The stage is set for Super Bowl LIV in Miami at Hard Rock Stadium. The NFC Champions, the San Francisco 49ers, will meet with the AFC Champion Kansas City Chiefs in Florida on Super Bowl Sunday. It’s a well-deserved trip to the Super Bowl for the 49ers and Chiefs. Neither team got here by accident. The 49ers finished with the best record in the NFC West at 13-3, while the Chiefs did the same in the NFC West at 12-4. It felt like only a matter of time before Patrick Mahomes led the Chiefs to this point. They lost a coin flip game against the New England Patriots last season in the AFC Championship.
If Dee Ford lined up onside against the Pats, then maybe we’re talking about the Chiefs looking at a repeat situation right now. A play which resulted in an interception was wiped off the board, and Tom Brady was handed a gift. Brady didn’t mess up the mulligan, and Mahomes was only left to watch him as he marched the Patriots down the field in overtime. Mahomes wouldn’t get the ball back, but after getting behind in the 2020 AFC Championship, he made sure that the Chiefs weren’t going to be denied this season.
Mahomes exploded for 294 passing yards and 3 touchdowns, along with 53 yards on the ground and a score. The 49ers implemented a heck of a defense this season. However, they are in for a challenge in Super Bowl LIV against Mahomes. There are good defenses that have contained them for a quarter or so, but the Chiefs eventually figure it out and quickly locate holes in the secondary. Defensive coordinator, Robert Saleh, is going to have to adapt on the fly against Mahomes and the Chiefs. He must be one step ahead of them, or Mahomes will eventually find a weakness.
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The Chiefs had to push through adversity against the Titans in the AFC Championship, before taking control of the contest. The 49ers on the other hand were in complete control throughout the game. Aaron Rodgers passed for 326 yards and 2 touchdowns, but also tossed a couple of interceptions. That said, the 49ers’ defense hasn’t been unbeatable. They ranked highly statistically in the regular season, but we’re not talking about the 2000 Ravens. Drew Brees made them look like an XFL defense, and a few other solid offenses moved the ball effectively.
Just pounding the ball with Raheem Mostert may not be enough for the 49ers with Mahomes on the other side. Their offensive philosophy is likely going to be simple. Try and run the ball well to keep the Chiefs’ offense off the field. The Titans tried the same with Derrick Henry, along with a slew of other teams this season, and it didn’t work for a full game.
Tevin Coleman may not be available in the backfield, so it’d be up to Mostert’s legs pretty much exclusively without Coleman. With 220 yards on the ground against the Packers, he showed that he was up to the challenge in the NFC Championship, though. Jimmy Garoppolo is likely finally going to be called on in the playoffs to come up big. Head below for our free Super Bowl LIV Over Under pick between the 49ers and Chiefs.
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Garoppolo was not thrust into the hot seat against the Vikings or Packers. The extent of his contributions was mostly handing the ball off to Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert, then watch them run. Garoppolo passed for 131 yards with a touchdown and an interception against the Vikings, while he reached 77 passing yards with no touchdowns or interceptions against the Packers.
Despite those numbers, the 49ers still managed to score 27 and 37 points because of their run game. I don’t think Garoppolo is going to have that luxury in the Super Bowl. The 49ers have to know going into this game that the Chiefs are well aware of the damage they did on the ground in the Divisional Round and NFC Championship. I’m expecting the Chiefs to be prepared in that regard.
What could surprise the Chiefs is Garopplo coming out from the get-go and airing the ball out. The Texans did that with Deshaun Watson and it paid off, at least offensively, as they scored 21 points in the first quarter and Watson passed for 388 yards. They had the right idea, and got out to a 24-point lead. We know how that turned out, with the Chiefs rattling off 51 points in three quarters.
The 49ers certainly have a better defense to back them up, though. If they get out to a lead like that, it could be lights out for the Chiefs. That said, some of the better offenses they played in the regular season scored. The Saints put up 46 points in a wild shootout, the Rams scored 31 points, the Seahawks 27 points, and even the Falcons racked up 29 points. They finished the season 2nd in total defense, having allowed only 281.8 yards per game.
Again, though, the 49ers’ defense isn’t unbeatable and the best offense they played scored 46 points. The next best offense they’re going to play this year is going to be the Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV. Keep in mind that Nick Bosa and company had an opportunity to feast on a bunch of terrible offensive lines. According to PFF’s offensive line rankings, they played eight that rank out of the top-15, including the Vikings in the Divisional Round.
PFF has the Chiefs 16th, but they dealt with a ton of injuries early in the season. The absence of Eric Fisher and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif on the line, including injuries to their depth, was a major issue. Since they’ve gotten healthier, the offense has started to flourish. Dating back to their final game of the regular season, the Chiefs have scored a total of 117 points for a 39-point average per game.
The 49ers’ defense has been locked in against the run in the postseason. They’ve yielded only 41.5 yards per game on the ground. That should be fine for the Chiefs, though, because they are going to lean on Mahomes and the passing game in this one. I don’t think anything is going to stop Mahomes from shining with the brightest lights of his career on in Super Bowl LIV. The Chiefs’ defense may allow this game to stay close, though. Garoppolo might have not played a big role against the Vikings or Packers, but I suspect that changes here.
Garoppolo passed for 3,978 yards and 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. If you’re new to the NFL and just watched the 49ers in the playoffs, you’d think he’s nothing more than a hand the ball off game manager. However, the 49ers didn’t need him to get cute and air the ball out often. Against Mahomes and the Chiefs’ defense, it’s likely going to be the case. Mind you, the Chiefs’ defense has improved drastically from last season.
The presence of Frank Clark on the defensive line has changed the energy on the defense. That said, they’re not elite by any means, and have been getting exploited in the playoffs. They finished 14th in the regular season with 298.8 yards yielded per game. In the playoffs they’ve allowed 368.5 yards per game, along with 27.5 points versus the Texans and Titans. The 49ers have quietly racked up 32 points per game in the playoffs.
The total is a lot of points in Super Bowl LIV, and my first instinct was the UNDER. But after looking at this matchup a little more closely, I could see things opening up for an entertaining Super Bowl. If you thought the Super Bowl between the Rams and Patriots was exciting a year ago, you’re probably not going to like Super Bowl LIV. I like a 33-27 or 30-27 kind of game, so the OVER looks like the play on the total in Super Bowl LIV.