The people have spoken, and they think the Kansas City Chiefs beat the 49ers in Super Bowl 54. Ever since the match-up was set, the Chiefs were declared as slight favorites by Vegas and more convincing favorites by many media outlets. Look, we get it, the zeitgeist of the modern NFL values an exciting Quarterback over every other fact of the sport. Rewind the clock merely one month and Patrick Mahomes was already being replaced on the football altar by Baltimore's Lamar Jackson. The Titans spilled coffee on the 2019 NFL script when they eliminated the Ravens in the Divisional round, therefore the media had to turn to the backup Golden Boy, Patrick Mahomes.

Many see the Chiefs as an unstoppable force. They make for great television. Dropping 51 points on a mediocre Texans team that you spotted 24 is quite the headline. These are the types of wins that make fans forget about the opponent completely, simultaneously casting an infatuation with the enigmatic comeback kids from Kansas City. This cirque-de-soleil of a passing attack is what networks, fans and the media want the face of the NFL to be. One problem, it is limited. As entertaining as the Chiefs are, that is their downfall. They aren't a complete team with strengths all over the roster, so they required a 24-point comeback in the Divisional round and a 10-point comeback in the Championship game. The 49ers never trailed for a second in the playoffs.

Quite simply, the Chiefs are the anti-49ers. While the 49ers have won 15 games this year in every form and fashion possible, the Chiefs have relied heavily on their passing offense to carry them to the Super Bowl. Though the Chiefs are better for television, the 49ers are better for winning a championship.

Chiefs Don't Match-Up Well


The game of football is a chess match with the best athletes in the world as the pieces. Kansas City holds the crown with Patrick Mahomes being the most impactful player on the board, but aside from that, the Chiefs' other pieces don't match up nearly as well. For starters, the 49ers rushing offense was ranked 2nd in the NFL in 2019 only to a Lamar-led Ravens, while the Chiefs rushing defense ranked 26th in the NFL at stopping the run. Quite an advantage for a team that just ran over both the Vikings (13th vs. the Run) & Packers (23rd vs. the run) on its way to the Super Bowl. Clearly here, the 49ers' offensive strength is matched well against the Chiefs' defensive weakness.

It isn't hard to see that the passing game is the Chiefs' offensive strength. The Chiefs ranked 5th in passing yards per game in 2019 and have hitched their wagon to Mahomes' arm during the playoff run. What do the 49ers do better than anybody in the NFL? Defend the pass. Allowing only 169.2 yards per game, the 49ers excel at putting the clamps on the QB. These numbers are even further skewed by the fact the 49ers were without Dee Ford and Kwon Alexander for nearly half the year, two key factors in pressuring the QB and covering TEs and RBs out of the backfield. Six times this year the 49ers held teams to under 106 total passing yards (Mayfield, Goff, Keenum, Allen, Rodgers, Jackson). If the 49ers showed one defensive weakness in 2019, it would be against the run. The past two games Patrick Mahomes was the Chiefs' leading rusher, another area where the 49ers have a clear advantage. If there is one way to stop a red-hot QB, it will be to keep him off the field by sustaining long drives and playing the pass well. The 49ers have reasons to be confident about this chess match.

Chiefs Lack Discipline


Kansas City shines bright on the screen, maybe that's because all the flags it's responsible for. In 2019, only two teams in the NFL (Jacksonville, Oakland) racked up more penalty yards than the Chiefs, who amassed a total of 1,127 penalty yards. That is a staggering amount of penalty yards for any team, but the Chiefs were lucky enough to have the talent to overcome those mistakes most of the time. While that may work out vs. the Raiders, Chargers and Broncos, being that undisciplined in the Super Bowl could cost them tremendously as the 49ers are already great at sustaining long drives. An extra flag or two could go a long way. Another interesting tidbit to the Chiefs' penalty woes: no team in the NFL gets called for defensive holding more than the Chiefs do. Kyle Shanahan sure likes the sound of that.

49ers D All CHARGED Up?


It is well known by now that Nick Bosa is the brother of LA Chargers DE Joey Bosa. While Joey is sure to provide Nick with some tips on facing the Chiefs (the Chargers do so twice a year) the Chargers factor provides a possible example of how to defend Patrick Mahomes. In two games in 2019, Patrick Mahomes is 35/57 for 356 yards with 2 TDs & 2 INTs. Those numbers are a far deviation from the expected output of this dynamic young QB. What relevant purpose does this stat serve? The 49ers and Chargers run the same defensive scheme, a cover 3 zone defense originally employed by the Seattle Seahawks, which once employed both DCs of these two teams; Robert Saleh for San Francisco and Gus Bradley for LA. The scheme is based around the concept of keeping the receivers in front of you and limiting down-field explosive plays. While nobody in the NFL was better at creating those explosive plays than the Chiefs were, nobody defended those plays better than the 49ers did. Do the 49ers, like the Chargers, have the scheme to put the clamps on those big plays and make Patrick Mahomes concede to those more mundane options closer to the line of scrimmage? They just might.

Defensive Line Dominance


The 49ers have the very best defensive line in the NFL, that is a fact. When Bosa, Armstead, Buckner and Ford are on the field all at once, the 49ers defense sacks the QB around 15% of the time. Patrick Mahomes is the elite athlete they will be attempting to take down on Sunday, this man has only thrown 17 interceptions in his two seasons as a starter. Those are incredible numbers when you consider these are his first two seasons playing pro football. As impressive as they sound, they favor the 49ers.

See, Mahomes has only thrown 17 total interceptions, but 16 of them came against a team rushing just 4 players. Robert Saleh has leaned on sending only 4 pass rushers the majority of the year with mostly devastating results. The 49ers are primed to drop seven into coverage on almost every down, this is when Mahomes has made his most costly mistakes. Expect the 49ers to allow the secondary and LBs to do what they do best, cover pass catchers while the defensive line hunts down the QB.

With these factors being accounted for, it by no means suggests the 49ers are guaranteed a victory on Super Bowl Sunday. Sometimes a team can have an overwhelming advantage on paper and still come up short because one incendiary player is performing at an unstoppable level on that day. Patrick Mahomes may just be that good. He is the one who the 49ers will have to stop on Sunday, but the Chiefs will have to find a way stop 46 other men.
  • Written by:
    36 year old husband & father of 4, life-long 49ers fan living in Hudson Valley New York.