One week remains until Super Bowl LVIII, which represents a rematch of the title contest from four years ago. Kansas City earned a come-from-behind victory in that instance, but the team enters Sunday’s game as slight underdogs.
Encountering offensive consistency issues not seen before during the Patrick Mahomes era, the defending champions still managed to post a strong record while searching for a rhythm in the passing game. Kansas City won the AFC West for the eighth straight season while leaning on one of the league’s best defenses. That resulted in a home postseason game in the wild-card round (a comfortable win over the Dolphins in frigid conditions), but it required road trips for the first time in Mahomes’ postseason career.
One-score victories in Buffalo and Baltimore saw the Chiefs continue to display a strong pass defense in particular coupled with a more balanced attack than earlier in the campaign. Having cleared a slightly new challenge in terms of winning on the road in January, Kansas City has arrived at a fourth Super Bowl in the past five years. A third win in that span would further cement the legacies of Mahomes, head coach Andy Reid and others.
By contrast, many members of the 49ers’ roster and coaching/front office staff are seeking their first title. Having come up short – due in large part to a late collapse – in the first Chiefs matchup, redemption will be a goal for San Francisco’s veterans. Of course, quarterback Brock Purdy headlines the list of players who did not take part in the loss four years ago. The former Mr. Irrelevant was firmly in the MVP conversation throughout much of the 2023 season, his first as a full-time starter. Fellow finalist Christian McCaffrey has proven to be the two-way offensive focal point San Francisco envisioned he would be when trading for him.
After securing the NFC’s No. 1 seed, the 49ers appeared poised for a relatively smooth journey back to the Super Bowl. The team’s two home wins (against the Packers and Lions) did not go according to plan especially in the early going, however. San Francisco trailed in the fourth quarter of both games, and a run of 27 consecutive second half points was needed against Detroit to ensure the victory. Having allowed 772 combined yards in two postseason contests, the 49ers’ defense will be a unit worth watching closely next week.
Purdy’s injury in last year’s NFC title game played a large role in San Francisco falling short of the Super Bowl, which delayed the upcoming contest by one season. Now that it has arrived, he – like much of the team’s nucleus along with head coach Kyle Shanahan – will aim for a first career championship. Mahomes, meanwhile, can become the fifth starting quarterback in history to win three Super Bowls and Reid the fourth coach to do so.
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