What to watch for in the Super Bowl

By: Jordan Kendall, Sports Editor

This year’s Super Bowl is one of the most exciting matchups in recent memory. Both teams have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball and are equally matched. The Kansas City Chiefs have not played in the Super Bowl in 50 years, while the San Francisco 49ers have not won since 1994. Regardless of what happens, this should be an exciting game and a fitting end to the 100th NFL season. Here is a preview of what’s to come in Miami.

The Chiefs are led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes who continues to grow into the face of the league. He threw for 4,031 yards and 22 touchdowns this season with only five interceptions. His ability to make throws from any angle and his mobility and effectiveness outside the pocket makes him nearly impossible to stop. For those who watched the AFC Championship, he can also win with his legs, leading Kansas City in rushing with 53 yards including a 27-yard touchdown run that was one of the plays of the season. What makes the Chiefs so dangerous on offense is they have the best quarterback in football, but also multiple targets that create matchup nightmares for opponents. 

Wide receivers Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, and Sammy Watkins are arguably the best trio in the NFL. Hill and Hardman are some of the fastest players in the league and use it to their advantage. Both are used heavily in jet sweeps and screen passes which can easily turn into a 50-yard touchdown. Watkins provides a reliable third option and can step up when needed. Tight end Travis Kelce is a top three tight end in football, he makes plays that few can match. 

The Chiefs defense has been playing significantly better in recent weeks than the beginning of the season. In the playoffs, they have the third-best run defense allowing 89.5 yards per game. One of the keys has been the play of their front seven. Defensive ends Frank Clark and Chris Jones stepped up in a big way vs the Tennessee Titans and shut down the NFL’s leading rusher in running back Derrick Henry. 

Despite rushing for nearly 200 yards in his previous two playoff games, Henry was held to 69 yards against Kansas City. Clark and Jones had at least eight sacks in the regular season as well, and are playing as well as anyone. Safety Tyrann Mathieu is the leader of the defense, his 75 tackles and four picks in the regular season are a big reason why they are heading to Miami, and he doesn’t show signs of slowing down. 

On the other hand, the 49ers are led by quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Despite throwing just eight passes in the NFC Championship, he proved this season he can win with his arm. He threw for 3,978 yards and 27 touchdowns completing 69% of his passes. While he has receivers such as Emmanuel Sanders and Deebo Samuel who each had over 800 receiving yards, his best target is tight end George Kittle. Arguably the best tight end in football, Kittle led the Niners with 85 catches for 1,053 yards. Not only is he a reliable target, he’s arguably the best blocking tight end in the game. Despite this, San Francisco’s offense is a run first unit that stepped up in the playoffs.

Running backs Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert are equally dangerous for the 49ers. Coleman rushed for 105 yards and two touchdowns in the divisional round, and Mostert followed with 220 yards and four scores in the NFC Championship. What makes San Francisco dangerous is no one knows which one will have a big game, leaving defenses to guess and hope they’re right. Usually they’re not, and the Niners take advantage of it. This will be interesting to watch, can Kansas City stop this rushing attack or not.

San Francisco is led by their defense, which was the second-best in the league this season. Led by defensive ends Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead and Dee Ford, their pass rush was a top-ten unit in sacks and quarterback hits. The linebackers are just as talented, led by Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw. Each of them had over 85 tackles and made up the best front seven in football. Cornerback Richard Sherman is arguably the best corner in the game like he said, and is so intimidating most teams avoid throwing his way. This unit is complete and has the depth that should match up with the Chiefs very equally.

Now the fun part, who’s going to win? A few members of the Towerlight shared their answers.

Muhammad Waheed, Assistant Sports Editor

San Francisco 30, Kansas City 23

The Chiefs have an explosive offense, but the 49ers have a defense that can create turnovers and put the opposing quarterback under pressure. The 49ers might be able to win Super Bowl LIV if they win the time of possession and limit the number of times Patrick Mahomes takes the field.

Issac Donsky, Contributing Writer

Kansas City 27, San Francisco 20 

Both of these teams have excellent defenses, but Kansas City has the edge with run defense. The key to victory will be forcing the 49ers to rely on the pass instead of their ground game. Mahomes and the Chiefs will carve up the 49ers defense with their aerial attack and end the 50-year championship drought. If you look back on the last few weeks of the season, Kansas City was carving up opposing teams and shutting down opposing backs while the Niners always seemed to be winning (or losing) at the bell. 

Tim Klapac, Senior Editor

Kansas City 35, San Francisco 31

The 49ers will jump out to an early lead thanks to some big plays from Kittle and the running game. But as we’ve seen this postseason, the Chiefs are a second-half team. Look for the Kansas City offense to light up the scoreboard after Shakira and J-Lo put on a show at halftime and the legendary Andy Reid will finally get his first Lombardi Trophy.

My prediction is the 49ers win 31-27. Defense wins championships, and I think they have the best one in the NFL. I agree with Issac that the Chiefs need to force Garoppolo to win with his arm, but I think the San Francisco receivers are better than the Kansas City secondary. Mahomes will play well, but the Niners will get a stop in the fourth quarter to win. This could definitely go either way, and it should be one of the most exciting games in a while. If you don’t have a team to cheer for, former Towson quarterback and coach Brian Fleury is a defensive assistant for San Francisco. 

Super Bowl 54 will be broadcasted on FOX with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman on the call. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 2 from Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.

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