It’s a case of different philosophies, same success for the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers as they prepare to clash in Miami for the Super Bowl. While both teams have been dominant in their own ways, their paths to superiority have strongly contrasted.
A consistent and historically triumphant franchise, San Francisco are eying up their sixth Super Bowl win. The 49ers have designed a rugged and commanding defense through important drafting and smart trading. The 49ers were able to pick up their star Defensive End Nick Bosa thanks to the bittersweet injury crisis they suffered last year, leaving them with a poorly 4-12 record which allowed them the second pick in the 2019 draft. Bosa helped form one of the most devastating pass rushes alongside DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, and Dee Ford, the latter being acquired in a trade with the Chiefs in the off-season. Each of these players had at least 6.5 sacks in the regular season as they stomped fear into Quarterbacks across the league. This Defensive line has the ability to not just get at the quarterback in the pocket, but to put pressure on them anywhere behind the line of scrimmage will be necessary for them to stop the mobile prowess of Mahomes. 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan with help from Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh creates further problems for opposing opposition with a crew of secondaries and defensive backs capable of ruining any offence coordinators day. According to Pro Football, Richard Sherman is the best Corner Back in the game right now which will be tested against the hot prospects of Tyreke Hill and Sammy Watkins. He will be helped however by the presence of K’won Alexander and Jimmie Ward on shutting down the Chiefs ability to throw deep down the pitch and shallow to get to that first down. Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw have been the unsung heroes of this coveted defense.
The 49ers offense has shown flashes of brilliance throughout the season but there is no doubt that Shanahan designs his offense in order to control the clock while giving his defensive stars a rest, all through the art of winning ‘Ugly’. This was never more obvious in the 49ers win against the Green Bay Packers, where Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo astonishingly only threw the ball 8 times, allowing for Mostert to run for 220 yards and became the first player in NFL playoff history to rush for 200+ yards with four touchdowns. However, if the Chiefs commit to stuffing the run, Garoppolo has shown the ability to pick out Emmanuel Sanders and Deebo Samuel, who also add to the run game. Not to mention that, where there is a Shanahan, there will be a clever trick or two in order. The 49ers will be hoping that the cliché of ‘Offenses winning games, but Defenses wins Championships’ will prove to be true on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Kansas City Chiefs have taken the approach of building a high-powered offense focused around Quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ ability to do it all, from throwing accurate bombs downfield to scrambling with his legs to extend a play. Many argue that the Quarterback position is the single most valuable position in any of team sports, and no one we have ever seen does it quite like Mahomes. The 2018 Most Valuable Player of the year has continued his sensational form this year. Mahomes has thrown for 4,000 yards with 26 touchdowns while only having 5 interceptions. The 10th pick in the 2017 Draft has absolutely blown the league away since he was handed the keys to the Chiefs offense. Yet, Mahomes has elevated his play in the playoffs, leading the Chiefs to wins after being down double digits in both of their playoff wins.
This Chief’s team have weapons around Mahomes too, with the teams receiving leader Travis Kelce showing himself as one of the leagues best Tight Ends and arguably will be competing for that title with his peer on the opposite side of the field, George Kittle. Kelce has an ability to find space and make crucial catches in crunch time and could be expecting to be targeted much more than last time out against a tough opposition secondary. One key factor in this game Tyreke Hill’s ability (or inability) to get open deep down the field. When Hill gets going he is unstoppable with his lightning speed. His pace creates fear for any defense and can cause coverages to shift and alter game-plans. I expect that if Hill can get open deep early, the 49ers could be in for a rough time.
Sammy Watkins and Mecole Hardman also act as catalysts for the offense’s fluidity, as a failure to stump Watkins specialist route running or Hardman’s blistering charges in open field will kill any team off quickly. However, it is the addition of Tyrann Mathieu which changed Chiefs defense life which impresses me the most. Mathieu not only has 4 interceptions and 75 tackles this season, but along with Frank Clark seem to provide a certain energy and belief within the defense. Chiefs defense at the start of the season was ranked amongst the worse in the league at the start of the year and was the Achilles of the team last season. This has changed however as through the last 8 weeks of the season, the Chiefs allowed the lowest amount of yards in the league. Mathieu made his first Pro Bowl this year and joins Clark and Defensive Tackle Chris Jones on that list.
My Prediction: Chiefs: 35 – 49ers: 20
I just believe in Mahomes to get it done. The Chiefs have been able to run up high score lines on every defense and I believe they have been knocking on the door too long to not eventually come through the gap. On what is expected to be a warm Sunday afternoon in Miami, there will be no slippy balls or tough ground to run on. This prediction is based majorly on the Chiefs offensive line to slow down the 49ers pass rush which could ultimately prove to be foolish; however, Mahomes has still looked rather impressive the few games he has been put under pressure. Sherman has been sensational all year, but he can not afford to risk going one-on-one with Hill and will have to rely on help from his safeties and I just believe Hill will have at least one opportunity to burn any back he is put on. 49ers will have some success running the ball and if they are allowed to get the Chiefs defense turned early like they did against the Packers then it could be game, set and match. However, Frank Clark and the Chiefs backed up their talk by stopping the best Running Back all year in Derrick Henry. Perhaps I am a prisoner of the moment but I expect the Chiefs to be able to come up with a couple of big defensive plays in the high leverage moments