The Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers are colliding in Super Bowl LIV. It should be an offensive showcase and coaching clinic.
Last year’s Super Bowl set back offensive football 25 years. This one might thrust it forward by 50.
Kansas City and San Francisco are two of the most innovative offenses in the league, a fact on full display this Sunday in the conference title games.
The Chiefs hung 35 points on a quality Tennessee Titans defense, churning out 404 total yards and 27 first downs. In the nightcap, the 49ers barely needed to throw against the Green Bay Packers, with Raheem Mostert rushing for 220 yards in a 37-20 romp.
Both offenses are brutally effective and yet built differently. However, they both have one important theme: pre-snap motion.
No teams are better than the 49ers and Chiefs at stressing defenses before the ball is in motion. San Francisco runs more motion than anybody, while Kansas City loves to run jet-sweep and orbit action, forcing defenses to often honor ghosts. It’s diabolical when considering the speed of Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman, combined with the skills of wunderkind Patrick Mahomes.
GOING DEEP: Chiefs and their fans deserve this moment
The 49ers open up rushing lanes in a variety of ways, showcasing head coach Kyle Shanahan’s understanding of angles and tendencies. Watch San Francisco and you’ll see massive holes with one of its myriad running backs gashing the opposition. This week, it was Mostert’s turn.
The next two weeks will be filled with thinkpieces on skill-position players and the blinding speed both teams possess. What should really fill columns is the genius of Andy Reid, Shanahan and their staffs. Both have assistants who could easily have been offered head-coaching positions in 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. The two going against each other will be a fascinating chess match.
If you’re looking for a matchup to watch, stare into the trenches. If the 49ers are going to slow down the Chiefs, it starts with their phenomenal front four. San Francisco has a host of pass-rushers in Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead and Dee Ford. They’ll be tasked with beating one of the league’s top pass-blocking lines, headlined by tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz.
Should Mahomes be given time, he’ll score points. If he’s under constant duress, even novice football fans understand the implications.
For now, two weeks separate us from one of the more intriguing Super Bowls in recent memory. The 49ers haven’t won a title since 1994. The Chiefs haven’t been in or won the Super Bowl since the year of Woodstock and the moon landing. For once, this isn’t about the New England Patriots and some NFC team trying to dethrone them. It’s new blood, and blood that could be around for some time.
In two weeks, it’s Kansas City and San Francisco bringing their galaxy-brain offenses to Miami for a winner-take-all. It could be one for the ages.
Ranking all 10 Super Bowls played in Miami
1. Super Bowl III – Joe Namath delivers on his guarantee
2. Super Bowl XXIII – Joe Montana pulls off epic final drive against Bengals
3. Super Bowl XIII – Steelers beat Cowboys on field of Hall of Famers
4. Super Bowl X – Lynn Swann gives us two catches for the ages
5. Super Bowl V – Turnover-filled, but a game-winner from Jim O’Brien
6. Super Bowl XLIX – The Saints get their title, and Tracy Porter gets his pick
7. Super Bowl II – The Packers give Vince Lombardi one final ride
8. Super Bowl XLI – Pouring rain, Rex Grossman and Peyton Manning’s first title
9. Super Bowl XXXIII – The Falcons were overwhelmed by Denver immediately
10. Super Bowl XXIX – The real title game was two weeks earlier with 49ers-Cowboys
“We’re the best defense in the world right now. “They come in here, they say they’re gonna run the ball. I know exactly what they were gonna do, you watching that film, you know what they’re going to do. … Over 200 yards each game. I knew damn well we wasn’t going to win the game if we let that happen. They come in here, he runs for 70 yards, they call him the best rusher in the league. We sendin’ his a– home early.”
– Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark on how Kansas City shut down Derrick Henry
Henry carried 19 times for 69 yards against Kansas City, barely making an impact after becoming the storyline of the playoffs. In the days leading into the game, Clark talked about his indifference to Henry’s abilities. The Chiefs more than backed up his talk, with Clark fittingly ending the game on a sack of Ryan Tannehill.
The Cincinnati Bengals are the only AFC team not played in a postseason game by the New England Patriots.
Info learned this week
1. Titans offseason full of major, expensive decisions
The Titans deserve ample credit for a Cinderella season. Now, general manager Jon Robinson needs to make choices on Tannehill, Henry, cornerback Logan Ryan and right tackle Jack Conklin.
While the Collective Bargaining Agreement allows for usage of the franchise and transition tags, using both would be very costly. Putting both on Tannehill and Henry would eat up approximately $36 million, leaving Tennessee with approximately $24 million to use on Conklin, Ryan, other free agents and a draft class. Not easy.
If Robinson is hellbent on keeping the group together, he’ll need to sign Henry or Tannehill to a long-term deal, lowering their 2020 cap hit. Doing so with either is fraught with risk. Henry plays a position known for quick burnout, while Tannehill was never seen as a franchise quarterback until the latter half of this season.
The Titans made huge strides. Now they have to build with constraints.
2. Draft’s intrigue begins after Joe Burrow
Joe Burrow is going to be a Bengal. Don’t waste your time.
While the Carolina Panthers would love to get their hands on him — especially after hiring former LSU offensive coordinator Joe Brady — that’s a pipe dream. Carolina would need to give up picks for years, and second-year head coach Zac Taylor isn’t losing out on the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck.
This draft really begins when the second pick goes on the clock. The Washington Redskins, Detroit Lions and New York Giants round out the top four selections. None need a quarterback. However, the Miami Dolphins, Los Angeles Chargers and Panthers all do, and they have the next three choices, respectively.
Should Justin Herbert fly up the board, or Tua Tagovailoa proves healthy, they could well go in the. second slot. The question is which team makes the move with Washington? Smart money says Miami, as the Dolphins have three first-round picks.
The hidden gem there? Detroit would finally catch some luck and land Ohio State edge-rushing extraordinaire Chase Young.
3. Garrett hire a smart one for Giants’ Judge
The New York Giants needed experience. Enter Jason Garrett.
Garrett proved a mediocre head coach for the Cowboys, but he’s a terrific hire for New York as its offensive coordinator. Joe Judge is in his first year as head coach at any level, so getting Garrett’s level of experience is an important piece of cultivating his staff.
Despite the Cowboys being incredibly underwhelming this season, they had the top-ranked offense in football. With quarterback Daniel Jones entering his second year, the Giants need a steady hand overseeing his development alongside the progressions of running back Saquon Barkley, tight end Evan Engram and receivers Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton.
The hire isn’t sexy, but it’s a wise move for Judge.
4. Gruden would be great hire for Minshew, Jaguars
Jay Gruden is interviewing for the Jacksonville offensive coordinator vacancy. The Jaguars would be wise to hire him.
Gruden has a history of working with young quarterbacks and getting good results, ranging from Andy Dalton to Kirk Cousins. Under Gruden, Dalton led the Bengals to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons, throwing for 80 touchdowns in that span while earning a Pro Bowl berth.
In Washington, the Redskins won the division with Kirk Cousins, who left for the Vikings and a fully-guaranteed $84 million deal. In Gruden’s three years with Cousins as a full-time starter, the former Michigan State star threw for 81 touchdowns against 36 interceptions.
Should the Jaguars decide to go with Gardner Minshew instead of Nick Foles next year, Gruden is the perfect fit to bring the youngster along in Duval.
5. Packers have to start building up their offense
Aaron Rodgers needs help. Lots of help.
Green Bay was blown out in the NFC Championship Game, and not having enough weapons was a prime reason. Davante Adams and Aaron Jones are terrific, but good defenses can limit the run and double Adams. The incoming rookie class is one of the best receiver crops in some time. General manager Brian Gutekunst should dip into it a few times.
Rodgers remains good enough to win a Super Bowl with, but the days of him carrying a flaw roster are over. Green Bay’s defense was vastly improved with the signings of Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith and Adrian Amos, but the offense was always a stumbling block.
Credit Rodgers and head coach Matt LaFleur for dragging that group to a 13-3 mark, but weaknesses get exposed in January.
The Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings are the only teams to reach four Super Bowls and never win.
For both, the pain remains. Ironically, each took a somewhat similar path to the torture.
Minnesota reached the Super Bowl in 1969 as an overwhelming favorite over the American Football League’s Chiefs in Super Bowl IV. Shockingly, the Vikings were blown out 23-7. From 1973-76, Minnesota went to Super Sunday three times as the underdog. It was easily handled all three times.
For Buffalo, the first of four consecutive Super Bowl losses came in 1990. The Bills were heavy favorites to beat the Giants, only to watch Scott Norwood’s last-second field goal sail wide in a 20-19 defeat. After that? Three more trips, all as the underdog. None of the games were close.
Hopefully better days are ahead for both franchises and their fans.
The Seattle Seahawks need to change.
Seattle reached the Divisional round before getting bounced by the Packers. The Seahawks advanced a round further than the prior year, but there’s a clear, obvious problem brewing in the Emerald City.
Russell Wilson is treated as a last resort instead of the first option.
Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is the gatekeeper of establishing the run. At one point against Green Bay, Seattle ran three straight times before punting. In 2020, that should never happen, especially with a top-five quarterback on the roster.
Wasting Wilson’s prime years while paying him $35 million per season is a cardinal sin. If the Seahawks continue to do so, they’ll slide down the standings. The Los Angeles Rams will retool this offseason, the Arizona Cardinals will improve in year two of the Kliff Kingsbury-Kyler Murray marriage, the 49ers are loaded for years to come. The NFC West is only getting tougher.
If Schottenheimer is unwilling to take the shackles off Wilson, general manager John Schneider should force head coach Pete Carroll to relieve him of the decision.