On February 2, 2020, the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV. There are some familiar faces still on each roster that are hopeful to return to the big game this season, and the two teams will square off in a game that counts for the first time since on Sunday. The Chiefs came up just short last week at home against the Buffalo Bills, 24-20. The 49ers fell on the road in somewhat surprising fashion to the Atlanta Falcons by a final score of 28-14.
This could be a preview of the 2023 Super Bowl, so we will keep a close eye on three things.
49ers Defensive Gameplan
CBS color analyst Tony Romo, along with the Buffalo Bills, helped shed light on a strategy that opposing defenses might continue to use all season long against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Bills elected to play their secondary deep, which forced quarterback Patrick Mahomes to take what the defense gave him in the intermediate part of the field. It was an interesting decision, which resulted in longer drives, rather than quick strike touchdowns.
With some struggles at cornerback in San Francisco, the 49ers may decide to copy Buffalo’s approach from a week ago. This might lead to a big game from All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce, but a deeper secondary could lead Mahomes to hold the ball against a stout 49ers pass rush.
Will A Chiefs Wide Receiver Step Up?
The above discussion addressing defensive positioning might be a little counterintuitive, considering that Kansas City no longer has speed demon Tyreek Hill on its roster. Teams might be more inclined to press the likes of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marques Valdez-Scantling and Mecole Hardman because they haven’t proven they can get consistent separation.
Smith-Schuster did score a long touchdown last week, but was the beneficiary of some questionable tackling by the Buffalo secondary. Valdez-Scantling had a touchdown called back by penalty, and was the intended receiver on another pass into the endzone that Bills cornerback Kaiir Elam picked off.
As defenses will likely clamp down on Kelce thanks to some big performances in recent weeks, it is time for the Chiefs’ receivers to carry the load.
Even when the 49ers elected to go with Trey Lance as their starter, many folks around the league felt that Jimmy Garoppolo was still the team’s best option under center. Due to unfortunate circumstances, Lance was lost for the season due to injury, and Garoppolo was back under center by default.
Garoppolo has led the 49ers deep into the postseason, and was extremely close to having some hardware to show for a 2020 playoff run to the Super Bowl. Had he been able to connect with Emmanuel Sanders during Super Bowl LIV, it might be Garoppolo who has the ring instead of Mahomes. He might be more motivated to beat Kansas City on Sunday knowing that he lost one of the biggest games of his career to them just over two years ago.