The Kansas City Chiefs have accomplished a feat that only the 1990-1993 Buffalo Bills and the 2014-2018 New England Patriots have ever done by reaching their fourth Super Bowl in five years. They will go up against a familiar foe after the San Francisco 49ers came from behind to dispatch the Detroit Lions for the right to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in Vegas.
The Chiefs will be looking for their third Super Bowl victory in five years and their fourth in franchise history, whereas the Niners will be looking for their first Lombardi since 1995. San Francisco will also look to avenge their Super Bowl LIV loss, and you can bet that Kyle Shanahan and the rest of Niners Nation remember that one all too well.
Despite the whining about being tired of the Chiefs or wanting Detroit to be in the Super Bowl instead of San Francisco, there is no shortage of storylines going into Super Bowl LVIII. Here are three key storylines going into this final showdown in the desert.
Considering the entire season, it would appear that San Francisco has the statistical edge, especially on offense. Most of your national artificial hot-take generators will point expressly to the quarterback matchup between Patrick Mahomes and Brock Purdy.
On the year, Purdy has had more yards, more touchdowns, a higher completion rate, fewer interceptions, and a higher quarterback rating. For some people, especially those ragebait-farming for views, that would be enough to justify saying that Purdy is the better quarterback going into this matchup with a straight face. Purdy has had a good year and has many weapons at his disposal, but he has nothing on Patrick Mahomes.
People who actually watch football and are not out here begging for clicks understand that Patrick Mahomes gives the Chiefs the edge at quarterback, and it is not even fathomably close. Mahomes is a six-time Pro Bowler, two-time MVP, two-time Super Bowl Champ, and two-time Super Bowl MVP. Mahomes has been there and done that going into his 18th playoff start, whereas Purdy is making only his 27th start total.
During this playoff run, Mahomes has looked every bit the playoff stud he usually is. He has completed 68% of his passes to Purdy's 61%, thrown four touchdowns to Purdy's two, and has yet to throw an interception. Purdy threw a particularly awful one in the divisional round, leading to a score, and has yet to play a complete and consistent game during these playoffs. Mahomes has been there and done that. Purdy is learning on the fly.
Strength vs. Strength
The 49ers skill group is one of the most talented in the league. They boast the best running back in the NFL in Christian McCaffrey, two stud receivers in Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel, and the most talented tight end this side of Travis Kelce in George Kittle. This group led an offense that ranked second in yards, third in points, and fourth in third down conversion rate in the regular season.
They will be going up a Chiefs defense that has only allowed one team to score over 20 points the entire year, including the playoffs. They held the presumptive MVP Lamar Jackson and his offense to only ten points in the AFC Title Game, they have only given up ten second-half points total throughout the playoffs, and have won the turnover battle in each game.
Therein lies the most significant difference between this Super Bowl and Super Bowl LIV. The San Francisco defense is not nearly as good as the 2019 team was, but their offense is significantly better. The Chiefs offense cannot do the same things it could with Tyreek Hill and a four-years-younger Travis Kelce, but this defense is the best that Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes have had since they got there.
All-Pro cornerback Trent McDuffie and All-Pro snub LaJarius Sneed form the most fearsome cornerback duo in the league, and they will get their final test against two of the most versatile receivers out there. Aiyuk and Samuel have a much different skill set than a duo like Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle (whom the Chiefs have held in check twice), and they will be utilized in many unique ways. It will be interesting to see how Sneed and McDuffie adjust and what kind of positions defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will put them in.
Battle Of The Minds
Two of the brightest offensive minds will be facing off in Vegas: Andy Reid and Kyle Shanahan. However, only one of these head coaches has proven genuinely worthy of that title. Andy Reid is about to make his fifth Super Bowl appearance with a record of 2-2, whereas Kyle Shanahan is making his second appearance, having lost his only prior visit to Big Red.
Shanahan has also presided over two of the most embarrassing blown leads in Super Bowl history. His 49ers held a ten-point lead with under six and a half minutes to go against the Chiefs, and they proceeded to allow Patrick Mahomes to drive for three touchdowns in just over five minutes of game time to lose by 11. That loss pales compared to the biggest blown lead in Super Bowl history: the infamous 28-3 game. Kyle Shanahan may not have been the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, but he was the offensive coordinator. His play calls down the stretch were highly questionable and a key factor as to why Tom Brady and the Patriots came back to win that Super Bowl.
However, the thing about reputations is that they can be changed in moments like this. Before Big Red won his first Super Bowl against the 49ers in January of 2020, Reid had the reputation of failing to win the big one. His playoff career was marred by poor clock and timeout management, questionable playcalling with the lead, and just the worst luck you can think of. He even had his own 28-3 moment against Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts by blowing a 38-10 lead that he held in the third quarter of the 2014 Wild Card Game.
Once Andy Reid won his Super Bowl, the script flipped, and Andy's status as one of the game's all-time best was cemented. This will be his third Super Bowl appearance since being christened as a future Hall Of Famer and one of the all-time greats, and he is living proof that a reputation can change. Kyle Shanahan has an opportunity to do that, and it will be Reid and Spags' job to ensure that does not happen. Shanahan is a good coach, but Big Red is better. What better place to prove it than Vegas?