The Essential Preview For Super Bowl LIV


The Essential Preview For Super Bowl LIV

By Graham Tuck

January 24, 2020


As Super Bowl week approaches again, this year’s match-up between the Chiefs and 49ers is incredibly different from the Super Bowls we are used to.  As opposed to the recent trend of the Patriots vs. whoever comes out of the NFC, we instead have a championship game between two of the league’s hottest young teams.  Here’s everything you need to know about Super Bowl 54.


The Stars:

No Super Bowl would be complete without superstars, and this game is LOADED with them.  First and foremost, Patrick Mahomes is one of the rising faces of the NFL. He has the most touchdown passes in the NFL since coming into the league by far, with 76 career scoring tosses in what equates to just under two full regular seasons of play.  His Chiefs offense has been on absolute fire in the playoffs, but we’ll get to that later. His San Francisco counterpart, Jimmy Garoppolo, is doing great in his own right. Although his numbers haven’t been stunning in the playoffs, he threw for just under 4,000 yards this season and he can sling the ball around when he needs to.


That being said, he hasn’t needed to move the ball down the field himself because he’s had Raheem Mostert to pound the ball down the defense’s throat.  Mostert’s NFC Championship Game performance was one for the ages, setting all kinds of records with his 220 yards and 4 (yes, four) rushing touchdowns against the Packers.  However, if Mostert can’t get the running game going, the 49ers have plenty of offensive weapons to rely on. Emmanuel Sanders proved to be a great mid-season addition coming from Denver in a trade before week 8, tallying over 500 yards and 3 touchdowns in the red and gold.  Despite his name recognition, Deebo Samuel and George Kittle have been the 9ers dynamic duo this season. With 1900+ yards and 8 touchdowns between the two of them, Deebo’s speed and Kittle’s strength could prove problematic for the Chiefs defense.


The Chiefs have their own counterparts to this 49ers offense in Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill.  Hill is arguably the fastest player in the NFL with his blazing 4.25 40-yard-dash time. Kelce is also one of the most explosive, as he proved with his 3 touchdown performance against the Texans in the Divisional Round.  Alongside Sammy Watkins, Mecole Hardman, and Damien Williams, the Chiefs offense has been on fire throughout the entire playoffs putting up 86 points over their two games thus far.


The Defenses:

The old adage that defense wins championships will hold true this year, because both of these two teams have been stagnant throughout the year.  Both teams allowed less than 20 points per game to their opponents, which may make scoring difficult for both of these high powered offenses. Nick Bosa anchors the front line for the 49ers, and the Defensive Rookie of the Year front runner can definitely make things difficult for Mahomes with 9 sacks on the year.  San Francisco’s 48 sacks on the year as a team was good for 5th in the NFL, and pressuring Mahomes will be a big key for their success (refer to the Chiefs’ October loss to the Colts for proof). Richard Sherman has reemerged as a star after his stunning recovery from his Achilles injury and transition from Seattle to San Fran, and he’s locked down the offense’s right side of the field all year long.  His coverage will be huge if the 49ers are going to stop the Chiefs’ offensive juggernaut.


Kansas City has some studs of their own on the defensive side of the ball, namely Tyrann Mathieu.  He has been the unquestioned leader of the Chiefs D, turning around a secondary that was formerly atrocious.  Frank Clark and Chris Jones have been hot on the defensive line lately, shutting down the seemingly unstoppable Derrick Henry and allowing only 61 total yards to the league’s rushing king.  That being said though, the linebacker corps will have to step up for Kansas City if they’re to win on Super Sunday and bring a title to Missouri for the first time in 50 years, which leads us to….


The X-Factors:

The Chiefs run defense is their biggest determining factor.  After stopping the monster that is Derrick Henry, they’ll have no time to celebrate as Mostert put together a monstrous performance of his own and will be looking to do it again.  If they can stop Mostert, it forces Jimmy Garoppolo to beat them with his arm. For that reason, Jimmy G is another X-Factor for this game. If Mostert can’t get it going on the ground, the 49ers have the weapons to throw the ball 50 times a game.  The question is whether or not Jimmy will hit them. In his career, Garoppolo has lost every game in which his completion percentage is less than 55%. His ability to take advantage of what the Chiefs defense gives him could likely decide the game.


Kansas City’s O-Line is another area to look to for X-Factor potential.  The 49ers pass rush has been a wrecking crew this year, and although Mahomes can certainly make plays outside the pocket, protecting him has to be a priority for the Chiefs.  The final and perhaps most important X-Factor for Super Bowl 54, is Fred Warner. He has been the underrated hero of the 49ers defense, holding them together at the MLB position all year long.  He’ll have to both contain Mahomes to keep him from hurting them with his legs, and cover Travis Kelce who is arguably the Chiefs biggest weapon. If he can do both of those things, San Francisco’s task becomes a whole lot simpler.


Predictions:

Andy Reid has coached the Chiefs to the Super Bowl for the first time in his tenure this year, and the only reason they didn’t get to one sooner is his historically poor clock management.  With the team he has this year, he hasn’t had to manage the clock as the Chiefs have dominated the second half of the season. Both teams are incredibly explosive, but if Mahomes can strike first it will set the tone for the game and let the Chiefs play with the lead (something they haven’t been used to throughout the playoffs).  Expect Nick Bosa to be a problem for the Chiefs as well, as their game-plan will undoubtedly be to keep Mahomes in the pocket and on his back early and often. Mostert will almost certainly be unable to replicate his performance against Green Bay, but the Chiefs 25th ranked run defense won’t be able to control his outside speed as they were able to control Henry’s inside power.  The 49ers should be able to run the ball as much as they want, and keep Mahomes off the field for as long as possible. Both teams have speed and strength on the offensive side of the ball, but I believe that San Francisco’s defense is better suited to defend speed than Kansas City’s is. A couple big runs from Mostert and a deep strike from Jimmy Garoppolo could be all it takes to take down the Chiefs.


FINAL SCORE PREDICTION:

San Francisco 27

Kansas City 23