Richard Sherman's Super Bowl experience should help his 49ers get ready to face the Chiefs on Feb. 2
They're back. The San Francisco 49ers will be looking for their sixth Super Bowl championship at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, on Sunday, Feb. 2. After beating the Packers 37-20 in the NFC Championship Game, the Niners will be making their seventh trip to the Super Bowl in franchise history.
Their opponent will be the Kansas City Chiefs, who redeemed themselves after last year’s disappointing loss in the AFC Championship Game to the Patriots in overtime. The Chiefs claimed their spot in Super Bowl LIV by rallying to beat the Tennessee Titans 35-24 at Arrowhead Stadium after trailing by double digits early on. Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs bring a very explosive offense that will challenge the 49ers' defense to the max. Chiefs Kingdom will be in full force down in Miami, as this will be the team's first Super Bowl appearance since 1970 when Kansas City beat the Minnesota Vikings 23-7 in Super Bowl IV.
This will be the ultimate battle of strength versus strength, and something will have to give. Andy Reid has the edge in Super Bowl coaching experience over Kyle Shanahan as Reid led the Philadelphia Eagles to Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005. Watching the point spread will be entertaining too; the Chiefs open up as 1.5-point favorites, and the over/under is hovering around 53 points which is about right since these two teams should both score north of 24 points in this game.
5 Reasons Why The San Francisco 49ers Will Win Super Bowl LIV
1. Commitment to run the football
It would be in the 49ers' best interest to play keep away from the Chiefs and limit their possessions. Running back Raheem Mostert leads a balanced rushing attack for San Francisco after going off for 220 yards and four touchdowns in the NFC Championship Game. Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman each have posted more than 500 rushing yards this season and have been very effective at different points. Coleman left the NFC Championship Game with a shoulder injury and has been diagnosed with a dislocated right shoulder, so that will be a storyline to watch in the days leading up to the game. The 49ers also have the ability to run out of many different formations to keep opposing defenses off-balance, and they do a great job of staying patient with the ground game — even when trailing. The running game will end up opening things for Jimmy Garoppolo to go to work from the pocket and get the ball in the hands of Emmanuel Sanders, Deebo Samuel, and George Kittle through play-action passes.
2. Battle-tested offensive line
This group has gone up against the best of the best from a physical defensive front perspective after dealing with the Rams, Seahawks, Ravens, and Saints, among other tough tests, throughout the 2019 season. San Francisco finished 14th overall at the end of the regular season in the Pro Football Focus ranking of all 32 offensive line units. The 49ers have reaped the benefits of getting Joe Staley (finger) back for the postseason run, as he has one of the lowest pressure rates among left tackles. Staley had allowed seven pressures in 240 pass-blocking snaps during the regular season. If Garoppolo can continue to get the ball out quick against what will be an aggressive Kansas City defense, it should set the offensive line up for significant success on Super Bowl Sunday.
On the other hand, the Chiefs' defensive line led by Frank Clark and Chris Jones comes into Super Bowl LIV with a sky-high level of confidence. Clark was quoted as saying that Kansas City has the "best defense in the world" right now after the AFC Championship Game. Those comments should get the attention of the 49ers' offensive line since the Chiefs have gotten better as the season has progressed but still finished 17th overall in the total defense during the 2019 regular season.
3. Defensive line depth
San Francisco is certainly no slouch on defense, beginning with a deep defensive front that — with the return of Dee Ford — is healthy enough to dominate at the point of attack. Ford will get his shot at playing his old teammates and earn additional redemption for his offside penalty that wiped out a game-winning interception for Kansas City that cost the Chiefs a shot at playing in Super Bowl LIII. DeForest Buckner, Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, and Solomon Thomas are going to challenge a Chiefs offensive line that is very good at pass blocking. Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, in particular, is one of the best pass protectors in all of the NFL. It will be critical for Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy to get Patrick Mahomes in situations where he gets the ball out of his hands quickly. They also need to limit their attempts at slow-developing pass plays because those will be a recipe for disaster against the 49ers' defensive line. Bosa and Armstead each picked up a sack apiece against Aaron Rodgers on Sunday.
4. Richard Sherman and a fearless secondary
When going up against a quarterback like Mahomes, it would be easy for an opposing secondary to play scared. That won't happen in Super Bowl LIV since Sherman has the experience of two Super Bowls. That includes one against Denver and Peyton Manning, who came into that game with a high-flying, record-setting offense. That game resulted in a 43-8 Seahawks shellacking that entailed a totally dominant performance by the Seattle defense. Sherman traditionally lines up on the right side of the field, so he could be matched up against Sammy Watkins and/or Tyreek Hill. Look for defensive coordinator Robert Saleh to come up with a couple of different tweaks to confuse Mahomes with different coverage looks and try and make him uncomfortable in the pocket. Turnovers are going to be crucial in this game, as it could very easily lead to a 10-to-14-point swing that ends up being the difference. If Sherman, Emmanuel Moseley or somebody else in the secondary can cause an early turnover, that will be a huge confidence booster for this secondary.
5. Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch
Shanahan and Lynch have done an excellent job of embracing the history of the 49ers ever since taking over as coach and general manager, respectively. You can count on both of these guys integrating a couple of former players from the Super Bowl runs like Steve Young, Jerry Rice, and Joe Montana to speak to the team at some point prior to Super Bowl LIV. Also, Shanahan has the experience from his time as offensive coordinator for the Falcons, where they blew a 28-3 lead against New England in Super Bowl LI. Shanahan will need to keep the foot on the gas pedal against Kansas City and not let up if San Francisco is fortunate enough to jump out to a big lead against the Chiefs. Overall, the way that Shanahan handles the 49ers in the lead up to the game will be a critical key to victory for San Francisco, and odds are he’ll have his team primed to play their very best and tie New England and Pittsburgh with a sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy.
— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ScottWhittum.