On Tuesday we previewed the Kansas City Chiefs ahead of their matchup against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV on Sunday, Feb. 2, at 6:30 p.m. at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. Let’s consider the 49ers and their very own good, bad and ugly.
The 49ers are a running machine and have proven doubters wrong all season long. Head coach Kyle Shanahan has a zone-running scheme that destroys any defense. The best part for 49er fans? He does it with unknown players. The team has used Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida as the mainstay running backs this season. It’s running back by committee and it’s been productive as hell.
The latest surprise has been Mostert, who has been the main back throughout the playoff run. In the NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers, the Florida native ran for 220 yards on 29 carries and four touchdowns. Even though he was on the field for only 34 percent of the game against the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC divisional round, he still had 12 carries. He was the hot hand in the Packers matchup when he was on the field for 82 percent of the snaps. He, along with the scheme run by the Shanahan offense, is good for the 49ers. Expect the Niners to ride the hot hand during Super Bowl LIV.
The passing game for the 49ers has been less than amazing, to say the least. Starting quarterback Jimmy Garappolo has been very up and down throughout the season, but to his credit, he showed up when he was needed the most.
If the San Franciscans want to win the game, they could rely on the run. The bigger issue is that if the running game isn’t there, they will need Garappolo to step up. He is their biggest asset and biggest flaw. As we saw with the Tennessee Titans, you can have the leading rusher in the NFL and play to your coaches’ strengths, but we live in a new age and two weeks of preparation will require Garappolo to be better than average. It used to be possible to run the football and have a great defense. Now, coaches are smarter and passing is everything.
The ugly for the 49ers is the hardest to pinpoint. Their running game is flawless, their passing game isn’t ugly and the defense is their biggest strength. However, there is one potential issue: secondary cornerback. Everyone knows that Richard Sherman is one of the best cornerbacks in football and will be a first-ballot HOFer. The second corner to Sherman was Ahkello Witherspoon, who is a former third-round pick from The University of Colorado. He is in his third season as an NFL pro and has had an up-and-down season. He was benched twice in the playoffs and is currently a starting corner. Witherspoon was one of my favorite prospects in his draft class and even after this season, the 6-foot-2-inch 24-year-old has a ton of promise.
The big issue for Witherspoon and the 49ers is the attacking power of the Chiefs’ offense. They are elite with Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Mecole Hardman. One of those three will require double coverage, and Hill and Hardman will require a safety over the top. Throw in Travis Kelce and things become a game-planning nightmare. A linebacker or safety will have to cover Kelce and that will leave the 49ers and defensive coordinator Robert Saleh in a difficult position.
The 49ers, like the Chiefs, are meant to be here. These are without a doubt the two best teams in the NFL. The Chiefs have one of the best offenses in the league and the 49ers can dominate defense. The 49ers will need to get ahead early or stop Mahomes in order to be in a prime position to win Super Bowl LIV.