The Day of the Big Dance

Super Bowl 54 San Francisco vs Kansas City

Today we have an old school match up with a very new school feel. The 49ers are taking on the Chiefs for a possibly once in a life time opportunity to be world champions. It is the match up that many people saw coming all year as these two power house teams came out of the gates hot and never looked back.

San Fran Offense

This is a team that is very fundamentally sound, they can beat you through the air or on the ground. Jimmy G (traded from New England for a second round pick) may not be asked to throw the ball as much as some of the other QB’s in the league but trust me when I tell you he is more than capable. Throwing the ball less than 10 times last week has to have some people wondering if he is ready for the spotlight. What stuck out to me was the fact that when it was crunch time and the 49ers were looking to get a first down they put it in Jimmy G’s hands to get them the yards needed. That will be tested even more today as the team they are playing is known for scoring points quickly and in high volumes. I would expect to see Jimmy G have to throw the ball quite a bit more this week, just out of necessity. That will not be the end of the world though as he does have a very strong group of weapons at his disposal. Emanuel Sanders is a very experienced WR that can bring some experience to the group and keep them settled down, while Deebo Samuel is a YAC factory appearing to be more RB than WR when he gets the ball in his hands. All Pro George Kittle may indeed be the most complete TE in football and Raheem Mostert is no slouch as a receiver out of the back field either. All of this spells for a QB friendly offense where the QB does not have to continuously heave the ball down field to get big gains (very similar to the NE slant you to death mentality). Until Jimmy G settles in I would expect to see passes to be on the shorter side and for the 49ers to try to establish the run early and often. This brings us to the man of the week against GB, Raheem Mostert. Mostert simply was too much for the Packers to handle two weeks ago as he single handedly out scored the Packers by 4 points (eight points if you count the extra points). Rushing for 4 TD’s he simply could not be stopped (we all kind of saw that coming though as GB had struggled all year against the run). I would expect him to have a tougher time this week finding room to run as this KC defense has gotten better and better as the year has gone on. I would still expect the offense to go through Mostert but if he is contained and KC jumps out to an early lead this team may have to find a little more balance in their play calling if they want to win this game.

Kansas City Offense

This is a squad that looks like they may be destined to win today. Refusing to be denied in their last 2 games even after falling behind a combined 34 points in the last 2 first halves they are just too explosive to contain for 4 quarters. What makes that scary is that they only need one quarter to score more than what the bottom 27 teams in the NFL averaged per game this year. That’s right the 6th best offense in the league averaged 27 points per game and KC has scored 28 in one quarter not once but twice this year. An offense that seems to be more track team than NFL team is just simply too fast to contain. Tyreek Hill is probably the worst match up that any defensive coordinator has ever run into. Running at sub 4.3 speed you do not have time to diagnose what he is doing in his route, you have to run off of pure instinct and if you guess wrong and he gets behind you, you simply can not catch him. Mecole Hardman may not be a household name just yet but he will be soon. A young receiver that cut his teeth early in the year on special teams (don’t forget that this is how Tyreek Hill and many other great players found their playing time early) is yet another 4.3 speed receiver and he is looking to make a name for himself in the biggest game of his life up to this point. With a little more size than Hill he is harder to bump off his routes and once he’s even he’s leavin. Lets get down to what the Chiefs can do because of all that speed. Due to the fact that the 49ers defense will have to respect that speed every play this game the Chiefs will see quite a bit of room underneath that cover 3 shell that SF likes to run so much. With a receiver like Sammy Watkins who ran a 4.46 (still has insane game speed) and has seemingly bounced back at the perfect time, Watkins physical style of play and solid hands will cause nightmares for a 49ers team that is already going to be stretched thin. Last but not least SF is not the only team with a monster of a TE. Travis Kelce (probably the second or third best TE in football) is simply a one man wrecking crew scoring 3 TD’s in less than 10 minutes against the Texans, Kelce was responsible to most of the Chiefs comeback in their first playoff game where they found themselves down by 24 in the first half. Expect to see many deep shots taken early to get the 49ers defense on their heels and if that happens the Chiefs can score so quickly in so many ways that they are nearly unstoppable.

San Francisco Defense

The San Fran defense has been simply stellar all year. Built on the mentality of if we can pressure the opposing QB and get him off his spot while only rushing 4 we can drop seven into coverage and make it very difficult to pass the ball. Lead by a ROY candidate and already All Pro caliber DE Joey Bosa (that’s right, there are 2 Bosa’s in the league now and they are both insanely talented) the front 4 of SF is simply ferocious. Aaron Rodgers found this out 2 weeks ago as it seemed that who some consider the best QB in football was running for his life for most of the game. With 48 sacks on the year this team likes to get after the QB and make the other teams offensive line wish they had never stepped foot off their plane. On the back end of this defense there is a familiar face to allot of football fans that you either love or hate. No matter how you feel about him Richard Sherman has made his mark on the NFL for the better part of the last decade as one of the best cover CBs in the league. Starting his career in Seattle and winning a SB in unreal fashion against a Bronco’s team who’s offense was lead by none other than Peyton Manning. That Bronco’s team that year was talked about the same way KC is now, they lead the league in explosive plays, they lead the league in explosive TD’s, and they were the clear favorites going into that game. Expect Sherman to be very intense this game as his last run at a SB did not end in such glorious fashion. Sherman usually does not stay on a certain player rather he stays on one side of the field which could spell trouble as KC can simply move whatever player they want to the other side and avoid Sherman completely if they wish. This game will boil down to if the SF defense can stop the KC offense. Expect the 49ers front 4 to be screaming at Mahomes all game and if they can get him off his spot (even though he is one of the best QBs while on the move) they will have done their part and it will be up to the Sherman lead secondary to be opportunistic and give their offense the ball back for more opportunities to score.

Kansas City Defense

While allot of you may not be aware of this because of how dominant KC’s offense is, their defense is pretty good too. While SF did edge them on points allowed it was only by 12 points on a 16 game season. While SF did also edge them on sacks it was only by 3. KC comes into this game very much close to even with the 49ers on defense. Ranking inside the top 10, holding teams to the 7th fewest points scored on the ground, and having 4 more INT’s than SF this year lets give this side of the ball a little more credit than what they have been getting. That being said, KC is going to have to stack the box in order to stop SF’s rushing attack, if they don’t it will be a very long day for their front 7. KC’s secondary is also lead by a familiar face that was also produced by another team in the NFC West (the Cardinals) Tyraan Matheau. While his career has not been as flashy as Sherman his play is every bit as technique driven and athletic. Matheau is going to have to be the anchor that holds this secondary together if SF is forced to pass whether that be because KC is stopping the run of KC has jumped out to a lead which has forced SF to look to the pass to get back in the game. The battle between Matheau and Kittle should be a fun one to watch as they are both very physical players and like to get a bit chippy on the gridiron. If KC wants to win this game the defense needs to worry about the run game first and make Jimmy G beat them through the air.

Coaching

While these 2 coaches have completely opposite philosophies on how a game should be called, they share allot more in common than you may realize. Kyle Shanahan in his third year with SF (his first head coaching job) has made a deep run into the playoffs, Andy Reid did the same thing in Philadelphia. Andy Reid suffered a heartbreaking loss in the SB to the Tom Brady lead Patriots, this too is true for Kyle Shanahan. Andy Reid chose Donovan McNabb to be his QB and was questioned by the city if this was the right choice (I’m making that seem allot nicer than it actually was. Philly fans did not like this choice when it happened one bit), Kyle Shanahan chose a backup QB from NE to be his offensive general and he too was questioned. Both of these coaches are known for their offensive schemes that while they seem simple give opposing offensive coordinators nightmares trying to figure out how to stop them. This is simply a case of young dog vs older dog while the young dog may be flashier, the older dog is more experienced and just may contrary to the old saying, have some new tricks. To me, this coaching duel is very close to a toss up.

Prediction

Kansas City 34 San Francisco 27

-Marshall Thorne-

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