This Super Bowl has the makings to be the embodiment of everything football fans want to see. The most explosive offense in football against the most dominant defense in the leauge. Kyle Shanahan and Andy Reid, two of the best play callers in the NFL going up against each other. Both teams feature premier tight ends in George Kittle and Travis Kelce. Not to mention, San Francisco’s unstoppable running game versus the new and improved Kansas City defense. Most of all, Patrick Mahomes under the spotlight, on the biggest stage football has to offer. No matter who wins this game, there is no question that it will go down to the wire, and without a doubt the NFL’s 100th season will end with an incredible finale.
The marquee matchup speaks for itself, Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City’s offense vs San Francisco’s star studded defense. For the Chiefs to have success, the ball is going to have to come out fast, first and foremost. If the NFC Championship is any indication as to what will happen in this game, Mahomes is not going to have the luxury to run around and extend plays for the prolonged period of time that he’s used to. Knowing the Chiefs, they are going to want to take shots down the field, but Mahomes is going to have to take utmost care of the football and take calculated risks. A large part of KC’s offense consists of throwing the football down the field, but it’s in their best interest to get other facets of their offense going early. Even if it isn’t through running the ball, a few screens, and swing passes to the RB, as well as the occasional jet sweep will help to keep San Francisco’s defense in check. The most critical thing for KC is to get off to a good start. In past weeks, the Chiefs have had atrocious starts, and if that is the case again this game could turn out to be a nightmare for Andy Reid. In order to prevent this from happening, the Chiefs are going to have to strike first, and protect the football at all costs. If the Chiefs get down early and Mahomes winds up having to throw the ball 45 times playing catch up, this game could be an absolute disaster for KC
Looking at San Francisco’s defense, they have the advantage of being able to generate pressure on the quarterback with solely their front 4. Prioritizing pass rushers in the draft and free agency has paid off for San Francisco, as it gives defensive coordinator Robert Saleh great freedom with what he wants to do scheme wise. The Niners have to get to Mahomes early and often affecting his timing, accuracy and ultimately causing turnovers. The key to stopping Mahomes, or at least trying to stop him is to keep him in the pocket, and force him to get the ball out. In order to accomplish this, Saleh cannot hesitate to blitz and bring pressure as you have to take risks in order to beat KC’s offense. In the AFC Championship Tennessee’s DC Dean Pees elected to rush just 3 or 4 on the majority of snaps and was unable to get pressure on Mahomes, allowing him to extend plays and find open receivers, and even just make plays with his feet. With Nick Bosa in the lineup as well as Dee Ford playing the edge, it will be difficult for Mahomes to replicate his success outside of the pocket. But, that certainly doesn’t mean that he can’t beat San Francisco from within the pocket. With that said, bringing pressure is definitely a gamble, which will most likely lead to a few big plays down the field. But, in all honesty giving up big plays is inevitable against KC and it’s bound to happen at some point or the other. What the Niners defense can do is try their best to get the Chiefs into 3rd and long situations, and try to force Mahomes into trying to do too much and making a mistake. If the Niners want to drop into coverage and take a conservative approach, they will surely regret it. KC’s O-line is better than what they get credit for and they will give Mahomes time to run around and have his way all game long. Ideally San Francisco is going to want to play cover 3 and try to keep everything in front of them, and force Mahomes into taking check downs and executing long drives down the field. Typically they are going to want to have at least 4 defenders rushing at all times, but make no mistake, they are going to have to send the blitz and fight fire with fire in order to win on crucial downs.
The wild card in this game is going to be Kansas City’s defense. If they can come out and shut down San Francisco’s rushing attack that’s going to put pressure on Garoppolo to deliver, making the 49ers offense one dimensional. But from what we’ve seen from the Niners, their strengths on offense lie in the offensive line in both pass protection and run blocking, allowing Kyle Shanahan to be extremely diverse in his play calling. Even if their defense struggles and this game turns into a shootout the Niners still have the offensive firepower to stand their ground and compete neck to neck with KC. Mahomes may be the better quarterback, but the better football team is San Francisco. The 49ers have a complete roster and can win in a multitude of ways, which will be the determining factor in this Super Bowl.