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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

49ers on Super Bowl rematch vs. Chiefs: “It’s perfect”

Jan 28, 2024 at 10:56 PM--

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Still riding the emotions of their miraculous NFC Championship Game comeback victory over the Detroit Lions, the San Francisco 49ers have yet to shift their focus to their next challenge—a Super Bowl 58 clash with the Kansas City Chiefs at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan, still absorbing the victory, confessed, "Haven't had a lot of time to think about that. I didn't watch any of their game. Wasn't sure who won until someone told me right before we went out. But, I mean, they're a hell of a team, got a hell of a coach, hell of a quarterback, hell of a defense.

"Haven't gotten to see them much this year because we haven't had a lot of crossover tape, but we already have a pretty good idea how it's going to look. They've been doing it a while. Since we met them in '19, seems like they've been there every year since."

Some 49ers (and many fans) are still haunted by that Super Bowl loss four years ago and would love to make amends for their fourth-quarter meltdown against the Chiefs.

"We have been trying really hard to get back to this moment," Shanahan continued. "We have been close a number of times. This time, we got it done, and we'll spend these two weeks to prepare and make sure it's a hell of a game."

Tackle Trent Williams has been dreaming about this opportunity for a long time. He's never gotten this far in the postseason. Now, the 11-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman has an opportunity to add "Super Bowl champion" to his Hall of Fame resume.

"I'm ecstatic," Williams said enthusiastically. "Words can't describe how I feel right now. You enjoy it, but you know that we've got a huge game coming up. Kansas City just went in there and beat a really, really good Baltimore team, and it wasn't even particularly close if you watched the game. So, those guys are rolling right now. I think they definitely had a really tough go to get to the Super Bowl, and they beat some really good teams. They're playing their best ball right now.

"Like I said, we will soon shift focus to Kansas City, and it may take two weeks of game planning just to see how we can corral [QB Patrick Mahomes] and keep guys like [DE] Chris Jones over there—they've got some really talented players on defense, so we've got our work cut out for us."

Concerns linger about the 49ers' defense, particularly after the early game struggles against the Lions. Detroit amassed 182 rushing yards, and San Francisco's defensive backs have turned in shaky performances. Mahomes can take advantage of such deficiencies.

"We're going to make the corrections we need to correct," defensive coordinator Steve Wilks affirmed. "It's going to be a difficult task ahead. You talk about two first-ballot Hall of Famers in Mahomes and [TE Travis] Kelce. So, we've got our work cut out for us, but I'm excited about the opportunity we have and looking forward to it."

While quarterback Brock Purdy wasn't with the 49ers when they faced Mahomes in the Super Bowl, he recognizes the significance of the upcoming game for many of his teammates.

"What a challenge," Purdy told reporters. "You got Mahomes and what he does, and their team, they're special, man. They're winners. They've proven that over however many years he's been there. So, for us to be able to go back and play them is going to be sweet. It's going to be special for all of us.

"I wasn't here, obviously, in '19, but you could just tell the guys that have been here, if anybody, it would be special for them to play these guys. So I'm excited to be a part of it."

Running back Christian McCaffrey highlighted the challenge posed by the Chiefs, saying, "That's obviously a great team, great defense, guys that fly around. I haven't watched, obviously, any [film] yet, but it'll be a big challenge on a big stage, and we're excited about it."

Two players who were around for that last Super Bowl battle are defensive end Nick Bosa and tight end George Kittle.

When asked if the matchup was fitting, Bosa responded, "It's perfect. And they're as great as an organization, coach, quarterback as there is. And they were down, not looking great this year either, and they're playing their best ball now, so it's going to be a big challenge."

Everyone remembers the video of Kittle on the sidelines in the deflating closing minutes of Super Bowl 54, vowing to himself to return with a "motherf---ing vengeance."

When asked if there is any added significance to their Super Bowl opponent being Kansas City, Kittle responded, "Shot at the Chiefs, I mean, nothing really. That was 2019. That was a while ago. They're a very different football team. A lot of the same great football players, obviously. They've got Chris Jones, Travis Kelce, Mahomes, and [head coach] Andy Reid. They're still really good. They got their core guys as well."

For now, Kittle is savoring the moment. He'll worry about the upcoming game plan when he has it in his hands, trusting the process that got the 49ers to this point.

"I'm very happy for this team, this organization, franchise to get back and get this opportunity because, yeah, losing an NFC Championship Game two more times, it's not very fun," Kittle said. "You put an extra two weeks in, and then you lose. It's like, 'That stings.' And then you move on to the next one and you just say, 'Well, what am I going to do differently this year? How am I going to work harder? How am I going to train my body differently? What's my mindset going to be?'

"There's a lot of questions, and for us to be able to extend this out a little bit and not have to think about those things at this current time, just think, okay, how are we going to get everybody healthy, as healthy as we possibly can be for this next game, and what is our game plan going to be? And just to be able to be in that opportunity with this group of guys is very fun."

When asked again about his thoughts on the Super Bowl rematch with the Chiefs, Shanahan deferred, stating he has yet to form any.

"I'm excited that we're going there," Shanahan said. "Happy for the Chiefs, too. Going to have a lot of fun tonight, probably with my family and everything. Come in a little bit slow motion tomorrow, figure out all the Super Bowl tickets, all the traveling and stuff. That takes a lot of time for the players and their families.

"Coaches will start getting to go on Kansas City while they do all that. Probably give the guys a couple of days off, and then we'll get to our game plan and practice by Wednesday or Thursday."

Kirk Larrabee contributed to this article.

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