl LIV is going to be action-packed, and the game will likely come down to the wire. 49ers head coach, Kyle Shanahan, has been in this position before, but he was unable to lead the Atlanta Falcons to victory. Super Bowl LIV it will be different as the 49ers will make the right calls in crunch time, when it matters most, and they will pull out the win. Andy Reid, the Chiefs’ head coach, has struggled in the past, and his last Super Bowl appearance was over a decade ago. He has been known to struggle in games like these, and it will be interesting to see how well he does this year.
In the end, the 49ers’ defense will make a few key stops, and their speed backs will get important first downs as the 49ers pull off a close win. No matter the outcome, these two teams have accomplished something many teams only dream of doing.
Super Bowl LIV is creating significant national buzz because the two teams in the competing aren’t “the usual teams” for a change, which will prove to receive higher ratings than last year’s game, but ultimately, the nation will watch the San Francisco 49ers hoist the Lombardi Trophy.