It’s less than eight hours until kickoff of SB LVIII. Picking against Patrick, Andy and the Chiefs can be foolish. (I was living proof of that last year.) But I’m taking the 49ers. Here’s why:
- The SF offense is the best and the most versatile in the NFL. That attack can pull and stretch a defense in a greater number of directions than can any other team, certainly including the Chiefs.
- This will be a game of big plays. And the Niners have a greater number of explosive players than do the Chiefs. In hoop terms, San Fran has CMC, Kittle, Deebo and Aiyuk runnin’ the floor with Purdy as the point guard. They are gonna get some fast-breaks. I think the Chiefs will be more dependent on long, double-digit play drives. Pacheco is a good and very versatile back. He’ll need to rush for 75 yards and catch six passes for 40 more for the Chiefs to prosper. That’s a tall order, even though the SF run defense has under-performed thus far in the postseason. Generating a vertical passing game could be a problem for K.C. The Chiefs’ offensive tackles are poor pass protectors, and while the WR corps has improved of late, it remains iffy at best. Either Rice or Valdes-Scantling—or both—will have to come up big, and I don’t have a lot of confidence in that.
- That leads us to Kelce. He’ll get his catches, but they will mostly be of the dink-and-dunk variety. Kelce does most of his damage in the middle of the field, but the ‘Niners statistically have had the best “between the numbers” pass defense in the NFL all year long. Mahomes is going to have to run for multiple first downs, and that could be a problem, since the Niners will be in zone most of the time, with all eleven defenders facing the quarterback.
- Yes, this is the best defense the Chiefs have ever brought to the Super Bowl in the Andy-Era. But a lot of this defensive success has been generated by Steve Spagnuolo’s exotic—and even off-the wall—blitz packages. They don’t DARE blitz the Niners as often as they blitzed the Ravens two weeks ago. Unlike the Baltimore, SF will have the good since to RUN the ball against those blitzes, and CMC will inevitably break some long runs. And then there’s Deebo running hot adjustments against the blitz. Can you say, “Yards after catch”?
Essentially, the Niners just have more ways to beat you. The Chiefs’ blue-print for victory is very specific and narrow. They HAVE to get off to a hot start. But they can do that. They scored touchdowns on each of their first two possessions against the Ravens. The KC defense HAS to force some early three-and-outs. But they can do that, particularly in view of the first-half offensive sputters the Niners suffered against both the Packers and the Lions. If KC jumps out early and big, the Niners will have a serious problem reeling them in. And if this comes down to a late field goal, the Chiefs and Harrison Butker will have a decided advantage there. But overall, the Chiefs have a smaller margin for error that the Niners do.
But I know you. I know what you’re thinking. I know you better than you know yourselves. You’re thinking, “Coach, do you really think Brock Purdy can beat Patrick Mahomes?” No. But I absolutely think the Niners can beat the Chiefs. The Niners 1-53 are better than the Chiefs 1-53.
And underestimate Purdy at your own peril. He led the league in yards per attempt. He threw for over 4,200 yards. You can’t do that if you’re merely a pedestrian “game manager.”
The Niners get their sixth Lombardi Trophy, tying the Patriots for the most in Super Bowl history.