Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs appear poised to continue their postseason dominance in Super Bowl LIV
It's been 50 long years since the Kansas City Chiefs last made an appearance in the Super Bowl. A drought that came to an end on Sunday, as team owner Clark Hunt hoisted the trophy bearing his late father's name, officially crowning the Chiefs as AFC champions. It's a title that did not come without adversity. Just one week removed from overcoming a 24-0 deficit against Houston to secure a 51-31 victory in the AFC Divisional Round, the Chiefs were once again forced to rally from a double-digit deficit against the Titans in the AFC title game. And once again, they did so in dominant fashion, scoring 28 unanswered points before finally allowing Tennessee back into the end zone late in the fourth quarter. The Chiefs had punched their ticket to Miami with a 35-24 win and their first AFC crown in 50 years.
Kansas City will now hit the NFL's biggest stage in search of its first Super Bowl title in 50 years. But that achievement will not come easy in the ultimate test against the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers. The Niners made easy work of their first two opponents in the postseason — throttling Minnesota 27-10 in the Divisional Round, followed by a resounding 37-20 win against Green Bay in last Sunday's NFC title game to secure their place in Super Bowl LIV. That said, oddsmakers in Vegas seem to like Kansas City's chances on Super Sunday, pegging the Chiefs as an early one-point favorite against the 49ers. But just in case you need further convincing, here are five reasons why you will see the Chiefs hoisting the coveted Lombardi Trophy when all is said and done on Feb. 2 in Miami.
5 Reasons Why the Kansas City Chiefs Will Win Super Bowl LIV
1. Patrick Mahomes
Mahomes didn't put up the same kind of gaudy numbers during the 2019 regular season that paved the way to his NFL MVP selection in 2018. In fairness, he was out of commission for a couple of weeks following a dislocated kneecap, and an improved Kansas City defense in 2019 made for fewer shootouts, adversely effecting his stat lines compared to last season. Nevertheless, Mahomes still ranked among the league’s elite signal-callers during the regular season — passing for 4,031 yards with a 26-to-5 TD-to-INT ratio and posting the second-best QBR (78.0) in the league.
That being said, Mahomes has been nothing short of spectacular in his return to MVP form during the postseason. In two playoff games against Houston and Tennessee, he has compiled a stellar 95.5 QBR — completing 66 percent of his pass attempts for 615 yards with eight touchdown passes and zero interceptions. He also ran for 53 yards in each of those matchups, becoming just the fourth quarterback in NFL history to rush for 50 yards or more in consecutive playoff games. And lest we not forget his incredible 27-yard run to pay dirt against the Titans in the AFC title game. But it has been Mahomes’ fortitude during these playoffs that has been most impressive. He never showed an ounce of panic in leading his team back from double-digit deficits against both the Texans and Titans in dominant fashion.
Mahomes has become the gold standard by which all quarterbacks are now measured. He rarely makes mistakes, he has nerves of steel, and his leadership is unquestioned. He can beat you with his feet just as easily as he can beat you with his arm. And he can diagnose and dissect a defense as well as any quarterback in the league. In other words, Mahomes meets all the prerequisites of a Super Bowl-winning quarterback. Not to mention that he will be the best player on the field on Feb. 2. in Miami. And it really isn’t close.
2. Too much firepower
For all of Mahomes’ greatness, he wouldn’t be where he is today without plenty of help from a standout supporting cast. You could even make the argument that no other quarterback in the NFL has better weapons at his disposal than Mahomes. And it really isn’t debatable that the Chiefs have the fastest and most explosive collection of weapons in the league.
Leading the way for Kansas City’s high-octane offense are three Pro Bowlers: Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Mecole Hardman. Hill, the NFL’s fastest man, led the Chiefs in touchdown receptions (7) during the regular season despite missing four games. Four-time All-Pro and perennial Pro Bowl tight end Travis Kelce led the Chiefs in both receptions (97) and receiving yards (1,229). And Mecole Hardman, whose speed is bested only by that of Tyreek Hill, earned All-Pro (2nd-team) and Pro Bowl honors as one of the most dangerous return specialists in the league. Hardman also ranked second on the team in touchdown receptions (6) despite making just five starts this season.
If that isn’t enough, speedy wide receiver Sammy Watkins is in the midst of a massive resurgence in the postseason, averaging an impressive 21.1 yards per reception through two playoff games. He racked up seven catches for 114 yards and a touchdown in the AFC title game alone. Adding more fuel to the fire for the Kansas City passing attack are wide receiver Demarcus Robinson and running back Damien Williams, who combined for 62 catches for 662 yards and six touchdowns during the regular season.
Jimmy Garoppolo could only dream of having a group of weapons this dynamic. And while the San Francisco defense is about as formidable as they come, the Niners have yet to face a collection of playmakers as dangerous as the group they will be matched up against in Super Bowl LIV. Kansas City simply has too much firepower.
3. Answers for San Francisco's pass rush
If you’re going to beat the San Francisco 49ers, you’re going to have to find a way to neutralize (or at least temper) their vaunted pass rush. The Niners may be the best in the NFL when it comes to effectively disrupting opposing quarterbacks by rushing just four defenders, allowing everyone else to drop back into coverage. It’s a big reason for their defensive success this season. And stopping it is a tall order indeed. But the Chiefs have reason to be optimistic about their chances to do just that on Super Sunday.
Let’s start with a Kansas City offensive line that appears to be well-equipped to handle the San Francisco pass rush. An offensive line that allowed the third-fewest sacks (25) in the NFL during the regular season and graded out among the best in the league in pass protection according to PFF. A group that has been at its peak down the stretch, surrendering just nine sacks over its last eight games — all resulting in Kansas City wins. An O-line led by All-Pro right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, who hasn’t allowed a sack in 782 pass-blocking snaps this season.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have one of the most elusive quarterbacks in the NFL to help the cause. Mahomes is not only an ace when it comes to escaping pressure, he has a real knack for making difficult plays look routine under duress. Combine that with quality pass protection from the offensive line, and the Chiefs stand a very good chance of tempering the 49ers’ biggest threat on defense.
4. A defense on the rise
No one is ever going to confuse the Kansas City defense for that of the ’85 Bears. But the Chiefs have made positive strides under new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo this season. A revamped secondary, led by All-Pro (2nd-team) defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, has taken the biggest leap in 2019. A Chiefs pass defense that ranked a dismal 31st in the NFL in 2018 wrapped up the '19 regular season as the league’s eighth-best pass defense. Kansas City ranked fifth in interceptions (16), and a solid pass rush, led by Pro Bowlers Chris Jones and Frank Clark, compiled 45 sacks during the regular season (11th most in the NFL). The Chiefs also limited opponents to a much-improved 37 percent conversion rate on third downs. And during the final five weeks of the regular season, no NFL team allowed fewer points than Kansas City (10.4 points per game).
But that still leaves the elephant in the room — the Kansas City run defense. The Chiefs once again ranked among the worst defenses in the league in regard to stopping the run during the regular season, allowing 128 yards per game. That doesn’t exactly bode well with a Super Bowl matchup looming against emerging superstar Raheem Mostert and the NFL’s No. 2-ranked rush offense. At least, not at first glance.
A deeper look shows a Kansas City run defense that has shown drastic improvement down the stretch. The Chiefs haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher since Week 12. And over their last five games (including the postseason), they are giving up just 88.0 rushing yards per game on average. More importantly, the Chiefs did something in their latest contest that no other defense has been able to do in a very long time — hold Titans star running back Derrick Henry in check. A similar effort from Kansas City’s new and improved run defense would go a long way in suppressing San Francisco’s potent ground attack in Super Bowl LIV.
5. An edge in momentum and experience
Both teams ride a huge wave of momentum into Super Sunday. But Kansas City’s wave might just be a bit taller. The Chiefs are currently in the midst of an eight-game winning streak. The 49ers are 6-2 during that same stretch, including an inexplicable loss to the Falcons in Week 15. Kansas City also makes its way into Super Bowl LIV averaging a ridiculous 43 points per game during the postseason — advantage KC.
While San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan has quickly risen to the top of the NFL coaching ranks for good reason, he’s lacking in one critical area — experience. That brings up a key question: Who would you rather have leading your team into the Super Bowl? Kyle Shanahan, who has just 50 games under his belt as a head coach with a .500 record. Or Andy Reid, sixth in NFL history with 221 career victories. It seems like a no-brainer. As the old adage goes — experience wins championships.
— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_UTVOLS.