Super Bowl LIV Preview

The Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers will face off in Super Bowl LIV on Feb. 2 in Miami, Florida. This will be the Chiefs’ first Super Bowl in 50 years. Their last appearance was Super Bowl IV against the Minnesota Vikings in 1970, where they secured their first title. The 49ers are looking to capture their record-tying sixth Super Bowl, with their last Lombardi Trophy coming in 1995 after a victorious Super Bowl XXIX against the San Diego Chargers. 

The two teams have had similar paths to this final game. Both won their divisions to secure a first-round bye in the playoffs, making this is the seventh year in a row that both teams in the Super Bowl have not had to play Wild Card Weekend. The Chiefs, 12–4 in the regular season, won their divisional game in historic fashion, overcoming a 24–0 first half deficit against the Houston Texans, before going on to defeat the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Championship game. The 49ers topped the Minnesota Vikings easily in the divisional round and remained dominant in their NFC Championship victory over future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. 

Despite equally impressive seasons, each team arrives at the Super Bowl with their own set of strengths and weaknesses. Kansas City finished the regular season sixth in total yards per game (379.2) and fifth in passing yards per game (281.1). In contrast, San Francisco’s offence boasted an extremely strong  ground game, ranking second in rushing yards per game (144.1). The 49ers’ true strength, however, was on the other side of the ball, ranking second in total yards against per game (281.8) and first in passing yards against per game (169.2). The Chiefs improved their defence significantly throughout the season as well, with 19.2 points per game (PPG) allowed, and finished the season allowing fewer total points than the 49ers, who recorded 19.4 PPG at season’s end.

The most important factor in this game will be the match up between Kansas City’s offence and San Francisco’s defence. The Chiefs have exposed teams in the last two seasons when they play man coverage. This is a result of their dynamic playmakers, wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce, catching balls from generational talent quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Thus, teams are forced to play primarily zone defence, where they are picked apart by both the run and short passes. The 49ers are in the unique position of having the right players to cover the Chiefs and can create real problems for Chiefs’ offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman and linebackers Kwon Alexander and Fred Warner are fantastic in coverage, which will create one of the more dominant defensive lines in recent memory. 

The most interesting comparison in storylines, however, is the difference in coaching. The 49ers are led by third-year Head Coach Kyle Shanahan, who first gained praise for his fantastic offensive play-calling and designs during his time as offensive coordinator for the 2016 NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons. The Chiefs are led by Andy Reid, a future Hall of Fame coach whose previous Super Bowl appearance as a head coach came in 2005 with the Philadelphia Eagles. Many will be pulling for Reid to capture his first Super Bowl as a head coach and cap off an all-time career. 

Ultimately, the Chiefs will struggle to stop the 49ers’ run attack and their offence will come up just short, with San Francisco emerging victorious 35–31. The entire contest should live up to the standard excellence of competition set in previous years.

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