(KPIX) — Super Bowl LIV, between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers, will be a battle of offensive strengths. But those strengths differ greatly. The Chiefs’ pass-oriented attack, behind Patrick Mahomes, piles up yards and points seemingly at will. The 49ers’ run-focused approach accomplishes the same by grinding away on the ground. In the end, it may come down to which defense can do enough to limit these vastly different attacks, make key plays and/or keep points off the board.
The Chiefs, led by electrifying quarterback Patrick Mahomes, boasted one of the NFL’s top passing offenses in the regular season. Kansas City averaged 8.1 yards per pass play and 281.1 passing yards per game, both among the NFL’s top five for the season. Had Mahomes not missed time with a dislocated kneecap, those averages might be still higher. That productivity in the regular season has continued into the playoffs, where Mahomes has thrown for 608 yards and eight touchdowns (and no interceptions) in just two games.READ MORE: UPDATE: Willow Fire Grows Past 2,000 Acres Near Big Sur, Evacuations Ordered
According to KPIX sports director Dennis O’Donnell, “The Chiefs are the most prolific, the most potent offense in football. They’re, in my estimation, the better offense on the field in Super Bowl LIV. It’s not just Mahomes — he’s the best quarterback in the game, in my estimation — but he’s got a plethora of weapons.”
The Chiefs’ wide receivers are among the fastest in the league. The trio of Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Mecole Hardman all boast sub-4.5-40 speed. Wideout Demarcus Robinson, whose combine times back in 2016 didn’t make the 4.5 threshold, isn’t exactly slow either. And that that speed proves dangerous down the field. Hardman averaged 20.7 yards per catch in the regular season, turning six of his 26 catches into touchdowns. Hill and Watkins hauled in 58 and 52 catches respectively in injury-shortened seasons.
Tight end Travis Kelce is Mahomes’ favorite target, however. The Chiefs leading receiver and the regular-season league leader for tight ends racked up 97 receptions on the season. “He’s got a great tight end,” notes O’Donnell. “Everybody likes to talk about George Kittle for good reason. Travis Kelce is going to the Hall Of Fame, four straight years of over 1,000 yards.”
While the Chiefs thrive through the air, the 49ers excel on the ground. “It’s a pretty versatile backfield,” O’Donnell points out. “Two weeks ago against Minnesota we were talking about Tevin Coleman’s first 100-yard game. Last week it was Raheem Mostert going for 200 [plus] yards. In Super Bowl LIV, it could be Matt Breida. It’s three dangerous backs back there, two of which have tremendous speed. We saw Mostert hit the holes last week against the Green Bay Packers.”READ MORE: UPDATE: 15 Injured, 20 Rescued After Fire Erupts Inside San Francisco Tenderloin Apartment Building
Before Coleman and Mostert’s breakout playoff performances, each had productive regular seasons as part of a 49ers run game that ranked second only to the Baltimore Ravens. The 49ers put up 144.1 yards per game on the ground, which led to a league-leading 23 rushing touchdowns. With Breida, the trio totaled almost 2,000 yards, averaging about 4.9 yards per carry among the three. Mostert led in yards and touchdowns, but each contributed significantly.
The 49ers’ pass defense may be better equipped to limit the Chiefs’ passing game than the Chiefs’ run defense is to slow the 49ers’ ground game. San Francisco’s defense allowed a league-low 5.9 yards per catch and 169.2 yards per game through the air. Their tenacious pass rush certainly helped, forcing opposing quarterbacks into quicker, shorter throws. Kansas City, on the other hand, struggled to contain opposing teams on the ground. They gave up 4.9 yards per carry and 128.2 yards per game, both among the NFL’s worst. Limiting Derrick Henry to just 69 yards on 19 carries after he bulldozed his way to 180-plus yards in each of his prior three games was certainly promising.
In the end, a battle of dominant offenses may come down to a play or two on defense. “All things considered, all things being equal, I like that it’s a point, a point and a half [spread],” says O’Donnell. “And it’s the old cliche, a turnover will make the difference in this football game in Super Bowl LIV.”
If that’s how this game unfolds, then the advantage may just swing more to the 49ers. The San Francisco defense has healed and returned to the dominant form they enjoyed early in the season. They held Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers scoreless for a half. They kept the Minnesota Vikings’ talented receiving duo at bay. The 49ers defense is making plays when it matters.MORE NEWS: Woman Wounded As Stray Bullets Riddle Oakland Neighborhood
The 49ers play the Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV Sunday @ 3:30 PT.