Super Bowl LIV Preview: San Francisco 49ers @ Kansas City Chiefs

By Ha Kung Wong

Twitter: @FBGarbageTime

Super Bowl LIV

San Francisco 49ers @ Kansas City Chiefs

Time: Sunday, February 2, 6:30 p.m. ET (FOX)

Open: Chiefs -1.5, Over/Under 52

Current: Chiefs -1.5, Over/Under 54

San Francisco 49ers

Offense

7th Overall per DVOA (8th Passing / 13th Rushing)

4th Most Total Yards per Game (381.0)

13th Most Passing Yards per Game (237.0) / 2nd Most Rush Yards per Game (241.1)

2nd Most Points per Game (29.9)

19th Least Giveaways (INTs & FUMs) (23)

Defense

2nd Overall per DVOA (2nd Against the Pass / 11th Against the Run)

2nd Least Total Yards Allowed per Game (281.8)

LEAST Passing Yards Allowed per Game (169.2) / 17th Least Rush Yards Allowed per Game (112.6)

8th Least Points Allowed per Game (19.4)

6th Most Total Takeaways (INTs & FUMs) (27)

Special Teams

12th Overall per DVOA

Kansas City Chiefs

Offense

3rd Overall per DVOA (2nd Passing / 14th Rushing)

6th Most Total Yards per Game (379.2)

5th Most Passing Yards per Game (281.1) / 23rd Most Rush Yards per Game (98.1)

5th Most Points per Game (28.2)

3rd Least Giveaways (INTs & FUMs) (15)

Defense

14th Overall per DVOA (6th Against the Pass / 29th Against the Run)

17th Least Total Yards Allowed per Game (349.6)

8th Least Passing Yards Allowed per Game (221.4) / 26th Least Rush Yards Allowed per Game (128.2)

7th Least Points Allowed per Game (19.3)

10th Most Total Takeaways (INTs & FUMs) (23)

Special Teams

2nd Overall per DVOA

UPDATE: All players are practicing in full, so there are no injuries on either team leading up to the Super Bowl.

Keys to the Game

  • The San Francisco 49ers have had an incredible year.  After going 4 and 12 last year, they completely turned it around and went 13 and 3 on the back of the return of Jimmy Garoppolo, a solid backfield and one of the best defenses in the league.  And no where was that more clear than the NFC Conference Championship game against the Packers.

  • The last time the Packers faced the 49ers at the end of November, Aaron Rodgers was constantly under siege and the 49ers rolled the Packers by a score of 37 to 8 with Garoppolo throwing for 2 TDs and both Mostert and Coleman putting up a TD a piece on the ground.  This time, Garaoppolo (as well as George Kittle and Deebo Samuel) wasn’t needed, as all the damage came from Mostert as he rolled up a whopping 220 rush yards and 4 TDs.  Either way, the result was the same as the Packers appeared to had learned nothing from their first meeting.

  • The question is whether Jimmy G and the 49ers will fare as well against a Chiefs defense that has been peaking of late, but is still just 29th at defending the run per DVOA.  The Packers were 23rd at defending the run per DVOA and we saw what happened there, even with Tevin Coleman going out early with a shoulder injury.  The 49ers clearly have a strong ground game, rolling up the 2nd most rush yards per game of any team this season, which in part led to having the 4th longest time of possession per game during the regular season.  Interestingly, that’s almost exactly the same formula that Tennessee used to win its playoffs games, and we all saw how that was shut down by the Chiefs, but it would be surprising if 49ers got away from a formula that works.
  • That being said, running the ball isn’t all that the 49ers do well on offense, as George Kittle had the 3rd most receiving yards and tied for the most TDs among TEs in the league this season, and clearly remains a threat against a Chiefs defense that’s just 11th at defending opposing TEs.  And Garoppolo is no slouch in his first full season starting for the 49ers, with the 5th highest completion percentage (69.1%) and the 8th highest passer rating of any QB this season (102.0), just one spot behind Patrick Mahomes.  And it’s not just check downs, as Garoppolo has the 3rd highest yards per pass attempt (8.4) of any QB this season.
  • The key, though, will more likely be on the other side of the ball, and whether the 49ers 2nd ranked defense can slow down the Chiefs offense helmed by Mahomes.

  • In some ways, because of Lamar Jackson’s emergence, many have forgotten how good Mahomes is.  Sure, he’s looked mortal today at times this year, but remember that he suffered an ankle injury early in the season even before his sideline stint from a knee displacement.  Even in a “down” year, Mahomes has the 2nd highest QBR rating, the 7th most yards per game, the 4th highest yards per pass attempt, the 6th most passing TDs in the league, even while only playing 14 games during the regular season.

  • In the Divisional Round Playoffs, Mahomes demonstrated why he was last year’s MVP by completing 23 of 35 passes for 321 yards and whopping 5 TDs, adding another 53 yards on the ground.  All this AFTER the Texans went up 24 to 0 early in the 2nd quarter.  In the AFC Conference Championship game, he wasn’t asked to do quite as much, but still rolled up 293 pass yards and 3 TDs adding 53 rush yards and a rushing TD against the Titans.  Clearly, Mahomes is unstoppable when healthy.
  • And one of Mahomes’ primary weapons is Travis Kelce, who led all TEs in the regular season with 97 receptions on 136 targets and 76.8 yards per game.  And even with an IT band injury, Kelce continued to dominate destroying the Texans in the Divisional Round racking up 10 receptions for 134 yards and 3 TDs.  With a fully healthy Tyreek Hill (67 yards and 2 TDs in the Conference Championship), Sammy Watkins (114 yards and a TD in the Conference Championship) and standout rookie Mecole Hardman, Mahomes has plenty of outlets available, but now faces the best pass defense he’s seen all postseason with the 49ers 2nd ranked pass defense on tap.  It’s a tall order to slow down an incredibly efficient Chiefs scoring offense that had the 2nd most points per drive (2.70) this season.
  • Damien Williams has reclaimed the backfield after returning from a rib injury to compile 28 carries and 7 receptions for 246 total yards and 3 total TDs over the last two games of the regular season, 68 total yards and 3 total TDs in the Divisional Round and 89 total yards and TD in the Conference Championship.  LeSean McCoy wasn’t even active in the Conference Championship, so Williams is clearly the bell cow.  If there’s a weakness in the 49ers defense, it’s on the ground as they’re “only” 11th defending against the run, and they did allow Derrick Henry to roll up 69 yards and a TD in the Conference Championship.

  • Keep an eye on Special Teams with the Chiefs having the slight edge there.  In fact, they have the 2nd highest rated Special Teams unit per DVOA this season and the 6th highest field goal percentage over the regular season (89.5%), while the 49ers have the 9th lowest field goal completion percentage (76.9%).
  • Bottom line, the Kansas City Chiefs haven’t made the Super Bowl in 50 years and appear to be a team of destiny coming back from double digit deficits in back-to-back playoff games.  But the 49ers are simply a more complete team, and the team with the better defense, one which has allowed the least amount of passing yards per game of any team in the league this season.  I don’t think think the 49ers manage to neutralize Mahomes and company, but they’ll do just enough to limit them while Jimmy G and company control time of possession and score on the ground.

Prediction

49ers beat the Chiefs by a score of 27 to 24.

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