The two best overall NFL teams made it to Super Bowl LIV, which doesn’t always happen. While the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs have different strengths, both are evenly matched. It means it’s going to come down to which team has the better game plan and executes it as designed.
We’ve already looked at some matchups and scenarios that will determine the outcome. Now it’s time to look at the questions burning in our minds as the 49ers and Chiefs prepare for Super Bowl LIV.
Can the 49ers get to Patrick Mahomes?
The 49ers have the best defensive line in football when it comes to bringing pressure and taking down opposing quarterbacks. Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead — all four former first-rounders — are individually nightmares to keep at bay. As a unit, they’ve been unstoppable.
Now here’s the rub. The Chiefs have been absolutely dominant blocking upfront for Patrick Mahomes.
The strength-versus-strength battle between San Francisco’s front seven and Kansas City’s offensive line is going to have a significant bearing on which team wins.
We know Mahomes can make magic even when he’s under significant pressure (like this). However, if he faces the kind of consistent heat that Aaron Rodgers and Kirk Cousins saw in the past couple of playoff games, the Chiefs will be hard-pressed to to find success on the offensive side of the ball consistently.
Can the Chiefs make Jimmy Garoppolo beat them?
The San Francisco offense has barely utilized the passing game during the postseason. Jimmy Garoppolo attempted 27 total passes in the first two playoff games, completing 17 for 208 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He hasn’t had to do much because the 49ers simply run down the throats of their opponents, racking up an astonishing 471 rushing yards.
With that in mind, it’s not all that surprising that Chris Jones wants to “1,000%” put the game on Garoppolo’s shoulders.
So, can Jones and the Chiefs shut down San Francisco’s run game as they did two weekends ago when Derrick Henry’s stunning postseason ended with a whimper?
And if they do that, will it matter? After all, Garoppolo has an amazing track record this year when the 49ers do need him to put the offense on his back, going 5-2 while completing 69% of his passes for 2,058 yards, 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions in games he attempted at least 30 passes.
Which tight end will have the biggest impact?
The two best tight ends in football will be on the same field Sunday playing in Super Bowl LIV. Travis Kelce in arguably the best pass-catching tight end in the NFL, while George Kittle is undeniably the best all-around tight end the league has seen in a while.
Kittle has seen limited action as a receiver this postseason, catching just four passes. That’s because he’s a dominant force for the 49ers as a run blocker. He routinely puts top-tier defensive linemen on their backsides as he paves superhighways for his running backs to sprint through.
Kelce isn’t as good in the run game, but his ability to take games over as a receiver is stunning. He set an NFL record against the Houston Texans with three touchdowns in the second quarter and will challenge the 49ers’ linebackers and safeties all game long.
It’s going to be a blast to see which of these guys ends up having the bigger overall impact. Chances are, both Kittle and Kelce will shine.
Bigger game: Tyreek Hill or Deebo Samuel?
One of the biggest stars in the NFL, Tyreek Hill has torched opposing defenses feel his speed for a few years now. Once he gets by defenders, the play usually ends is a defender posing as a piece of burnt toast and the Chiefs celebrate a touchdown.
Though he’s only a rookie and has nowhere near the clout of Hill, Deebo Samuel is becoming that type of playmaker for the 49ers. He was an all-around star in their win over the Packers, racking up 89 yards on just four touches — two catches and two runs.
Given the fact that San Francisco’s defensive secondary is so good, and that Samuel can be utilized in a multitude of ways within Kyle Shanahan’s offense, it’s not bonkers to wonder if Samuel will end up having a bigger game than Hill — something worth keeping in mind for those of you who play fantasy football.
Which underrated player has a chance to become MVP?
Quarterbacks typically bring home the hardware as Super Bowl MVP. However, we’ve seen plenty of instances where an underrated player who wasn’t hyped as a potential MVP ended up winning the award for their performance in the big game. A few recent examples are Malcolm Smith (Seattle Seahawks), Santonio Holmes (Pittsburgh Steelers) and Dexter Jackson (Tampa Bay Buccaneers).
So who may end up becoming a Super Bowl legend this Sunday?
There are plenty of options. Don’t be surprised if a defender like Tyrann Mathieu, Fred Warner, Bashaud Breeland or Emmanuel Moseley ends up having a monster game.
On offense, there are a ton of players who might emerge with a Super Bowl-winning play on Sunday. Demarcus Robinson is a player we recently highlighted as a potential breakout star, and teammate Damien Williams is another who could do it. For the 49ers, look out for Emmanuel Sanders or Matt Breida to potentially come through.