Sports

BIG GAME PREVIEW Super Matchup: NFL’s Chiefs Offense Might Overshadow 49er Defense

By Pete Zamplas

Picture by Dave Adamson.

The explosive Kansas City Chiefs offense led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes should light up the scoreboard against the skilled San Francisco defense, outscoring the 49ers, and winning the Super Bowl by at least a touchdown.

K.C. is holding a steady 1 to 1.5-point favorite for Super Bowl 54, in Miami.

The last mere single point favorite, Seattle, blasted Denver 43-8 in SB 48.

Might such history repeat? Or will a hallowed dynasty prevail?

San Fran has Super Pedigree, winning four in the Eighties with Joe Montana at QB. S.F. won it all for the ’94 season, as Steve Young threw a record six TD passes to pummel S.D. 49-26. Seven Super Bowls ago is when S.F. had its sole super defeat. Baltimore edged S.F. 34-31, in the “Harbaugh Bowl” between head coaching brothers.

The Chiefs split in reaching two of the first four super games. They were crushed 35-10 by Green Bay in the first one, but upset Minnesota 23-7 in SBIV as a 12-point underdog. K.C.’s NFL title drought at 50 years is twice as long as S.F.’s. Coach Andy Reid is hungry to finally win the big one.

San Fran has rebuilt quickly, to return to glory days. The “Niners” won merely twice then four times in the two prior seasons. In the 2019 season, these upstarts won their first eight games and now stand 15-3 to 14-4 for heavily-hyped K.C.

Stars, Matchups

New 49er stars include rookie pass rusher Joey Bosa, and QB Jimmy Garoppolo in his first healthy full season with the team.

This game matches S.F.’s top-rated pass defense trying to contain the pro game’s most lethal aerial assault.

S.F. is viewed as a more balanced team, on offense and defense. Such teams often win Super Bowls over offensive juggernauts with suspect defenses.

But K.C.’s “D” tightened recently. Surprisingly, both defenses yielded 19 points a game in the regular season while S.F. outscored K.C. 29.9 to 28.2.

The best barometer for this matchup is a similar one, in the AFC title game. K.C. won by 11 over Tennessee, which like S.F. is built on defense and its rushing.

But the 49er offense tilts too much to running, which hinders having to come from behind as may happen. San Fran must stay within ten points, and ideally lead most of the way. K.C. trailed in its two playoff games, yet scored 41 points in a row to whip Houston then 28 straight to beat Tennessee. Imagine if the Chiefs lead early and often.

The gap between the Super foes’ offenses seems too much for the 49ers to overcome, especially if K.C.’s skilled but erratic defense keeps playing more improved as it has for over a month.

Reigning NFL MVP Mahomes is on fire. He passed for eight touchdowns and 615 yards in his latest two playoff games. He threw four of his five TD passes versus Houston to tight end Travis Kelce. Big Sammy Watkins from Clemson and fast Tyreek Hill and rookie Mecole Hardman of Georgia seem too much for mere mortals to contain.

The 49ers revived D-line has Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead and ex-Chief Dee Ford chasing QBs. But Mahomes is crafty and elusive, and calm under pressure. Richard Sherman is a shutdown CB for S.F., with a SB ring from Seahawk days.

In a contrasting offense, San Fran kept running the ball as Raheem Mostert gained 220 of its 285 rushing yards in ousting Green Bay. If he does half as well, it can keep S.F. in it.

Jimmy G is even more of a wild card. If for a change he must often pass, how well will he with big Frank Clark (four of his 12 sacks in playoffs) charging after him? And ferocious K.C. safety Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu, the LSU alum, may have a long interception return up his sleeve.

If he helps wins the game with his arm, look for long gains by rookie wideout Deebo Samuel from USC Gamecocks and an end zone snatch or two by rugged George Kittle. Zany Kittle is this game’s other 1,000-yard superstar tight end.

S.F. head coach Kyle Shanahan has a personal SB vendetta. He was Atlanta’s offensive coordinator when the Falcons led N.E. 28-3, then got outscored 31-0 to lose 34-28 in SB 51.

Prediction: K.C. 31, S.F. 20.

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