We have finally arrived. After a postseason that was filled with upsets and comeback victories, I think the two best teams in the league will meet in the Super Bowl. This game features the NFL’s best defense going up against the premier quarterback we have today.
We also have Andy Reid returning to the biggest stage 15 years after being there with the Eagles and Kyle Shanahan with his shot at redemption after being part of that 28-3 collapse with the Falcons a few years back.
There are so many storylines surrounding this matchup and a lot of things are just unfolding, but most importantly – we have two extremely well-matched teams and the game could go several different ways.
Therefore, I wanted to look at how the 49ers and Chiefs will counter each other and how they can create problems for the opposition. What they have been successful at, can it continue to work in this matchup and which wrinkles can be used to stay ahead of the other team. Finally, I will present my X-factors for both teams on either side of the ball and then I will give my best sense for what is going to happen and who will take home the Lombardi trophy.
The path to the Championship match
First of all, I wanted to take a look at how these two squads made it here however, starting with the NFC champs. San Francisco were coming off a 4-12 campaign in 2018 and went into the season as the clear third option to win their division when you look at preseason odds.
However, now with a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo and some help through the draft, it was only a question of time until people started to recognize them as one of the elite teams in the league, as they won their first eight games with some dominant showings. They lost a weird game to the Seahawks the following week due to a missed field goal in overtime and went through a stretch where injuries on the defensive side of the ball cost them, as they lost at Baltimore and versus the Falcons on the final play respectively.
Still, they managed to get revenge at Seattle with a goal-line stop and entered the playoff as the NFC’s number one seed. Through these last two games they have been dominant, completely shutting down the Vikings rushing attack with Dalvin Cook and running all over the Packers defense. The 49ers have averaged 235.5 rushing yards and allowed opposing offenses to convert on just 24 percent of their third down attempts. Through the last six quarters they have needed to throw the ball just 13 times and they are +6 in turnover differential.
The Chiefs on the other hand were coming off an overtime loss to the Patriots and entered 2019 as the second-biggest favorite to come out of the AFC right behind the reigning Super Bowl champs. Expectations were high with league MVP Patrick Mahomes and all those explosive weapons around him to go with a defense that have made some important additions via free agency and with new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.
After a 4-0 start, KC lost consecutive home games to the Colts and Texans, but potentially the biggest loss came in a 30-6 domination of the Broncos, as their quarterback appeared to suffered a severe knee injury. After going 1-1 with Matt Moore at the helm, Mahomes returned and after losing in Tennessee on a blocked field goal to send the game to overtime, the Chiefs have never looked back.
Over the final six weeks of the regular season, they outscored their opponents by an average of 16.3 points and with some help from the Dolphins defeating the Patriots in season finale, they entered the playoff as the AFC’s number two seed thanks to the head-to-head tiebreaker over New England.
After their bye week, Kansas City came out completely flat, as they quickly found themselves in a 24-0 hole against the Texans, but from that point on they outscored Houston 51-7. In the championship game, the Titans were also up 17-7 and were kind of having their way, but Mahomes made some explosive plays and the Chiefs scored 28 consecutive points to get control back.
While the 49ers certainly had a more dominant playoff run by never trailing and leading both games by comfortable margins for the majority of playing time, you could argue that the Chiefs’ ability to take over control at some point has been even more impressive. This is certainly a clash of offensive philosophy on paper, as San Francisco has run the ball on 76.7 percent of their snaps while Mahomes has accounted for more 86 percent of Kansas City’s total yardage.
With the way the Niners have harassed opposing quarterbacks and put them behind the sticks constantly you would think that they have the clear advantage, but KC defense really wasn’t responsible for the deficits they have been in over their two games. Outside of one bust in coverage on the first possession of the Texans game, they only allowed one touchdown when the opposing team wasn’t set up with goal-to-go after a muffed punt.
And then against the Titans they held the league’s leading rusher and playoff hero Derrick Henry to SEVEN yards In the second half of the game. So this really is a game with two more balanced teams than some might think.
There are so many storylines that will be talked about throughout the week. Whether it’s the obvious ones like Andy Reid finally returning to the big game with a different team, Joe Montana having played for both teams and Dee Ford facing his forming team after they traded him to San Francisco in offseason, or the lesser known ones such as both starting running backs Damien Williams and Raheem Mostert once being cut by the Dolphins and now returning to Miami.
And then of course there is the fact that Jimmy G tore his ACL last year against the Chiefs, which put them on a completely different path, as they were able to draft Nick Bosa with that second overall pick and everything that followed. There are veterans on both sides that have won titles and there are those who are separately craving one, but mostly these are two young teams that are looking to start a championship run and have to start right here.