Las Vegas – This Sunday the confrontation between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers will take place in the Super Bowl LVIII In Las Vegas.
The game will begin at 7:30 p.m.
Four years ago, both teams met in this same setting. On that occasion, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs came out on top.
In that clash, the 49ers had Mahomes and the Chiefs on the ropes.
The Niners had a 10-point lead and carried possession with less than 10 minutes left. But everything collapsed on offense and defense and they suffered a 31-20 defeat that still hurts.
The difference heading into Sunday is that San Francisco now has a quarterback in Brock Purdy who is capable of showing off down the stretch and denying Mahomes a third Super Bowl title.
San Francisco’s defense held Mahomes to 10 points in the first 50 minutes of the Super Bowl, but conceded three touchdowns down the stretch to lose the game. The defensive block is not as strong as 2019, but it will be the offense that carries the Niners to their first championship in 29 seasons.
Brock Purdy has gone from “Mr. Irrelevant” as the last pick of the 2022 draft to the franchise quarterback who has given another dimension to coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense in less than two years. He was the leader in passer rating (113) and yards per attempt (9.6) with his ability to throw deep and improvise.
Purdy will also be surrounded by a more talented group of guards than he accompanied Jimmy Garoppolo four years ago.
The running back Christian McCaffrey won the AP Offensive Player Award after leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage (2,023) and tied for touchdowns (21) during the regular season.
Brandon Aiyuk has been one of the most efficient receivers in the NFL, with 1,342 yards in 105 actions this season to open the passing game.
Deebo Samuel is also a threat on the ground and in the air as he was in his rookie campaign in 2019, while tight end George Kittle remains relevant in both areas.
San Francisco was the sixth team with four players with at least 1,000 yards from scrimmage in the same season.
Accustomed to winning easy games, Purdy has shown in this postseason that he knows how to get his team out of the hole. He orchestrated the drive that ended with the decisive fourth-quarter touchdown to beat Green Bay in the divisional round and then lifted San Francisco from a 17-point deficit to defeat Detroit in the NFC finals.
He’s a much better deep passer than Garoppolo, shooting 62.3 percent on long balls to lead the league, according to Pro Football Focus.
San Francisco is a strong team to stop the running game, where the Chiefs have been very productive with Isiah Pacheco.
They’re also among the best at defending up the middle thanks to linebackers Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw, so they should limit the damage Travis Kelce can do.
And the other thing is the disparity between their defender Nick Bosa against tackles Jawaan Taylor and Donovan Smith, so San Francisco has enough weapons to emerge victorious in a close game.
Of all the reasons why the Chiefs will hoist their third Lombardi Trophy in four Super Bowl appearances over the past five years — and there are plenty, first with the genius of quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the sagacity of head coach Andy Reid, the second-best defense in the NFL and feeling underappreciated — experience is high on the list.
When they face the 49ers on Sunday in a repeat of their victory to become champions four years ago in Miami, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce will start his 22nd postseason game. Mahomes will do it for the 18th time and defensive tackle Chris Jones will have his 16th.
It’s not just a matter of playoff experience. The Chiefs have a chance in the Super Bowl. And there is a difference. The spotlight shines brighter, the pressure is stronger and the distractions are abundant, on the same scale as the reward for success.
Eight of the starters on the Chiefs’ offensive line were part of the team that defeated Philadelphia for the championship last year in Arizona. Eight starters from the defensive block also repeat. Harrison Butker continues as the kicker and Tommy Townsend returned to punt the ball.
If you look at the 53-player roster after the conference finals, the Chiefs have made 66 appearances in the Super Bowl; the 49ers have 16. The Kansas City contingent has 48 rings between them, while the 49ers only have four.
The Chiefs have so much experience that safety Mike Edwards, left tackle Donovan Smith, receiver Justin Watson and backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert played against them in the 2020 Super Bowl loss to Tampa Bay.
As a starter in his fourth Super Bowl, Mahomes will be tied for third place in the NFL’s all-time leaderboard for a quarterback, behind Tom Brady and John Elway. The other four include Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, Roger Staubach, Peyton Manning and Jim Kelly.
They are all in the Hall of Fame, except Brady, and it is obvious that he will be inducted soon.
“I think the thing I’ve changed the most is having an idea of what to expect,” Mahomes said this week, reflecting on his first Super Bowl four years ago. “I have grown as a quarterback, as a leader and as a person, but being able to have an action plan for what Super Bowl week entails — preparing to not play in the Super Bowl before the game itself — is something I hope to take advantage of” .
In contrast, many of the 49ers’ cornerstones have zero Super Bowl experience.
Brock Purdy was a sophomore at Iowa State, having no idea he would be the final pick in the NFL draft. Running back Christian McCaffrey was part of a mediocre team in Carolina that just fired its head coach. Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk had just finished his college career at Arizona State.
The Chiefs are also more seasoned on their coaching staff.
Reid leads in his fifth Super Bowl to tie Tom Landry for third all-time, behind Bill Belichick and Don Shula. A third victory would leave him tied with Bill Walsh and Joe Gibbs behind Belichick and Chuck Noll.
Their offensive coordinator, Matt Nagy, has head coaching experience and led the Chicago Bears to the playoffs. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has also been a head coach and has won championships with several franchises, including as Tom Coughlin’s assistant with the New York Giants at the end of the 2007 season.
Maybe the 49ers have a superior roster, bringing out the quarterback. There is a reason they have been the favorites in every game this season. There’s a reason the Chiefs weren’t the favorites when they won on the road against the Buffalo Bills and the Baltimore Ravens in the previous two rounds.
But experience is something that is not seen on paper. And that’s plenty for the Chiefs.