I was going to write a preview of the Super Bowl, but as a die hard 49er fan I can’t really write one fairly or in an unbiased fashion!! But I did want to post something as it would be strange for us here at The Snap not to! So thought I’d look at some of the key battles to look out for.
Patrick Mahomes vs the 49ers pass rush
We all know it, Patrick Mahomes is the best bloody player in the NFL. Yes, Lamar Jackson will win the MVP and rightly so, but if you had a choice between the two to put behind centre for your team I’m sure most of you would pick Mahomes. The thing with Mahomes is that he’s great at playing with a great game plan (kudos Andy Reid) but when shit starts to happen he’s also the best in the business at improvisation. Mahomes’ QBR under pressure is one of the best there’s ever been so even if the 49ers pass rush does get to him, there’s a good chance that Mahomes will still make something happen.
But this pass rush is special – and so it should be after the investment it’s had. The addition of Bosa and Ford on the edge gives Buckner even more chance of getting to Mahomes through the middle. Unfortunately for any offensive line, you can’t double team all of the 49ers pass rushers, and we’ve not even mentioned Arik Armstead yet. Armstead has quietly had his best season for the red and gold, notching up 10 sacks (he’d had 9 in TOTAL before 2019) and two forced fumbles. But all eyes will be on the defensive rookie of the year Nick Bosa who has proved that the hype was worthwhile before last years draft. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching Bosa on the line this year, his speed, power and technique have been incredible.
49ers run game vs the Chiefs defence
We don’t know if the 49ers are going to rely on their run game as much as they did against the Packers. However, it will be a key element in Shanahan’s game plan. Yes, the Chiefs stopped Derek Henry, but that’s one player and the beauty of Shanahan’s scheme is that on any one play you never know exactly who’s getting the ball. Sometimes it’s a running back (and there could be up to four to choose from), sometimes it’s the full back Kyle Juszcyk, it could be a wide receiver (Deebo Samuel and Richie James both have rushed the ball this year) and even George Kittle has had some rushes.
There’s been movement before the snap on 79% of the 49ers plays – vastly more than any other team. I’m no defensive coordinator or defensive leader so I can only imagine how tough that is to figure out. However one player who won’t be affected by the movement is defensive tackle Chris Jones who has to have a huge game on Sunday night if the Chiefs are to stop the 49ers attack.
My biggest concern for the Chiefs is their lack of talent at linebacker. If the 49ers do get past Chris Jones and co on the defensive line then they could have a free run to the Chiefs secondary, churning up the yards, as I don’t fancy the linebacker core for the Chiefs.
Andy Reid vs Robert Salah & Kyle Shanahan vs Steve Spagnuolo
I’ve grouped these because it’s really offense versus defence that we see in every game each week. But this set of play callers looks really special on paper and it’ll be intriguing to see who wins out on each side of the football.
The head coaches are each responsible for their teams offence. Andy Reid needs no introduction, he’s a legendary head coach who has revolutionised the game and once he decides to retire will be heading to the Hall of Fame no matter what happens on Sunday or night. On the other sideline, Kyle Shanahan has come good in his third year as a head coach. For a couple of years he’s been overshadowed by Sean McVay as the celebrated ‘young offensive genius’ but this year, with his roster now set how he wants it, Shanahan has proved his worth and his schemes are just fascinating to watch.
On the other side of the ball, Robert Salah and Steve Spagnuolo have coached defenses that have vastly approved since 2018. I would give Salah the edge, but he does have more quality parts to work with.
Chiefs speedy receivers vs the 49ers secondary
Let’s not beat around the bush here, Mahomes is great, but he has some of the fastest recievers to work with as well. Tyreek Hill and Mercole Hardman are two of the fastest in the league and can cause havoc to many a defensive back.
It’s well known that the 49ers secondary is led by veteran cornerback Richard Sherman who maybe isn’t as fast as he once was. However, like has been said with many a veteran in many a sport, Sherman’s first ten yards is in his head and his intelligent reading of the game, coupled with Salah’s scheme can help overcome any speed deficiency. Let’s also not forget that around Sherman are not only some pacey cornerbacks and safety but also a very athletic pair of linebackers in Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw who for players who are so young have had very good years.