It has been 25 years since the San Francisco 49ers became the first team to win five Lombardi Trophies. The Niners have had their up and downs in that time, as they had lean years after Eddie DeBartolo gave up his ownership stake. At the start of the 2010s, the Niners had a resurgence, reaching Super Bowl XLVII, losing to the Ravens. After the departure of Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers plunged again, going through a stretch where they had three coaches in three years. The acquisition of Jimmy Garoppolo helped the Niners began to turn things around in 2017, but an ACL injury to Garoppolo in 2018 was a significant setback, as they finished 4-12. Finally playing a full season, Jimmy G led San Francisco to a 13-3 record and the best record in the NFC.
Fans of the Kansas City Chiefs have waited twice as long to see their team back in the Super Bowl. The Chiefs represented the AFL in two of the first four Super Bowls, as their founder Lamar Hunt even gave the big game its name, inspired by a high bouncing ball he saw his children playing with. The Chiefs lost the first Super Bowl but won Super Bowl IV as the AFL got the last laugh before the merger. The last half-century has been marked with frustration and heartbreak for Kansas City. Good season and home playoff losses marked much of the previous two decades as the Chiefs twice in the 1990s had the best record in the AFC and were upset by Wild Card teams in the Divisional Round.
The story of this game could come down to the great offense versus the great defense, which would be a benefit for the 49ers, as their defense has been monstrous in the postseason. At the heart of the Niners defense is rookie Nick Bosa, who has already established himself as one of the league’s premier pass rushers. If Bosa can get pressure on Patrick Mahomes, it could be a long day for the Chiefs.
In the history of the Super Bowl, the team with the better defense, as usually one these type matchups, but not many quarterbacks has the ability to improvise that Mahomes does. In his second year as a starter in Kanas City, Patrick Mahomes continued to astound fans at Arrowhead with his way to turn broken plays into touchdowns. None of these plays were more thrilling than his touchdown at the end of the first half against the Titans in the AFC Championship Game.
When the Niners won Super Bowl XXIX in Miami, it was all about Steve Young’s legacy. Long-playing in the shadow of Joe Montana, Young silenced the critics and won the game’s MVP with a record six touchdown passes, getting the monkey off his back. That monkey now rides the back of Andy Reid, the coach of the Chiefs. No coach in the history of the NFL has won more games than Reid, who has 207 regular-season wins, without capturing the league’s championship.
These teams met last one year ago, a Week 3 game that would ultimately wreck the Niners season as they lost 38-27 as Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a season-ending injury. The Niners have made improvements on defense as have the Chiefs. The key for Super Bowl LIV will be who sets the tone of the game. The Chiefs stubbed their toe in the Divisional Round falling behind 24-0 to the Texans before scoring 28 points in ten minutes to take the lead at the half. They fell behind again in the AFC Championship, trailing 17-7 to the Titans, again they made it before the half. It would be inadvisable to believe they could do that again in the Super Bowl. The emergence of Raheem Mostert and the play of George Kittle, give the Niners an offense that could take the air out of the ball and chew up the clock, which is one of the best ways to beat the Chiefs, by keeping Mahomes on the sidelines.
This is a game that could go either way, and it is likely to be decided by less than a touchdown. The Chiefs were able to stop Derrick Henry, and they can stop Mostert. Jimmy Garoppolo has shown the ability to duel with any quarterback, as seen in the Niners win over Drew Brees and the Saints at the Superdome in December. The key will be who can make the big play. For the first time in a long time, we have a Super Bowl of new teams. Teams and players who have not been here before. Who can step up and make the big pass when it is needed most? Who can make the big play on defense? The best players overall on both teams is Patrick Mahomes. He has something special, not just a running quarterback who can throw, or a passing quarterback that can run, Mahomes has an “it ” that is set to make him the NFL’s next big star. His ability to improvise is like something that has never been seen before, from ankle-breaking moves like Barry Sanders to underhanded and left-handed throws, Mahomes is like a jazz musician on the field, and that is why the Chiefs will find the right note to win the Lombardi Trophy.
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