Who knew the 49ers, coming off a disappointing 4-12 season, would be four quarters away from hoisting the Lombardi Trophy? Playing in a stacked division, general manager John Lynch and the Niners had much to prove with their offseason acquisitions and selection of Nick Bosa with the second overall draft pick. Franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo had to prove he was worth his $137.5 million contract coming off a torn ACL against, funny enough, the Chiefs. Safe to say the 49ers have more than exceeded expectations. A historically dominant defense and consistently efficient offense now has San Francisco on the doorstep of a Super Bowl Trophy.
In similar fashion, who knew the Chiefs, battling in a heavily contested conference, would be in the same position as the Niners. After an upsetting conference championship loss to the Patriots, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs seeked out vengeance, and in doing so, unleashed a deadly offensive attack on the league, carrying them into Super Bowl LIV. Who would’ve thought that the Chiefs, once down 24-0 in the first half of the divisional round against Houston, would finally make their first Super Bowl since 1970?
Anyways, the big day in Miami is finally here! Garoppolo and the 49ers march into Hard Rock Stadium to matchup against Mahomes and the Chiefs. Both teams have been dominant all year, with the 49ers posing a 13-3 regular season record and the Chiefs posing a 12-4 record. The 49ers have had little problems in the playoffs so far, scoring 64 points and only allowing 30 in their two postseason games. The Chiefs, on the other hand, haven’t had such an easy road. In both of their postseason games, the Chiefs had to comeback from early double-digit deficits. Although showing signs of struggle early, the Chiefs offense has been superb in the playoffs, totaling 86 points in those two postseason games.
The strengths of these two teams are opposites. The 49ers rely heavily on their top defense which includes two All-Pros in cornerback Richard Sherman and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, and the Defensive Rookie of the Year in defensive end Nick Bosa. On the other sideline, the Chiefs have been scorching opponents with their offense. 2018 MVP Patrick Mahomes leads the offense accompanied by star tight end Travis Kelce and star receiver Tyreek Hill. So, without a doubt, the 49ers defense against the Chiefs offense will be the marquee matchup of today’s game.
However, I believe the deciding factor of this game will be the 49ers offense and more specifically, Jimmy Garoppolo. In the NFC Championship, the Niners exposed a weak Packers run defense and ran for 285 yards with running back Raheem Mostert accounting for 220. Now, they face a Chiefs run defense that allowed 69 yards to Derrick Henry. In other words, the same game plan probably won’t work as well as it did last week. Thus, it’s now or never for Garoppolo to finally show up after only passing for 208 yards combined in his past two games. The Chiefs passing defense is 14th in the league in opponent passing yards allowed, so Garoppolo will have a solid opportunity to demonstrate he’s worth that $137.5 million contract. He’s got the weapons in tight end George Kittle and receiver Deebo Samuels; he just has to go out and perform now.
So, although the Chiefs offense will be exciting to watch against the tough 49ers defense, Jimmy Garoppolo’s performance will be the deciding factor of this game and is why I’m taking the Niners in this one. I think Garoppolo will finally have his awakening and torch the Chiefs defense for 250 plus passing yards and a handful of touchdowns. There’s no doubt, however, that Mahomes also has a stellar day, but I think the 49ers defense will hold its own in the red zone. Tight ends Travis Kelce and George Kittle will have big days receiving and blocking, and receiver Emmanuel Sanders will have a surprisingly huge impact in a 49ers win.