Super Bowl 54 Preview

Daniel Shurr, Sports Writer

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*Que the music.* *Que the lights.*  *Que the NFL on CBS theme song.* 

On February 2nd, either Harrison Butker or Robbie Gould will get set to kick off Super Bowl 54, in Miami, Florida at Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Dolphins. This will be the 11th time that the Miami Dolphins have hosted the big game, but it will be the first time that we have seen this matchup. As Jimmy Garappolo and the San Francisco 49ers will represent the NFC, in hopes to beat the reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes and the high flying Kansas City Chiefs offense, for the rights to hoist the Lombardi trophy, and be crowned Superbowl 54 Champions. As all should know, the Super Bowl is the biggest game in American sports, but the stakes are raised this year, as the February second matchup has the potential to surpass Super Bowl 49 as the most watched game in NFL history. 

The San Francisco 49ers started the season off strong, posing a record of 13-3 in the regular season, clinching a first round playoff bye, en route to a playoff appearance and an NFC championship. The 49ers have been lead by second year head coach Kyle Shannahan and a tough physical defense. Along with a dominant run game and competent air attack, the 49ers are back, and look better than they have in years. San Francisco hit rock bottom in the past half decade, with the hiring of John Lynch as General Manager back in 2017, San Francisco was in a rebuilding phase, struggling to find even a five win season. Should they pull off a win in Miami, they 49er faithful will be rewarded for their years of patience, while San Francisco was rebuilding.  San Fran found themselves as the first seed in the NFC playoffs with a first round bye. The 49ers had home field advantage throughout the playoffs, meaning it was official, the road to the Super Bowl went through Levi Stadium. After dismantling the Minnesota Vikings in the divisional playoffs, the 49ers breezed past Aaron Rodgers and the tough Green Bay Packers 37-20 in the NFC Championship game. The players celebrated on the field as reality set in, the 49ers were going to the Super Bowl!

 We have seen the 49ers defense hold their own against strong offenses like the Packers or the Seahawks, essentially playing a better version of Seattle’s defense. But what about their offense? In the NFC Championship game, 49er quarterback Jimmy Garappolo was essentially non-existent, throwing only eight times, completing six passes for 77 yards and no touchdowns or picks. However, the 49ers were savages on the ground, pounding Green Bay into submission with just south of 300 yards and four touchdowns. While they do have an offense, the strength of San Francisco lies in their defense. This team let up 20 points to a flu-infected Green Bay offense. But where a team bends, their is the possibility that they can break. 

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was the 20018-2019 NFL most valuable player, being the reigning MVP, there were high hopes for the young talent, but this year suffered a significant drop off in production. Last year he took the league by storm, throwing for 50 touchdowns, but losing in the AFC conference championship to the New England Patriots, who eventually went on to beat the LA Rams 13-3 in Super Bowl 53. Patrick Mahomes missed four games in the regular season with a knee injury, which explains the steep drop off from 50 touchdowns to only 24 this year. Despite the drop off, he was able to lead his team to the number two seed in the AFC and a 12-4 record, second to only the Baltimore Ravens, who were knocked out by Tennessee. (Who KC beat in the AFC Championship game.) Head Coach Andy Reid has coached the Philadelphia Eagles in a Superbowl, but that’s the extent of Reid’s resume as a head coach. Patrick Mahomes has a plethora of weapons on the offensive side of the ball, and it looks like the Chiefs picked up their pass happy offense from the Olympic sprinters team. All this speed on the Chiefs vs. the physicality of the 49ers defense should combine for one of the best games in Superbowl history. 

But let’s look at the weaknesses of both teams. The Chiefs defense last year was ranked towards the bottom in the league. But the acquisitions of free agent pass rusher Frank Clark along with ball hawking safety Tyrann Mathieu really helped to anchor down the defensive line and secondary for Kansas City. This immensely improved the defense, moving from the bottom of the rankings towards the top of the league. Teams offenses used to chuckle when they saw they played the weak Kansas City defense, but now the solidified defense is widely feared by the rest of the NFL. On the flip side, the weakness of the 49ers is their offense. While Kyle Shannahan is a fan of the smash mouth run game, their quarterback play hasn’t been stellar this year. The 49er quarterback Jimmy Garrappolo used to back up Tom Brady before being traded to San Francisco to be the starter. San Francisco was desperate for a quarterback, and Garappolo was their guy. Last year, Jimmy G tore his ACL in an early season game against Minnesota, and missed the remainder of the 2018 season. During the 2019-2020 campaign, the 6’2 field general threw for a mere 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Not completely awful for a quarterback in a run first offense. 

Keep in mind those are the weaknesses of the teams and even the weaknesses are strong.  The Chiefs have not appeared in a Superbowl in 50 years, this would be the perfect time to be crowned world champions. Should San Fran win, we may have a new Dynasty taking over the NFL, their front office has spent years rebuilding the program, it’s time to see if the years of patience pays off. Regardless of the outcome, this game should be a close one, and these two teams will be dominant playoff contenders for years to come.

 

Featured image from: 1045theteam.com