By: Austin Maki
The National Football League will wrap up its 100th season in Miami Florida Sunday night with Super Bowl 54. The Kansas City Chiefs will play the San Francisco 49ers for the first time in the history of the big game. This will be the 11th time Miami has hosted the Super Bowl, the most for any city.
This is the first Super Bowl appearance for the Chiefs in 50 years. The last time Kansas City made it this far, it was 1970, when the Chiefs topped the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV for their first — and only — Lombardi Trophy. A win would end the second-longest Lombardi Trophy drought among teams that have already won a Super Bowl. Only the New York Jets (51 years) have endured a longer stretch in between titles.
The 49ers on the other hand are one of the most successful organizations in the history of the NFL. This will be there seventh Super Bowl appearance. San Francisco went to five Super Bowls between 1981-1994 and won all five of them, then returned to the big game in 2012, loosing the Baltimore Ravens. With a win the 49ers would tie the Patriots and Steelers for the most Super Bowls wins at 6.
There is always hype going into a Super Bowl, and 54 is proving no exception. The game presents clashing styles, and philosophies, both steams strength match the other weakness.
It’s a matchup that sees Veteran head coach Andy Reid, taking his second team to a Super Bowl (Eagles 2004) against the third youngest head coach in the NFL Kyle Shanahan. Mike Shanahan, Kyle’s father, won the super bowl in 1997 and 98 with the Denver Broncos. If the 49ers were to win, they would become the first father son duo to win separate Super Bowls.
On the field, the 49ers greatest strength is its defense, which ranks first in the playoffs and second in the regular season, as well as first in total pass defense. Overseen by Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh, they’ve allowed just 15 points per game in the postseason after surrendering just over 19 per game in the regular season. It starts up front, led by rookie pass rusher Nick Bosa, who has logged three sacks in the playoffs alone. Fellow D-linemen and pro bowlers Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner combine to give the Niners one of the most fearsome front fours in the league.
And they will have to be going against last year’s MVP (and presumptive favourite to win Super Bowl MVP) Patrick Mahomes and the fearsome Kansas City offense. While their regular-season numbers weren’t always gaudy, the Chiefs eclipsed 35 points in both of their playoff games and have three different players among the best at their position: Mahomes, wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce. In the AFC Championship game, Mahomes also showcased his legs, leading Kansas City in rushing. He is a true duel threat. While the Chiefs can run the ball here and there, but their chief mission (no pun intended) is to beat you through the air. To show how good this guy has been in his first 2 years, The Chiefs have never lost a game by more than seven points with Mahomes as their starter.
The 49ers on the other hand thrive keeping the ball on the ground. San Francisco led all playoff teams in rushing yards after ranking second among running teams in the regular season. The 49ers have used a rotation of running backs all year but in the NFC championship game it was all about Raheem Mostert. Mostert totaled 220 yards and four touchdowns that night dominating from start to finish. Where questions are being asked is third year starter Jimmy Garoppolo appearing in his third super bowl, but first as a starter. He only threw 8 passes against the Packers though, and questions have been asked about whether he can rise to the occasion.
The last unit we must look at is the Kansas City Chiefs defence. It is last for a reason, the less said the better about a unit that at best could be described as average. However they have been much better in the post season holding Derick Henry to 69 yards in the AFC championship game. Defensive backs Bashaud Breeland and Tyrann Mathieu figure to play a key role on defense for the Chiefs. Both veterans have had a knack for being around the ball this year, particularly in the postseason.
What sets these two teams apart, is San Francisco’s defence. The Niners rank dead last in passing yards allowed and sixth in total sacks. If the front seven can establish dominance early against Kansas City’s questionable offensive line, this game – and their sixth Lombardi – is theirs for the taking. What the 49ers don’t have though is Patrick Mahomes, a generational special talent. It is impossible to predict or anticipate what he will do. This Super Bowl won’t provide the final answer but could shed some light on the one of sports greatest debates. What wins a championship Offence or Defence.