Football is a unique game for many reasons, and one of its most significant quirks is its timing. As far as major professional sports leagues go, the NFL provides the most time to prepare for the fewest number of games. Coaches and players use that time to study their opponents, gameplan, and practice. Fans and media members use that time to dive into statistics, history and other facts and figures. As we wait for the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers to meet in Super Bowl LIV in Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday, we offer 10 interesting tidbits you need to know.
9: Damien Williams touchdowns across his first five playoff games
Only three players in NFL history have accounted for nine touchdowns from scrimmage combined across their first five NFL postseason appearances. With his three-yard rushing score in the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship Game, Chiefs running back Damien Williams joined Terrell Davis and Larry Fitzgerald as the only players in history to accomplish the feat.
3: The 49ers are the third team in NFL history to reach the Super Bowl after winning four or fewer games the previous season
San Francisco finished the 2019 season with a 4-12 record, the same as the 1998 St. Louis Rams in the year before becoming the “Greatest Show on Turf” and winning Super Bowl XXXIV. More than a decade earlier, the Bengals shuffled their way to Super Bowl XVI (before losing to the 49ers), after going 4-11 the previous season.
While still a remarkable turnaround, it’s worth remembering the 49ers were a different team in 2019 compared to the season before. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was sidelined for 13 games following a torn ACL (suffered against Kansas City). The team’s poor record allowed it to draft defensive lineman Nick Bosa with the No. 2 overall pick, adding strength to one of the best defensive fronts in the league. Last year’s 49ers squad also suffered six of its losses by eight points or fewer, so the team was more competitive than its final record would typically indicate.
13: Chiefs touchdowns on passes of 20 or more air yards
Thanks in large part to reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes, no team has been more successful attacking its opponents downfield than Kansas City. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, the Chiefs have thrown 13 touchdowns passes — the most in the league — on plays that covered 20 or more air yards. Kansas City also leads the NFL with eight touchdown passes on plays of 30 air yards or more. Plus, the three scores the Chiefs have produced on plays of 40 or more air yards are tied for the most overall.
6.7: The 49ers have averaged an NFL-best 6.7 yards per play on first down
One of the few bright spots for San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan in 2018 was the team’s relative success on 1st-and-10. The Niners were top five in the league in yards per play on first down last year. In 2019, the 49ers led the NFL with an average of 6.7 yards on first-down plays. By setting up an average of 2nd-and-3.3, the Niners have been able to keep their play-calling options wide open and have excelled moving the chains and marching toward the end zone this season.
50: The Chiefs are back in the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years
In what is now referred to as Super Bowl I, Kansas City lost to the Green Packers in the inaugural AFL-NFL World Championship Game. Three years later, following the 1969 season, the Chiefs beat the Minnesota Vikings 23-7 in Super Bowl IV to capture the first — and to this point, the only — world championship in franchise history. Fifty seasons have passed since Kansas City made it back to the biggest stage in sports.
7: The 49ers will play in the seventh Super Bowl in franchise history
There have been peaks and valleys throughout San Francisco’s franchise history, but the 49ers have reached football’s biggest stage more than all but four other teams. Only the Patriots (11), Steelers, Cowboys, and Broncos (eight appearances apiece) have played in more Super Bowls to date.
The Niners are 5-1, but the 34-31 loss to the Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII snapped a five-game winning streak for the club. On that note, no franchise that has appeared in three or more Super Bowls has a higher winning percentage (.833).
A win over the Chiefs would tie San Francisco with the Steelers and Patriots for the most championships in NFL history. It would also mark the third time the Niners hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in Miami, which is hosting the game for the tenth time — tied with New Orleans for the most ever.
65 percent: Chiefs pass rate in standard situations
According to Mike Sando of The Athletic, Kansas City threw the football on 65 percent of its plays on either first or second down in the first 28 minutes of games this season. Why such a specific set of criteria? Sando wanted to isolate standard game situations “before time and score differential influence tendencies more overtly.” Not only was the 65 percent pass rate the highest in the league, as Sando’s colleague Sheil Kapadia found, it was the second-highest mark across the past two decades behind only the 2018 Steelers.
235.5: Average rushing yards for the 49ers this postseason
Meanwhile, much has been made about the 49ers’ success running the ball this postseason, and specifically the 220-yard, four-touchdown performance from running back Raheem Mostert in the NFC Championship victory over Green Bay. As a team, San Francisco gained 285 yards on the ground — which was the most for any team in a conference championship game since 1970.
The Niners ran for 185 yards in their Divisional Round win over Minnesota the previous week. The two-game average of 235.5 rushing yards per game is the highest for a team in a single postseason (with a minimum of two games). If the Niners run for 233 yards against the Chiefs, San Francisco would set a new NFL postseason record, surpassing the 1973 Dolphins (234.3).
.556: Career winning percentage for Patrick Mahomes in games in which his team falls behind by 10 points or more
Every team likes to start fast, but even if the Chiefs fall behind early, there’s hope for Kansas City to win. Mahomes took over as the Chiefs starting quarterback ahead of the 2018 season, and in the two years since, the NFL as a whole has posted a .149 winning percentage (72-409-3) when falling behind by 10 points or more in a game. But Mahomes is 5-4 in such contests, including playoff wins over the Texans and Titans in his last two contests, respectively.
$4,397: Starting ticket price for Super Bowl LIV on the secondary market
As of Monday morning, the cheapest available ticket to this year’s Super Bowl was $4,397, according to SeatGeek. The average available ticket price was $7,622, meaning this could be the most expensive event in NFL history.