For the second straight season, the Kansas City Chiefs enter the Super Bowl as an underdog. They defeated the favored Philadelphia Eagles last season and will try to beat the favored San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.
Would you be upset if Kansas City achieved that? The Chiefs have the absolute advantage in quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who is healthier this season than last and played admirably through most of the playoffs.
Every year around this time, I ask a group of NFL coaches which team they pick to win the Super Bowl and why. Our team performed well last season, with the senior coach correctly picking the Chiefs to win by three goals.
Four coaches weighed expectations this year. We resume the conversation with the defensive coach's insights into what's bothering 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy, and whether the Chiefs are well-equipped to exploit this specific vulnerability.
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The Fighting Taylor Swifts are playing better defense than the Niners right now, and that could be the difference. San Francisco has to play better defense to win. The 49ers are still dangerous and aggressive, but they are giving up more yards and plays. I think they're going to play very well, but if you ask me deep down, I still think Kansas City is going to make it.
The impact on Brock Purdy is one of the biggest keys to this game. The teams that give Purdy problems are the ones that can impact him in the pocket. Cleveland was able to do that. Detroit can't affect him that way, but the Chiefs can. They do a really good job of raising their hands. This is a big deal against Brock. They can do a really good job of impacting not only longer throws but also faster throws at all different launch angles.
Purdy's strength is how strong his lower body is. George Kittle's quote was really funny when he said Purdy looked like one of those little water dragons running through the water. This is exactly what Purdy looks like. His legs are strong as hell. But when you can push the pocket to his front foot, he struggles. It's hard to get there because sometimes they throw it away quickly, but I think the Chiefs have the ability to do it.
When people reach Purdy's front foot, the ball will dip and be pulled or drifted. Like the one who threw it In the man's stomach is early. He couldn't get the full twist of his hips to float. It's easier said than done to influence Purdy this way. The 49ers know what they're doing, and Purdy is really good, and Kyle is good at calling it, but I think the Chiefs with four (rushers) can do that some of the time.
(Head defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo) will pressure and also play his high-two combination coverages. It's hard to play combination coverages when the 49ers take everyone out. They have players without positions. (Christian) McCaffrey will be out wide, Deebo (Samuel) will be in the backfield and 44 (Kyle Juszczyk) will be all over the place. When you play them in a safe defensive position and they can see it and get it out, the games can be really good.
Bosses don't always handle well when you reach them in space. Steve has done a good job this year of not letting that happen. Other years, you can isolate their guys. Kyle's guys are all 6-foot-1, 6-1, 215 and can run after contact with big hands and fury. It would be to their advantage if they could find ways around the D-line and then get these guys moving forward.
I also think San Francisco will attack the edges in the run game, like Kyle did for Atlanta versus New England in the Super Bowl. If you can get around Kansas City and get people other than (Justin) Reid to step in, you can do some things. But you have to rally around their big men. I think Kyle will find a way to do it, but I trust the Chiefs a little more.
49ers-Chiefs Super Bowl matchup: What to watch when the Niners have the ball
No. 1 defensive coordinator
This is going to be a really interesting game because the Spags have that roll defensively, and I think it's going to create problems. They'll be able to go after Brooke Purdy. Spags will come up with some good schemes to at least get Purdy thinking and get out of his rhythm.
The 49ers, this entire team is built on a progression mentality. When they play with the lead, they pounce and become better, more athletic, and their talent shines. When they play from the back, it's usually different. They came back against Detroit. I'll give them credit there, but Detroit screwed it up. What happened could not be repeated.
What you need to do with the 49ers is match them up early. I would take the ball and try to score. Green Bay has done that. I know it's only 7-0 early and it doesn't matter, but if you score early, you don't answer them.
Mahomes will make the right plays when they need to. He was protecting the ball, which he didn't do as much in the first half of the season. People should honor Rashi Rice now. It has evolved. MVS (Marquez Valdes-Scantling) has become more consistent.
The 49ers' defense has shown throughout the playoffs that they will move the ball on them. They don't have a lot of answers. You hit their weaknesses and don't let their rushers go and they don't get the fast food, you're fine. The coverage system is not detailed. They got a good corner kick, a safe one and they play really well.
When you have a guy like Andy Reid with Patrick Mahomes, they're going to find those soft spots. Andy is fine taking 5 (yards) from Travis Kelce on a catch-and-run play. Reid and Mahomes are tough to go up against.
What makes the partnership between Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes as special as any great combination of coaches and QB?
No. 2 defensive coordinator
San Francisco is probably the better team, but the Eagles were probably a better team last year, and it's down to Patrick Mahomes.
For San Francisco, a lot of it has to do with the flow of the game. That doesn't mean Brock Purdy can't come from behind. I'm not trying to say that. But I think they're a team that has a much better chance of winning when they play their game, whereas the Chiefs might find a way to win any type of game a little better.
This is what happened in 2019 when those teams played. Kansas City was down two scores, then suddenly, they were up two scores in the fourth quarter. It was unbelievable.
San Francisco came back to beat Green Bay and Detroit, but they were significantly better than those two teams, especially Detroit. In my opinion, Detroit is not a team that can hold their own against San Francisco. Detroit's inability to put that game away shows just how good of a team San Francisco is.
I can see San Fran's defense not being as dominant against the Chiefs. I don't know if they were as dominant a defense as they were with DeMeco Ryans and Robert Saleh. I don't feel like they are all that. Deep down, I say bosses.
Inside the 49ers-Chiefs Super Bowl matchup: What to watch when KC has the ball
The 49ers' offense is difficult to defend because they have skill guys who can create yards after the catch and they have a quarterback who can read defenses very quickly and put the ball in place accurately. Their running back game is very timing-based, while Kansas City's is not.
Mahomes' ability to play on or off schedule could be the difference. What makes Mahomes good is that he's a great off-schedule quarterback who doesn't have to play off-schedule to be great. I've always felt that's the case with Russell Wilson. When everyone said he was great, I felt like to be a high-level quarterback, you still had to be able to throw the ball on time. Mahomes can do it.
Purdy isn't bad off the table because he has some elusiveness. He doesn't play much during offseason. Mahomes is elite off the clock, and I think that's Kansas City's advantage.
Surprisingly, Kansas City ran the ball well with (Isiah) Pacheco, and they were more willing to run it, and I think that takes some pressure off Mahomes. Their defense has served them well. This probably made them a more complete team.
San Francisco gave up 280 yards to Detroit in the first half. They may have been surprised by Detroit, but they still haven't figured out how to slow the ocean flow. Pacheco is a forward, and if you put him on the edge, I think he'll be good, even though he's an interior runner.
Detroit kept pinning the ends and throwing the ball, and the 49ers' secondary fell behind in support. I'm sure San Francisco will make an adjustment to their crack throwing plays. They just have to get someone in support faster. It's not a huge adjustment, but they'll probably be reluctant to do so because of Mahomes.
I love Kansas City. I want to like San Francisco, but I think the quarterback matchup is so big in these games, that's a huge disconnect between these players.
Christian McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel, those two guys could be enough to overcome that, but I don't think so in this game.
If the 49ers win, someone associated with their team will surely claim that no one gave them a chance. It wouldn't be much of a stretch, even though oddsmakers favor the 49ers, because so many people in and around the game are picking the Chiefs. We got Kansas City by a 24-20 margin in our staff picks. It wasn't a pick against the 49ers as much as it was a fear of picking Mahomes. I stood with him every week of the playoffs. Why stop now?
With a recent Super Bowl run, the Chiefs' lineage of prospects echoes the “Patriot Way.”
(Best photos of Patrick Mahomes and Brock Purdy: Patrick Smith and Kevin Sabitos/Getty Images)
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