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Barnwell’s Tremendous Bowl LIV preview

Tremendous Bowl LIV feels just like the dawning of a brand new generation. For the primary time because the 2015 season, the New England Patriots is probably not competing within the NFL’s identify sport. With critical questions on the way forward for Tom Brady and the viability of the New England dynasty, Sunday (6:30 p.m. ET, Fox) brings a possibility for 2 of the league’s maximum colourful, entertaining groups to take their position because the league’s new style franchise.

The San Francisco 49ers and Kansas Town Chiefs have lots in commonplace. They are each constructed within the symbol of good offensive minds in Kyle Shanahan and Andy Reid. Their offensive philosophies in 2019, at their core, are an identical: pace kills. They drive defenses to protect each blade of grass at the box and punish them in seconds when they are attempting to break out with taking a play off. At their ideally suited, it kind of feels absurd that any one may just forestall them. For many of this postseason, no person has.

After all, those groups serve up the similar issues in two utterly alternative ways. The Chiefs must set an alarm on their telephone to remind themselves to run the ball; that is the offense that known as 31 move performs in opposition to simply six runs whilst scoring seven consecutive touchdowns in a livid onslaught of a comeback in opposition to the Texans within the divisional around. The 49ers, in the meantime, have dialed up runs on 71 in their previous 88 performs. The Chiefs are regularly the access level for brand spanking new concepts into the NFL. Reid has been forward of the curve for just about two complete many years as a head trainer. The 49ers simply set the tone in their NFC Championship Sport win by way of operating one thing Vince Lombardi would have had in his playbook for the hole rating.

You’ll be able to make a reputable case for each and every facet the usage of the weapon the opposite does not must win in Miami. The 49ers have a dominant entrance 4 and the league’s second-best protection by way of DVOA. Nick Bosa & Co. took over in dominant regular-season performances in opposition to the Rams and Packers and squeezed the hope out of the Vikings all the way through the second one 1/2 of their divisional around playoff sport. The Chiefs have Patrick Mahomes, and that turns out to grant them get right of entry to to a prior to now inconceivable realm of soccer at his ideally suited.

With each the Chiefs’ offense and 49ers’ protection in a position to overrunning the contest for stretches of time, I ponder whether how each and every crew plays at the different facet of the ball will finally end up deciding this sport. Let’s get started by way of analyzing what the 49ers can do with the soccer and the way the Chiefs can attempt to forestall them:

Leap to a bit:
Predicting Kyle Shanahan’s plan of assault
The place the 49ers excel, and what the Chiefs must tweak
The Chiefs have a giant defensive weak spot
The safeties who can win (or lose) the sport
The place the Chiefs can exploit the Niners
The place San Francisco has one massive mismatch
Six mini storylines that may affect the end result
Wait, mustn’t the Chiefs win simply on account of Mahomes?
Will both of those groups forestall scoring?
The entire different stuff that might make a decision the sport
My ultimate rating prediction

How the 49ers will assault the Chiefs

I hope we get a couple of memorable moments in Tremendous Bowl LIV, however the play of the postseason up to now got here within the first quarter of the NFC Championship Sport. With the Niners going through a third-and-Eight at the fringe of box function vary, Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine dialed up an unique entrance, with only one defender putting his hand at the floor. Prized free-agent addition Za’Darius Smith stood within the A-gap, whilst fellow new arrival Preston Smith covered up as a wide-nine finish a ways out of doors left take on Joe Staley. Pettine naturally was hoping that the 2 Smiths would meet within the backfield for a drive-stalling sack of Jimmy Garoppolo.

Preston Smith (91) ended up within the backfield, however by the point he were given there the ball — and any sense of Packers invincibility — used to be long past. Trainer Kyle Shanahan had known as a entice — the similar entice you ran together with your junior excessive crew — on third-and-Eight. Preston Smith and Blake Martinez (50), each nominally taking part in defensive finish, shot into the backfield. Linebacker Kyler Fackrell (51) adopted swimsuit after left take on Staley (71) driven him down, however each Smith and Fackrell had been taken out of the play by way of pulling guard Mike Individual (68). Staley climbed to the second one point and sealed off Adrian Amos (31), Darnell Savage (26) took a deficient attitude to the ball service and Raheem Mostert (31) used to be off to probably the most largest video games in playoff historical past. All that off a third-and-Eight entice. Test it out, courtesy of NFL Subsequent Gen Stats:

The 49ers beat up the Packers for 4 quarters with just about no defensive answer, overwhelming a protection that ranked 23rd within the league in dashing DVOA for 285 yards on 42 carries. On Sunday, Shanahan and his offense will face a Chiefs crew that completed the season 29th in rush protection DVOA. Kansas Town simply did an efficient activity of slowing down Derrick Henry to make it to the Tremendous Bowl, however there are causes to fret whether or not it’s going to be as efficient on Sunday.

In case you are a baseball fan, you have heard the adage about how tremendous groups want to be stout up the center. I believe Shanahan’s sport plan on Sunday might be to check out to take advantage of the center of the Kansas Town protection in any respect 3 ranges. Let’s get started within the trenches and paintings our method into the secondary, starting with probably the most many gamers whose well being may just assist swing this sport.

The place the 49ers excel, and what the Chiefs must tweak

The Chiefs must exchange probably the most key elements of the defensive sport plan they used in opposition to the Titans. Steve Spagnuolo used to be ready to convey again superstar defensive take on Chris Jones from a calf harm, however with Jones nonetheless no longer with reference to 100%, Jones’ snaps had been restricted. The pending loose agent is a wonderful gap-shooter and in a position to making performs within the backfield in opposition to each the move and the run, however fellow take on Mike Pennel is far stouter on the level of assault and used to be most probably a greater have compatibility in opposition to the Tennessee dashing assault.

Spagnuolo’s resolution used to be to make use of the 2 in a rotation, with Jones and Pennel by no means seeing the sector in combination. Pennel used to be at the box when the Titans got here out on early downs with rush team of workers programs, and Spagnuolo subbed in Jones in evident passing eventualities. It labored brilliantly; Pennel did an ideal activity and got here up with consecutive short-yardage stops in opposition to Henry, whilst Jones pressured Ryan Tannehill during the sport on 0.33 downs.

That may exchange for the Chiefs on Sunday as a result of Shanahan does not be offering many tells along with his team of workers groupings. Whilst the 49ers’ maximum commonplace package deal all the way through the season used to be 11 team of workers (one RB, one TE, 3 WRs), Shanahan’s offense used to be way more efficient out of 21 team of workers (two RBs, one TE, two WRs). It will have to be San Francisco’s base package deal, getting each Kyle Juszczyk and George Kittle at the box in combination.

The 49ers ran 21 team of workers extra often than any crew in soccer all the way through the steady season, the usage of it 26.7% of the time. All the way through the playoffs, with their run sport dominating, they have got upped the ante and long past with their favourite grouping on slightly below 40% of the offensive snaps, together with 11 of Garoppolo’s 27 move makes an attempt.

The issues that team of workers package deal brings up for the opposition are very similar to the problems James Develin and Rob Gronkowski introduced up for the Patriots in Tremendous Bowl LIII — which I addressed in my previewdominating the one landing power of the sport for the Patriots. The Patriots did that out of 22 team of workers (two RBs, two TEs, one WR), which the 49ers have used just about 33% of the time all the way through the postseason.

The 49ers thrive on their skill to make use of Kittle and Juszczyk as guns within the operating and passing video games. We will get to what Kittle can do as a receiver in a while, however his blocking off has transform the stuff of web legend; he is such an honorary Gronk at this level that I be expecting the All-Professional to throw a cruise for himself this offseason. Kittle necessarily offers the 49ers a 6th offensive lineman when they would like him to dam; he can assist out proper take on Mike McGlinchey with Frank Clark, come around the formation to wham defensive linemen and get upfield to engulf and weigh down second-level defenders.

I have written about Juszczyk’s contract so much in recent times, however whilst you put the cash apart, it used to be all the time simple to know why Shanahan noticed Juszczyk as an excellent have compatibility for his offense. He is a competent, constant blocker who can transfer all over the formation to create splendid angles inside the operating sport. Juszczyk is not regularly going to line up out of doors and beat a linebacker one-on-one off the road of scrimmage, however he is athletic sufficient to run for a giant play when Shanahan schemes him open. And whilst complex metrics urged that Juszczyk did not make an affect at the offense in 2017 or 2018, the 49ers were a lot better with him at the box in 2019. (He additionally drew probably the most absurd move interference name of the season with some post-play complaining, which is solely hustling.)

Former Shanahan assistant Wealthy Scangarello did not have a lot good fortune in opposition to the Chiefs in his one-and-done season as Broncos offensive coordinator, however I would not be stunned if Shanahan went again to one thing Scangarello used to release fullback Andy Janovich for a giant play by way of faking out of doors zone a method and having the fullback twist to run around the formation the wrong way. The Broncos left Clark unblocked and lofted the throw over him to a unconditionally exposed Janovich, who ran for 22 yards. Shanahan may no longer run the similar actual play, however he may just attempt to get to that very same thought once or more all the way through the sport.

Something the 49ers do smartly with each Juszczyk and Kittle is get them in movement simply prior to the snap and create leverage at the protection prior to they may be able to modify. As Warren Sharp famous, the 49ers use movement within the operating sport greater than anyone else in soccer, whilst the Chiefs are the NFL’s worst run protection when groups use movement.

Here is an instance of the 49ers taking part in off that, with Kittle motioning to the precise. The protection adjusts, after which Juszczyk motions on the final moment to the precise like they are about to run out of doors zone in that path … just for it to be an finish round the wrong way. After taking his first step like he’ll block on the presumed level of assault, Juszczyk reverses box or even is going to cut-block Za’Darius Smith (55) at the reverse edge. With Smith distracted and desperately looking for the soccer, Juszczyk sees that Smith is not going to be concerned within the play and bypasses him to move upfield. This is not an enormous play, however it is an instance of ways Shanahan makes use of Juszczyk to debris with defenders’ heads:

All of that brings us again, for now, to Jones. The Chiefs had transparent signs for when to insert him in opposition to the Titans. When Dion Lewis entered the sport, Pennel got here off the sector for Jones each time. With Henry within the sport, Pennel (21 snaps) and Derrick Nnadi (9) performed extra often than Jones (seven). Shanahan’s offensive philosophy is constructed round no longer giving the ones varieties of tells after which the usage of the versatility afforded by way of his team of workers to profit from whoever is at the box.

Jones has stated he feels a lot better after the AFC Championship Sport, and whilst I’d consider that is true, the Chiefs nonetheless have a query on their fingers. They completely want Jones as an inner disruptor on passing downs. He is additionally their ideally suited shot at taking pictures into the backfield and taking down Mostert or the opposite 49ers backs for a loss, however simply as they did with the Packers’ ends, Shanahan most probably will attempt to weaponize Jones’ aggressiveness by way of trapping him and operating into the outlet he simply vacated. If Pennel or Nnadi are within the sport, Kansas Town can have a stouter run protection, but it surely may not have a lot in the best way of inner penetration in opposition to the San Francisco passing sport. Out of doors of evident operating or passing downs, the Chiefs will be unable to make use of the Niners’ team of workers programs to get their ideally suited gamers for a specific form of play within the sport. That is going to harm them in opposition to each the move and the run.

The down and distance the place a protection has the least details about what the offense goes to do is first-and-10. Unsurprisingly, no person does higher on first-and-10 than Shanahan-led offenses. I have written about this up to now, however even if his groups were not superb general, they are much higher on first down. And when the offense is superb, smartly, you find yourself with the 2016 Falcons, whose 7.Five-yard common on first down used to be probably the greatest in NFL historical past. Here is the place Shanahan-led offenses ranked in yards consistent with play on first down and who their number one quarterback used to be in each and every of the ones seasons:

The 49ers averaged a league-best 6.Eight yards consistent with play on first downs this season. They ranked moment in yards consistent with move try and 7th in yards consistent with rush and ran the ball greater than 62% of the time, the second-highest mark in soccer. A few of that run frequency is influenced by way of sport script with the 49ers regularly main by way of an important chew within the fourth quarter, however we have now greater than a decade of proof Shanahan-led offense goes to be an issue on first downs.

After all, Mahomes and the Chiefs offense are averaging Eight.Three yards consistent with play on first downs within the playoffs. The ones guys are beautiful nice, too.

How Shanahan may just exploit the Kansas Town linebackers

Probably the most different huge questions for the Chiefs, no less than on paper, is how they are attempting to line up in opposition to the 49ers in 21 team of workers. All the way through the steady season, Kansas Town confronted 21 team of workers on 102 snaps and performed 5 or extra defensive backs 48 occasions. This wasn’t generally the case for the 49ers, as opposing defenses tended to check up in opposition to the ones 21 units with their base protection and 4 defensive backs. Opposing coordinators stayed of their base defenses 80% of the time in opposition to the Niners and moved to their sub-packages with 5 or extra defensive backs simply 20% of the time. San Francisco used to be about as efficient irrespective of the defensive package deal, because it used to be a hit (by way of the NFL Subsequent Gen Stats’ definition) 55% of the time in opposition to each base and sub-packages.

If the Chiefs nonetheless had protection Juan Thornhill, who tore his left ACL within the regular-season finale in opposition to the Chargers, they may imagine looking to way the Niners in 21 team of workers with a nickel (5 defensive again) set. With out Thornhill, despite the fact that, they’re already stretched at protection. They have got performed their base protection on 11 of 16 snaps in opposition to 21 team of workers all the way through the playoffs, they usually may just proceed with that form of ratio on this sport. The Chiefs additionally replied to 22 team of workers with their base protection each time all the way through the steady season, so when Juszczyk comes onto the sector, Spagnuolo is more likely to reply by way of sending in a linebacker.

Kansas Town’s number one linebackers are going to be former Cowboys Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson. Let’s get started with Wilson, who generally performed about 30% of the defensive snaps for the Cowboys prior to leaping to 64% of the snaps in his first season with the Chiefs in 2019. The previous special-teamer allowed a passer score of 115.Five in protection, the eighth-worst mark within the league for linebackers with no less than 200 protection snaps.

Wilson wasn’t egregiously unhealthy on tape, however groups had been ready to profit from his inexperience. In past due October, the Packers picked on him with a two-man path mixture this is obviously designed to exploit Wilson in zone protection; the linebacker overcommits to Jimmy Graham‘s downfield path, leaving an enormous swath of area for Aaron Jones popping out of the backfield for a giant acquire within the crimson zone. The Texans, any other crew that prospers on play-action, suckered Wilson with a mix play-fake and pretend display/swing move prior to leaking Daniel Fells out in the back of him for an enormous acquire. Wilson has gotten higher in protection because the season has long past alongside, however Shanahan continues to be going to imagine Wilson a goal in move protection.

Likewise, although Hitchens used to be given a big-money deal by way of the Chiefs in loose company, he is thought to be a goal in move protection. The Packers went after Hitchens, too, setting apart him in opposition to Jones on a mesh variant. This went for 50 yards and would were a 60-yard landing if Jones hadn’t stepped out of bounds. The Chargers have had good fortune setting apart Austin Ekeler in opposition to Hitchens over the last two years. When the Chiefs convey 0.33 linebacker Reggie Ragland within the sport, it is for his run improve; the Vikings had been ready to fabricate a 32-yard of completion to fullback C.J. Ham after he faked a block try on Ragland prior to freeing upfield.

For those who concept the Packers favored choosing on Wilson and Hitchens, smartly, you can by no means bet what they did when the 2 linebackers had been at the similar facet of the sector. This can be a display that NFL linebackers merely want to beat and a matchup the Chiefs can not let occur on Sunday. Kansas Town is 2-on-2 at the out of doors, with Hitchens and Wilson matched up in opposition to Jones and Graham. Obviously concentrated on the matchup, Rodgers throws an instantaneous display to Jones. Graham, virtually indisputably the worst blocking off tight lead to soccer, effectively seals off Hitchens. Wilson is simply too gradual to get upfield prior to the cavalry arrives, and Jones runs untouched for an (undepicted) 67-yard landing:

Believe the 49ers operating that play with Mostert and Kittle, who’s the polar reverse of Graham in relation to blocking off.

OK. The Chiefs’ linebackers are not tremendous in move protection. How are they in opposition to the run? As you may suspect from the protection’s efficiency by way of DVOA, no longer so tremendous. They allowed 1.84 yards after touch within the run sport this season, the fourth-worst fee in soccer. It is not a one-year factor, both; they had been at a league-worst 2.11 yards after first touch in opposition to runners in 2018.

Watch the Chiefs’ run protection from the steady season on movie and you can see neglected tackles, deserted gaps and erased linebackers. Mix the entirety and you find yourself with disasters such because the 68-yard landing the Chiefs allowed to Henry within the steady season.

Within the AFC Championship Sport, despite the fact that, the Chiefs held Henry to 69 yards on 19 carries, a much-improved efficiency in opposition to the run when the Chiefs wanted one maximum. The line of defense used to be the important thing right here. Clark used to be very good in opposition to Jack Conklin and chased down a Henry run from in the back of. Nnadi and Pennel held up within the center. There have been nonetheless tough moments — Terrell Suggs attempted to cheat his method into any other hole and no person changed him on one Henry run, whilst Hitchens used to be visibly pissed off after lacking a take on on Henry in the back of the road of scrimmage and wasn’t ready to prevent Henry as a part of a scrape-exchange close to the top zone on a Four-yard landing run — however the Chiefs allowed only one.Four yards after first touch.

Henry’s longest run of the day used to be 13 yards, and whilst it will have long past for extra, Daniel Sorensen used to be ready to convey Henry down because the final defensive line. His position on this sport additionally might be key.

The safeties who can win (or lose) the sport

Sorensen has already had a conspicuous postseason. The 29-year-old compelled DeAndre Carter to fumble away a kickoff within the first 1/2 of the Texans sport, putting in place a brief box to assist get the Chiefs again within the contest. Within the win over the Titans, he laid an enormous hit on Tannehill after which single-handedly sniffed out a display to Henry for a lack of 6 yards on what used to be the superstar again’s finishing touch of the season.

You’ll be able to perceive why the Chiefs like having Sorensen round. He is an excellent special-teamer. His teammates appear to like him. Sorensen exhibited fantastic agility on the mix.

In addition they made investments at protection this offseason by way of giving Tyrann Mathieu a report deal and drafting Thornhill in the second one around for a reason why. A number of key moments for the Chiefs final season got here down to groups choosing on Sorensen in protection. In that now-legendary 54-51 sport in opposition to the Rams all the way through the 2018 steady season, Jared Goff gained the sport with two past due landing passes to Gerald Everett. Each the 7-yard landing that gave the Rams the lead and the 40-yard sport winner at the resulting power got here with Sorensen in protection.

In opposition to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Sport a yr in the past, Sorensen performed an important position. He got here up with an enormous interception when a ball bounced off Julian Edelman‘s fingers within the fourth quarter, however the Patriots had been ready to select on him when he used to be in zone protection with throws to Edelman over the center of the sector. Sorensen additionally ended up in guy protection as opposed to Rob Gronkowski on various events, and whilst there are few safeties on the earth who can quilt Gronk one-on-one, Sorensen didn’t upload his title to the checklist. When the Chiefs as a substitute caught Eric Berry on Gronk and had Sorensen taking part in the deep position as a single-high or two-high protection, he wasn’t ready to learn Tom Brady and get into the long run Corridor of Famer’s throwing lanes or do sufficient to intervene with Gronkowski making key catches down the stretch.

To be honest, asking Sorensen to compete with arguably the 2 ideally suited gamers at their respective positions in NFL historical past is unreasonable. Sorensen should not be ready to hide Gronk man-to-man or work out Brady. On the similar time, despite the fact that, there are possibly going to be moments on this sport the place Sorensen leads to guy protection in opposition to Kittle or because the final defensive line in opposition to a giant run from Mostert. Whilst he performed 1/2 of the defensive snaps this season, I noticed no less than one Sorensen run wherein he used to be fooled and actively sprinting in the wrong way from the ball service to create an enormous acquire for Josh Jacobs. I believe Shanahan regards Sorensen as a legal responsibility. On Sunday, we’re going to in finding out whether or not he is proper.

The important thing participant for the Chiefs past the line of defense, in fact, is Mathieu. It is virtually unattainable to consider the Chiefs having an ideal sport on protection in opposition to the 49ers with out a important contribution from the previous LSU superstar. Mathieu’s instincts and pace make him such a participant who can discourage or downright blow up the jet sweeps and large runs the 49ers love to make use of with Deebo Samuel. As a playmaker who strikes all over the protection from snap to snap, there must be a second on this sport wherein Mathieu is in a place Garoppolo is not anticipating and will get a fingertip or a hand at the soccer. If that is sufficient to drive a takeaway, Mathieu can have accomplished his activity.

Mathieu and Hitchens will want to play an important position in figuring out what San Francisco is operating and beating its blockers to the punch. Whilst the Titans had been extraordinarily efficient operating the soccer in opposition to the Patriots and Ravens, they had been rarely refined. They did not do a lot to masks their core dashing and play-action ideas or get to them another way, partly as a result of you do not actually want to with that offensive line and Derrick Henry. Shanahan goes to decorate up the handful of zone and hole ideas the 49ers run with movement, pitches and misdirection to an extent few groups within the NFL can fit.

The vulnerable spot for the Chiefs to take advantage of on offense

The Chiefs’ sport plan begins with how they try to assault the weakest a part of the San Francisco protection. The 49ers have the league’s eighth-best passer score allowed on throws to the precise facet of the offense, which is the place Richard Sherman traces up. Whilst Sherman traveled to the opposite facet of the sector early in the NFC Championship Sport in opposition to the Packers, he’ll line up at left cornerback about 99% of the time.

On throws to the left facet of the offense, despite the fact that, San Francisco is 16th in passer score allowed. That is the place it’s going to get started Emmanuel Moseley. And whilst the undrafted free-agent cornerback has had a nice postseason, the Chiefs will see Moseley because the defensive again they wish to goal within the passing sport when the 49ers play their vintage Quilt Three protection.

There may be one explicit journeys glance the Chiefs love to make use of that involves thoughts. For years, Andy Reid has covered up his 3 best large receivers to 1 facet of the sector and break up superstar tight finish Travis Kelce to the bottom. It puts defenses in an unattainable place. Flood the journeys facet with assist and Kelce finally ends up one-on-one in opposition to what’s generally a smaller cornerback. Ask the Texans and Lonnie Johnson how that went in the divisional around.

So, then, perhaps the protection doubles Kelce or offers its nook assist with a linebacker to the interior or a security excessive? That is smart, however now the protection has one fewer participant to take care of a suite with Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Mecole Hardman all in combination at the different facet. When Kelce outmuscles the cornerback on a slant, it is going for 10 or 15 yards. When a protection blows a protection in opposition to Hill or Hardman, defenders have to look at the league’s quickest receiving corps race each and every different to the top zone.

Here is the query for Reid: On which facet will he align Kelce in the ones 3×1 units when the 49ers are in Quilt Three? Put Kelce in opposition to Sherman and there will be a one-on-one matchup, even if the 6-foot-Three Sherman has the dimensions and physicality to no less than combine it up with Kelce on the line of scrimmage. In all probability extra importantly, the Chiefs finally end up with their 3 best wideouts on Moseley’s facet, putting further pressure on a man who’s actually in his rookie season at nook (he performed 3 special-teams snaps in 2018).

Flipping the offensive script is extra compelling for the Chiefs. Separating Kelce vs. Moseley is nearly undoubtedly a mismatch for measurement causes on my own. Kelce is 6-foot-Five, 260 kilos. Moseley is Five-foot-11, 190 kilos. There might be Quilt Three or Quilt 6 permutations the 49ers generally run that ask Moseley to both play guy protection because the bottom nook in opposition to Kelce or to try to win on the line of scrimmage and reroute Kelce towards assist at the inside of at linebacker, and it is asking an terrible lot of Moseley to do this regularly on this sport.

The 49ers have a cornerback with measurement on their bench in Ahkello Witherspoon, who’s 6-foot-Three and has Sherman-esque fingers. The Niners most popular Witherspoon to Moseley; Witherspoon started the season as a starter, and whilst Moseley stuffed in after Witherspoon went down with a sprained foot, the 49ers reinserted Witherspoon again into the beginning lineup as an every-down participant upon his go back.

The issue is that groups merely stored choosing on Witherspoon with good fortune. In keeping with Professional Soccer Reference, Witherspoon has given up a passer score of 109.2 in protection, a ways worse than the figures allowed by way of Moseley or Sherman. The 49ers had been compelled to bench him within the fourth quarter of their Week 17 victory over the Seahawks after the Colorado product gave up a couple of landing passes. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh reinserted him into the beginning lineup for the divisional around sport in opposition to the Vikings, however after Witherspoon were given misplaced on a 41-yard landing catch by way of Stefon Diggs, he used to be benched once more and hasn’t performed a defensive snap since.

If Kelce bodily dominates Moseley early on this sport, Saleh is in a lose-lose scenario. Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel had to stay with Johnson in opposition to Kelce for lots of the sport as a result of he had no choice. If Saleh brings in Witherspoon, the Chiefs might be overjoyed. Witherspoon has the dimensions to compete with Kelce, however he most definitely does not have the physicality. Much more worrisome is the truth that the Chiefs can turn their offense and get started operating the Hill-led journeys facet of the assault at Witherspoon, which will have to be terrifying for 49ers lovers.

There are methods to check out to fight the Moseley-Kelce matchup. The 49ers have sensible, rangy linebackers, particularly now with Kwon Alexander again within the lineup on a part-time foundation after coming back from his torn pectoral muscle. Alexander may just tackle a bigger position with two extra weeks of therapeutic prior to the Tremendous Bowl, and having Alexander and Fred Warner offers San Francisco a couple of linebackers who’re tremendous at diagnosing play fakes, entering throwing lanes and from time to time forcing the ball out after a catch is made.

Simply because the Niners do on offense with George Kittle, be expecting the Chiefs to make use of play-action and the occasional run-pass choice (RPO) to create simple completions to Kelce and different Chiefs receivers. Kelce is a singular weapon; there are just a handful of receivers within the league along with his mixture of measurement and pace, and the 49ers most effective have to stand a type of valuable few all the way through apply.

The 49ers additionally will have to be nervous in regards to the Chiefs setting apart Hill in opposition to Sherman when he is on that facet of the sector. When those two groups performed in September 2018, Reid used to be ready to just do that by way of placing Kelce on Hill’s facet and having him run a stick path, whilst the 2 wideouts at the reverse facet ran submit routes. The loose protection were given occupied by way of the beneath routes and Sherman needed to raise Hill’s deep submit. It takes a dangling move from Patrick Mahomes and a impressive activity of catching up from Sherman to save lots of a landing:

One resolution can be for the 49ers to play Quilt Three much less often. Any defensive trainer who comes from Seattle can have the popularity of taking part in the Quilt Three Buzz that Pete Carroll loves to show, however Saleh’s 49ers play extra two-deep protection appears than their popularity suggests. NFL Subsequent Gen Stats recommend that they play with two deep safeties about 20% of the time, and as our Matt Bowen urged, it would not be stunning to look them display extra two-deep appears within the Tremendous Bowl.

Taking part in with two deep safeties can be offering Moseley extra defense in opposition to Kelce whilst concurrently making it more straightforward to shield downfield routes at the reverse facet of the sector. Taking a security out of the field naturally makes it more straightforward to run the ball and whole shorter passes, however as The Athletic’s Mike Sando has famous, the Chiefs are probably the most pass-happy crew within the league. The 49ers would most probably love Kansas Town to check out to win with its floor sport.

Going to Quilt 2 or quarters protection is not going to unexpectedly forestall the Chiefs. The Chargers, who run a an identical scheme to the 49ers underneath former Seahawks trainer Gus Bradley and had some good fortune slowing down Mahomes with single-high protection appears, were given beat by way of the Chiefs attacking with 4 verts (a commonplace Quilt 1 or Quilt Three beater) after they attempted to rotate past due to two-deep coverages.

On one such play, Kelce bent his path towards the sideline and Mahomes dropped an excellent move in for a landing. That is simply getting beat by way of a famous person quarterback. On any other play wherein they turned around to two-deep on the snap, despite the fact that, the Chargers had been left with linebacker Drue Tranquill wearing Hill’s pass path upfield because it break up the 2 safeties. It did not pass smartly. Up to the 49ers love their linebackers, they do not wish to see Warner, Alexander or rookie Dre Greenlaw operating downfield with Hill.

When those two groups performed in 2018, Reid abused Saleh’s protection with 4 verts. The Chiefs ran it out of a dual tight finish set. They ran it out of journeys. Moderately frankly, they will have to have had two lengthy touchdowns off it, however Mahomes did not have his ideally suited sport and neglected each throws.

Saleh were given pissed off sufficient with Kansas Town exploiting his protection up the seams to reply in virtually a comical way: He covered up a couple of safeties 15 yards downfield on both hashmark. It used to be like a basketball trainer who used to be unwell of seeing his crew get dunked on having his two tallest gamers get started a defensive ownership by way of status at once in entrance of the rim. After all, Reid replied by way of splitting out Kelce and setting apart him in opposition to Reuben Foster on any other 4 verts thought for a primary down (animation from NFL Subsequent Gen Stats):

Citing Foster invokes an affordable argument as to why this sport may not be the similar as the only we noticed from the Chiefs and 49ers in 2018. The 49ers have dramatically progressed their team of workers on protection. Six of the 14 gamers who covered up for a minimum of 40% of the defensive snaps in opposition to the Chiefs both are not at the roster or would not be expecting to get that form of utilization within the Tremendous Bowl. Alexander, Moseley, Jaquiski Tartt, Nick Bosa and Dee Ford were not taking part in protection for the 49ers in 2018, whilst Sherman took most effective 47% of the defensive snaps after leaving the sport with a calf harm.

There is no doubting the Niners have a lot better team of workers now than they did then, they usually will have to have extra good fortune right here. For the reason that Kansas Town scored touchdowns on all 5 of its first-half possessions in a sport wherein Mahomes neglected a couple of would-be landing throws, despite the fact that, there may be numerous room for growth. The Chiefs are nonetheless going to problem the 49ers vertically, and the matchup issues they provide for opposing defenses have flummoxed even the most efficient and brightest defensive abilities within the league over the last couple of seasons.

If San Francisco enormously improves its defensive efficiency from final season and slows down the Chiefs’ offense, it is not more likely to essentially be pushed by way of its protection. The whole lot is intertwined in move protection, but when the 49ers are not ready to mount a lot power on Mahomes, the protection is not going to topic. The Niners can lose this sport with deficient protection, however to win it, they’ll want a giant day from their move rush.

Punching a hollow in Andy Reid’s offense

Here is the place the mismatch is going within the different path. Kelce vs. Moseley is an issue for the 49ers. The Chiefs’ model of this matchup is at left guard, the place 30-year-old journeyman Stefen Wisniewski is the 5th left guard to have began over the last two seasons. He most effective signed with the crew in October, but if starter Andrew Wylie went down with an ankle harm, they inserted Wisniewski into the lineup forward of 2018 starter Cam Erving. Wylie anticipated to go back for the playoffs, however Kansas Town has as a substitute caught with Wisniewski.

Like Moseley, Wisniewski has performed smartly all the way through the postseason. The league has valued him as a backup lineman over the last few years, and whilst the Chiefs have historically accomplished a nice activity of having by way of with midround alternatives and castoffs at guard underneath Reid and offensive line trainer Andy Heck, Wisniewski is ready to line up in opposition to 49ers superstar DeForest Buckner. The previous first-round pick out has 19.Five sacks and 34 knockdowns over the last two seasons, which ranks 0.33 and 5th, respectively, amongst NFL defensive tackles. Buckner vs. Wisniewski has the possible to be the largest mismatch at the box Sunday.

The Chiefs will most probably assist Wisniewski in blocking off Buckner with heart Austin Reiter, however the final time those two groups performed, their heart used to be Mitch Morse, who left for the Expenses after signing a four-year, $44.Five million deal in loose company. With all due appreciate to the previous seventh-round pick out Reiter, who signed a two-year, $Four.Five million extension final December, he is not slightly on Morse’s point.

The Chiefs’ offensive line is coming off one in every of its ideally suited two-game stretches of the season, despite the fact that we want to imagine the contest. The Texans ranked 25th in power fee all the way through the steady season, and whilst that they had J.J. Watt again for the playoffs, the superstar Texans finish used to be no longer his standard self after making an early go back from a torn percent. The Titans ranked 18th in power fee. The 49ers? They ranked 7th general at 30.Four%, however they had been a dramatically other move protection with Ford within the lineup, as you’ll be able to see from their on/off splits with and with out the previous Chiefs edge rusher:

A 15.2% sack fee turns out beautiful nice! Probably the most wildest stats of the season is a Bosa a laugh reality I have discussed prior to. Slightly below 25% of his snaps have include Ford at the box, however 75% of Bosa’s sacks were along his spouse at the edge in 2019. Ford is not single-handedly the explanation why the 49ers have just about tripled their sack fee with him at the box, but it surely lets them provide a entrance 4 that the majority offensive traces merely can not take care of.

Ford most effective made it again to the lineup for the playoffs after lacking lots of the moment 1/2 with a hamstring harm, however San Francisco hasn’t used him as a lot more than a part-time participant this season. He performed 58% of the defensive snaps in Week 1 after which did not best 50% in one sport once more till the NFC Championship Sport, when he covered up for 54% of the snaps in opposition to the Packers. Like Alexander, I’d be expecting Ford to be fitter come Sunday than he used to be two weeks in the past, and given how pass-happy the Chiefs are, it would not be unexpected to look Ford play someplace north of 60% of the defensive snaps.

With Ford round, the 49ers have necessarily performed 3 units of defensive traces for the majority of their snaps all the way through the playoffs. Line 1 is the beginning 4, with Bosa at proper defensive finish, Arik Armstead at left defensive finish and Buckner lining up subsequent to probably the most defensive tackles (in most cases Sheldon Day) at the inner. Buckner in most cases performs proper defensive take on, even if he and Day from time to time transfer. Line 2 is the backup unit: Ford performs left defensive finish, Anthony Zettel performs reverse him at proper defensive finish, and Earl Mitchell groups up with former 0.33 general pick out Solomon Thomas at the inner. Some groups will rotate person linemen in for a play or a chain, however the 49ers are comfy making wholesale adjustments up entrance.

Line Three is the pass-rushing foursome. That is the place Armstead kicks inside of to take on, Day is going to the bench, and Ford steps in as left defensive finish. Given how often the Chiefs move and the making improvements to situation of Ford’s hamstring, this might really well be the 49ers’ most-used line mixture on Sunday. All this line has accomplished all the way through the season is sack opposing quarterbacks on 17% in their dropbacks.

The Chiefs will really feel happy with famous person proper take on Mitchell Schwartz going up in opposition to Ford one-on-one. They are going to must really feel uneasy all over the place else in opposition to that package deal. The duo of Buckner and Armstead are not going to be crushed running in opposition to Wisniewski, Reiter and proper guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. Eric Fisher is a league-average beginning left take on, and Kansas Town wishes to fret about his skill to carry up on an island in opposition to Bosa’s athleticism. The 49ers will have to be capable of win with this entrance 4 and create secure power on Mahomes.

Saleh additionally has the choice of shifting round his linemen to check out to focus on the weaker pass-protection hyperlinks for the Chiefs at the inner. Whilst the 49ers moved their defensive linemen to check out to create mismatches all the way through the steady season, out of doors of Armstead, Saleh hasn’t actually moved the entrance 4 round a lot all the way through the postseason. Take Bosa’s warmth maps from NFL Subsequent Gen Stats; whilst he bounced between each defensive finish spots all the way through the steady season, he has virtually completely been at proper finish all the way through the playoffs:

All the way through the Packers sport, there have been a few snaps in evident passing eventualities (first-and-15 and fourth-and-12) wherein the 49ers did transfer issues round by way of bumping Ford inside of subsequent to Bosa at the proper facet of the protection, with Buckner shifting to defensive finish. You want to see the 49ers return to that glance on third-and-long within the hopes of thrashing Wisniewski with the speedier Ford. They’d most probably attempt to use Buckner’s measurement on this state of affairs to push Schwartz again within the hopes of retaining Mahomes from getting out of doors of the pocket.

Although the 49ers line up in quite acquainted puts prior to the snap, they will use stunts and line video games to check out to create confusion a number of the offensive linemen and isolate mismatches. Although Bosa traces up out of doors Fisher prior to the snap, we are virtually no doubt going to look performs wherein the 49ers twist him inside of to get him in opposition to Wisniewski.

The 49ers do not blitz a ton, however I’d be expecting them to dial up one thing unique every now and then the usage of Warner to check out to gradual Mahomes going via his development whilst perhaps producing a loose rusher. Take the strip sack they compelled in opposition to Rodgers within the NFC Championship Sport off a zone blitz, the place Ford comes off the road and drops into protection because the “rat” or “robber” and the 49ers blitz Warner at once into the middle to isolate two blitzers in opposition to Billy Turner, the weakest hyperlink at the line. Aaron Jones alternatives up probably the most rushers, however Okay’Waun Williams runs by way of Turner for the end:

Be expecting the Niners to focus on Wisniewski in an identical techniques Sunday. If the 49ers many times twist their defensive ends to get Bosa and Ford matched up in opposition to Wisniewski and Duvernay-Tardif, the Chiefs may just reply with an early blast in their fast sport to get the ball out prior to the ones rushers can get house. That during itself may well be a victory for the 49ers, despite the fact that, since Mahomes ranks 12th in passer score and 14th in QBR when he will get the ball out inside of two seconds of the snap. (He ranks within the best seven in each classes if he holds onto the ball for a minimum of two seconds.)

After which, in the end that, the sport might be determined by way of what separates Mahomes from the majority of quarterbacks who’ve ever performed the sport: his skill to erase a loose rusher along with his legs, break out the pocket, briefly reset and fireplace to an open receiver just about anyplace at the box. There is no protection on the earth constructed to prevent that. Tremendous Bowl LIV might be determined by way of the ones moments wherein Mahomes is attempting to shuffle clear of Bosa whilst Hill abandons his path and runs towards open grass. Neither facet goes to win each a type of battles, however the 49ers can not come up with the money for to lose many.

Six extra storylines that may affect the end result

Listed below are a couple of different gamers who are evoked as significant dialogue subjects upfront of this matchup …

Frank Clark is an important participant within the sport who did not get mentioned at duration above. Whilst he flipped facets all the way through the steady season, he has most commonly covered up at left defensive finish all the way through the playoffs, which means that he can be matched up in opposition to 49ers proper take on Mike McGlinchey for lots of the sport. Clark has massive obligations in opposition to each the run and the move. With the 49ers operating such a lot out of doors zone, he has as a way to dangle the purpose of assault and both make a play himself or drive the 49ers’ backs to decelerate whilst looking forward to a hollow to open. When he is the bottom defender, Clark must each deny cutback lanes and stay power on Garoppolo when the 49ers inevitably have their quarterback stay the ball and paintings to the opposite facet of the sector off of play-action. The 49ers will movement Kittle and Juszczyk to Clark’s facet and manipulate him with spacing to create cutback lanes. Clark has to struggle off all of that.

As a pass-rusher, if he can provide McGlinchey bother early, it will drive the 49ers to make use of Kittle as a chipper or straight-up moment blocker, which concurrently solves the largest matchup downside for the Chiefs within the secondary.

Ben Garland is the nearest factor the 49ers must Wisniewski. The previous Falcons backup took over because the beginning heart after Weston Richburg tore his patella, however the 49ers actually have not neglected a beat over Garland’s 5 begins. I believe a part of the Packers’ emphasis on unique fronts in passing eventualities early within the NFC Championship Sport used to be to check out to confuse Garland in move defense, however because the 49ers simply ran the ball in the ones eventualities anyway, it did not actually topic. Garland is at his ideally suited in open area cutting down linebackers and defensive backs, so I ponder whether the Chiefs will attempt to bodily weigh down the Air Drive product with the 330-pound Pennel.

Raheem Mostert had an implausible day within the NFC Championship Sport and turns out more likely to be the lead again on Sunday, however what occurs subsequent is extra up within the air than it will appear. Tevin Coleman, who has a shoulder harm, has concurrently stated that he expects to play within the Tremendous Bowl however does not wish to play in a harness; he has began practising with out one, however it is tricky to consider him taking part in important snaps simply two weeks after his shoulder used to be dislocated for greater than 20 mins. He would even be vulnerable to re-injuring the shoulder all the way through the sport. We all know Shanahan is comfy taking part in the recent hand, for the reason that Coleman mainly took the beginning activity over from Mostert for the reason that former Falcons standout had a nice collection whilst Mostert used to be coping with a cramp in his calf. If Coleman can not take significant snaps on Sunday, it could open up the door for Matt Breida to take his proportion of the reps on offense.

Breida is a forgotten guy on this offense — he has 13 carries for simply 35 yards since fumbling two times within the Falcons sport — however the Chiefs are probably the most worst groups within the league on the subject of permitting lengthy runs, and he is likely one of the maximum excessive boom-or-bust backs within the league. His in all probability result for this sport is most definitely one thing like two carries for 7 yards, however the probabilities he breaks a 60-yard run are upper than they appear at the present time.

Deebo Samuel, in the meantime, has became a normal a part of the San Francisco dashing assault. The rookie wideout has no less than one raise in each and every of his previous seven video games, turning 12 carries into 171 yards and two dashing ratings. The Chiefs were ready to prevent opposing wideouts from operating on them — no receiver has run for greater than 16 yards in a sport in opposition to Kansas Town this season — however I’d be expecting Samuel to get no less than one raise on Sunday.

Damien Williams has became an every-down again for the Chiefs, whose introduced plan of constructing LeSean McCoy a wholesome scratch so he might be able for the playoffs seems to were a ruse. McCoy hasn’t touched the ball since Week 15 and could be inactive for the Tremendous Bowl. Williams has given the Chiefs some balance, however out of doors of 1 91-yard landing, he has carried the ball 56 occasions for 190 yards (Three.Four yards consistent with rush). The Chiefs are mainly operating Williams in short-yardage eventualities and within the crimson zone, so whilst he has 18 first downs over that time period, simply 4 of them got here with greater than Five yards to move for a primary down.

After a drop-filled efficiency in opposition to the Texans, the Chiefs appeared to transfer Demarcus Robinson down their intensity chart in prefer of rapid rookie Mecole Hardman. The rookie out-snapped Robinson in opposition to the Titans on offense, 27 to 25, and I’d be expecting one thing with reference to a 50-50 break up once more. The 49ers have very good-to-great pace of their secondary with guys reminiscent of Moseley and Jimmie Ward, but if the Chiefs do return to 4 verts, I believe they will need Hardman as probably the most receivers streaking up the seam.

If Kwon Alexander is not able to play a complete supplement of snaps, the 49ers will pass with rookie Dre Greenlaw as their beginning inside of linebacker subsequent to Fred Warner. Alexander performed 54% of the defensive snaps in opposition to the Vikings, however with the 49ers blowing out the Packers, the previous Bucs standout covered up for simply 32% of the defensive snaps within the NFC Championship Sport. His skill to paintings in lockstep with Warner protecting crossing routes and displays would make him the extra fascinating choice within the Tremendous Bowl.

Does the most efficient quarterback all the time win in Tremendous Bowls?

Possibly all that is overcomplicating issues. The Chiefs have Patrick Mahomes. The 49ers have Jimmy Garoppolo. Except you will have a closet stuffed with antique 49ers jackets or are a pissed off Patriots fan, likelihood is that you assume Mahomes is the simpler quarterback. I agree, and perhaps it will have to be that easy. If the Chiefs have a bonus at quarterback, is that sufficient to mention they will have to be appreciated to win this sport? How regularly does the crew with the simpler quarterback in reality win within the Tremendous Bowl?

Would you consider that the crew with the simpler quarterback within the Tremendous Bowl in reality has a shedding report? I went again to Tremendous Bowl I and measured each and every beginning quarterback’s adjusted yards consistent with try (AY/A) all the way through the steady season, and the passer with the simpler AY/A of the 2 has gained simply 20 of the 53 Tremendous Bowls, which is slightly below 38%. (Adjusted yards consistent with try is a greater model of passer score, with touchdowns and interceptions weighted extra correctly.)



Dan Orlovsky breaks down what Patrick Mahomes must do with a view to lead the Chiefs previous the 49ers within the Tremendous Bowl.

Amazingly, the inferior quarterback by way of AY/A has gained each and every of the previous 9 Tremendous Bowl matchups. The final quarterback to win a Tremendous Bowl because the awesome passer used to be Drew Brees over Peyton Manning in 2009. The following nine-year run contains paper mismatches reminiscent of Joe Flacco vs. Colin Kaepernick, the final embers of Peyton Manning vs. Cam Newton, and Nick Foles vs. Tom Brady, and I discussed the largest quarterback mismatches in Tremendous Bowl historical past as a part of my preview.

Garoppolo vs. Mahomes is not actually a mismatch by way of AY/A. Mahomes averaged Eight.Nine AY/A this season, whilst Garoppolo used to be at Eight.Three AY/A in his first complete season beginning for Shanahan. Garoppolo’s AY/A is 92.Five% of Mahomes’ mark, which is the 14th-closest determine of the 53 Tremendous Bowl matchups. The most important mismatch used to be Eli Manning vs. Tom Brady in 2007, and you understand how that went.

With a pattern of simply 53 championship video games, we will be able to’t actually draw many conclusions into why we see this development. I no doubt do not consider groups lose as a result of their quarterback within the Tremendous Bowl is nice. On the very least, despite the fact that, we will be able to say that having the simpler quarterback at the largest level hasn’t been sufficient to single-handedly swing video games of their groups’ path.

Unusually for a quarterback within the Tremendous Bowl, I in finding myself having little or no to mention about Garoppolo and the way he figures into this matchup. The gamers and eventualities round him will dictate how he performs. It isn’t lifelike to be expecting any other sport wherein he throws 8 passes once more, but when the 49ers are operating the ball successfully and keeping up their lead, he’s going to glance simply advantageous in a sport wherein he throws about 25 passes.

If the 49ers path and the sport turns right into a shootout the place San Francisco wishes Garoppolo to throw the ball to stay them within the contest, issues may just get messy. We now have noticed quarterbacks in a an identical tier to Garoppolo like Kirk Cousins and Ryan Tannehill excel all the way through this postseason when their groups had been operating the ball successfully. As soon as the ones passers had been trailing and going through move rushers with their ears pinned again, despite the fact that, they were not ready to convey their groups again into the sport.

Garoppolo has introduced the 49ers again up to now. He pieced in combination 4 fourth-quarter comeback victories in 2019, together with a 34-31 victory over the Rams and that well-known 48-46 shootout with the Saints within the Superdome. Garoppolo threw for 349 yards and 4 touchdowns in that sport! As simple because it has transform to indicate that Shanahan does not agree with Garoppolo to throw the ball in huge moments, the 49ers do not have been the highest seed within the NFC with out Garoppolo’s late-season play in victories over the Saints, Rams and Seahawks.

On the similar time, simply because he has accomplished one thing up to now doesn’t suggest that the 49ers will wish to depend on him to copy that feat sooner or later. The Chiefs completed the season 6th in move protection DVOA, 6th in interception fee and 11th in sack fee. Garoppolo has gained a shootout up to now, but when he does it once more within the Tremendous Bowl, it’s going to be out of necessity, no longer design.

Will both of those groups forestall scoring?

It is honest to mention the majority of folks be expecting this sport to be high-scoring. All the way through the NFC Championship Sport, Vegas sportsbooks began to submit an over/underneath for a Chiefs-49ers matchup at both 51 or 52 issues. The full right away rose and has made it all of the method to 55 in some puts, with 12 occasions as a lot motion at the over because the underneath in a single e-book. With the 4 earlier video games this postseason involving this type of groups generating a median of just about 59 issues, you’ll be able to perceive why bettors had been determined to again a shootout in Miami.

I no doubt would not be stunned to look a high-scoring sport, however there are causes to assume each and every crew may no longer jump into the 30s. As nice as either one of those offenses are, they have got been remarkably environment friendly on the subject of turning drives into touchdowns all the way through the postseason, particularly Kansas Town. The Chiefs ranked moment within the steady season in touchdowns-per-possession share at 30.7. If we pass over the 3 video games Mahomes most commonly or totally neglected because of harm, that strikes as much as 32.1%.

All the way through the playoffs, they have got scored touchdowns on 60% in their drives, just about double their regular-season mark. They have got been absurdly environment friendly, even by way of their lofty requirements. The 49ers are not slightly as outlandish, however after completing fourth by way of changing for touchdowns on 30.2% in their drives all the way through the steady season, they have got controlled touchdowns on seven in their 20 postseason drives for a 35% conversion fee.

The herbal position to seem this is towards the crimson zone, and unsurprisingly, each offenses had been improbable in January. The Chiefs scored 9 touchdowns and a box function on their 10 crimson zone possessions, nice for a conversion fee of 90%. The Niners were not a ways in the back of, as they transformed 8 journeys into 3 box objectives and 5 touchdowns for a conversion fee of 62.Five%.

What is attention-grabbing, despite the fact that, is that neither of those groups used to be nice within the crimson zone all the way through the steady season. Once more, they had been proper close to one any other within the ratings. The Chiefs scored touchdowns on 54% in their crimson zone possessions, which used to be 20th within the NFL. The 49ers completed 21st at 53.2%. Even if you wish to take away the video games wherein Mahomes used to be lacking and pass over the drives wherein those groups had been up by way of a couple of touchdowns and were not making an attempt their toughest to attain touchdowns, the truth is that those were not tremendous regular-season crimson zone offenses.

Crimson zone efficiency is noisy and wildly inconsistent from yr to yr. With a small pattern within the playoffs, I would not depend on those groups proceeding to be as efficient all the way through the Tremendous Bowl as they had been in January. Regression towards the imply right here can also be deadly. Take the 2017 Patriots, who scored 8 touchdowns on their 9 crimson zone journeys in wins over the Titans and Jaguars. Within the Tremendous Bowl in opposition to the Eagles, they scored touchdowns on two out of 4 crimson zone tries or even noticed Stephen Gostkowski omit a 26-yard box function within the first quarter. The ones lacking issues mattered dearly within the fourth quarter of a 41-33 loss.

The entire different stuff that might make a decision the sport

The Chiefs have a bonus on particular groups, for the reason that they ranked moment in Soccer Outsiders’ particular groups statistic within the steady season. The 49ers had been nearer to the center of the pack at 12th.

Within the divisional around, despite the fact that, Kansas Town had about as wild of a special-teams sport as a crew may have. Dave Toub’s unit allowed a blocked punt for a landing, whilst Tyreek Hill muffed a punt and gave Houston a brief box for a landing. Naturally, the Chiefs right away adopted the ones transgressions with a protracted Mecole Hardman kick go back. Sorensen then compelled a fumble on a Texans kickoff handy the Chiefs a brief box of their very own. All of this came about prior to halftime. Harrison Butker neglected an additional level after halftime, however for the reason that he tried further issues and kicked off on the finish of 7 consecutive landing drives, you’ll be able to’t actually fault him for having a sore leg.

I am vulnerable to write down off that sport as a unusual aberration for the Chiefs’ particular groups; they had been advantageous in opposition to the Titans. My largest special-teams fear for this matchup can be 49ers veteran Robbie Gould, who used to be quietly the sixth-worst kicker within the league in 2019. After changing 97.1% of his box function tries all the way through a banner 2018 season, the previous Bears standout hit on 74.2% of his makes an attempt in 2019, together with an Zero-for-Four mark on kicks from 50-plus yards. Gould is Five-of-Five all the way through the postseason and hit a 54-yarder at house in opposition to the Packers, however I’d be slightly fascinated by sending him out for the rest previous 50 yards in Miami.

Shanahan did not have a lot of a call with Gould at the 54-yarder, because the 49ers had been going through a fourth-and-14 after a dismally timed sack by way of Garoppolo, however the trainer’s decision-making on fourth down all the way through this postseason has been iffy, particularly given how dominant his crew’s operating sport has been. He kicked a box function on fourth-and-2 from the Nine-yard line with a 17-Zero lead in the second one quarter in opposition to the Packers in a an identical name to the only Invoice O’Brien used to be (rightly) excoriated for making in opposition to the Chiefs within the prior around.

Early within the fourth quarter, on a fourth-and-1 from the Inexperienced Bay 39-yard line with a 21-point lead, Shanahan selected to take a prolong of sport and punt. That sport used to be already within the Niners’ wallet, however his operating sport used to be averaging 7.Zero yards consistent with raise! Within the 0.33 quarter of the Vikings sport, with a 14-10 lead, Shanahan kicked a box function on fourth-and-2 within the crimson zone. The ones choices have not come again to chew the third-year head trainer, however the margin for error in opposition to the Chiefs is far smaller than it used to be in opposition to the Vikings and Packers.

The referee for the Tremendous Bowl might be Invoice Vinovich. Traditionally, Vinovich has an important monitor report of swallowing his whistle and letting the sport play; his group has automatically are available in about 15% to 20% underneath league common on the subject of penalty yards consistent with sport, even if he’s going to be running with an all-star group for Tremendous Bowl LIV.

It is also true that officers generally tend to stay the flags of their pocket all the way through the Tremendous Bowl. While you evaluate the penalty yardage consistent with regular-season sport for the commonest consequences over the last decade to these similar yardage charges over the last 10 Tremendous Bowls, you can in finding that the majority consequences were known as much less often at the largest level:

Whether or not it is on account of the power not to make a decision the sport, the loss of a house crew, extra proficient defensive groups making it to the Tremendous Bowl or sheer likelihood, defenses have not been flagged slightly as often for the ones calls in February. The streak of Tremendous Bowls with out an unlawful touch penalty additionally now stretches again 15 years, as Roman Phifer used to be whistled for an unlawful touch name within the first Patriots-Eagles Tremendous Bowl matchup in February 2005.

If the refs are usually comfortable, it could most probably prefer the Chiefs, who had been flagged 32 occasions for defensive conserving, unlawful touch and defensive move interference this season, the fourth-highest mark in soccer. Total, the Chiefs racked up the league’s seventh-most penalty yards, whilst the Niners had been 11th. Given Vinovich’s historical past and the monitor report of officers in this level, coaches will have to most definitely inspire their gamers to be extra competitive with their fingers downfield, since referees are much less more likely to make the calls they might generally make.

The prediction …

It is tricky to think about many nearer Tremendous Bowl matchups in contemporary reminiscence. The Chiefs are favorites by way of both 1 level or 1.Five issues throughout Vegas on Thursday morning. The one time a Tremendous Bowl line has been that shut over the last 35 years used to be for the Patriots-Seahawks Tremendous Bowl in February 2015, which ended up being determined by way of a backyard. It will rarely be unexpected if this sport got here all the way down to the overall few moments of the fourth quarter.

In comparing those two groups, despite the fact that, there may be one important weak spot that sticks out: the Chiefs’ run protection. In opposition to maximum groups, the Chiefs are just too devastating on offense for his or her 29th-ranked run protection to topic. The 49ers have feasted on the ones horrible run defenses in 2019, scoring 51 issues at the 32nd-ranked Panthers, 31 issues at the 30th-ranked Browns and 41 issues at the 28th-ranked Bengals. Moreover, for those who had been looking to construct a protection for Shanahan to take advantage of within the passing sport, you’ll wish to construct one who used to be overmatched at linebacker and loose protection.

The Chiefs were ready to triumph over sloppy play on protection and particular groups by way of scoring at an astronomical, unsustainable fee on offense, even by way of Mahomes’ fantastic requirements. The 49ers may not close down Mahomes, and I’d be nervous a couple of fourth-quarter comeback if the 49ers are successful as soon as the move rush starts to tire and Reid reveals a weak spot, however that is the most efficient protection Mahomes has confronted all the way through the postseason by way of a substantial margin. The 49ers will have to be higher alongside the road of scrimmage on all sides of the ball on this sport, and that has gained soccer video games for a century now. If Mahomes can triumph over the ones benefits and nonetheless information Reid to his first Tremendous Bowl victory, we’re going to be fortunate sufficient to look it. 49ers 27, Chiefs 23

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