Today is America’s unofficial national holiday: it’s the Super Bowl, and it’s the 54th version of it.
Whitehouse’s own Patrick Mahomes, quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs, leads his team and represents the AFC against the San Francisco 49ers, the NFC team, and it kicks off at 5:30. Yes, if you’re like me, you’ll probably come in from church and turn on the 5 ½-hour pregame show – if you’re a normal person, you’ll probably turn it on sometime before they kick it off.
Locally, I know the rooting interest is behind Mahomes. I completely understand that, have no issue with it, more power to you if that’s the way you feel. I understand – the Dallas Cowboys used to play in these. That’s not a cheap shot. It’s just that the Cowboys’ owner seems to care more about winning and getting credit for it than he does about winning, period.
I digress. While most of you guys are rooting for the Chiefs, I’ll be on the other end. It’s not to be contrary. I’ve literally been a 49ers fan since I was eight or nine years old, and that’s a lot longer than I care to admit. Let’s just say disco was still “in” at that point and leave it at that, OK?
So, regardless of who we’re rooting for, who’s winning this thing?
Quite frankly, there’s a reason why the Las Vegas betting line (it was the Chiefs as a 1 ½ point favorite most of this week) is so close. The 49ers represent what most people think of as old-school football: run the ball and dominate the lines of scrimmage on both offense and defense, be able to pass the ball, and put pressure on the opposing quarterback to try and force a mistake.
The Chiefs? It’s time to throw it around, daddy. It’s wide-open, an offense that incorporates a running game only when it has to, with a defense capable of getting a stop here and there when they absolutely need to do so.
A lot of the national media has focused on Chiefs head coach Andy Reid as a sentimental figure here. Reid guided the Philadelphia Eagles to the Super Bowl back about 15 years ago, and was one of those NFC teams that had the unfortunate luck of running into the New England Patriots. Reid is among the league’s all-time winning coaches, and he’s got a good sense of humor. After the Chiefs beat Tennessee in the AFC title game, Reid was asked what he was doing to celebrate. “I’m going home to eat a cheeseburger and go to bed,” Reid quipped, and got a big laugh from reporters.
On the other end, Kyle Shanahan – the son of former Denver head coach (and Super Bowl-winner Mike) – ran into the Patriots, too, a couple of years ago as offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons. He managed to help get his team a 28-3 lead, only to see it squandered in the final minutes of the game, and lost. Shanahan obviously is looking for a little redemption here, although I seriously doubt he’s worried about a game played years ago. People don’t get this, I don’t think, but coaches don’t worry about and fret over those things. They very much live in the moment, and are focused on what needs to be done to win today.
So Mahomes – he of the 614 yards passing through two playoff games, something like 4,600 yards and 26 touchdowns this season – is just 24 years old, and his 49ers counterpart, Jimmy Garoppolo – who looks like Superman and is only 27 – may both get to do this a lot. Their teams are young, the front offices are smart, and their coaches are, too. A lot of people who get paid to analyze these things are saying this could be the first of several trips for both of these teams to the NFL’s biggest party.
Or, they could be like Dan Marino, the legendary quarterback of the Miami Dolphins in the 80’s and 90’s, who played in one Super Bowl game very early-on in his career, lost it, and never got back, although he’s thought of as one of the most talented to ever play.
San Francisco’s defense is probably the best in the league, but they’ve had problems against quarterbacks that can move, like Mahomes and Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. The 49ers are very good this year – they have three losses and all three came on either the final play, or in the final seconds.
If the Chiefs get up on the 49ers big early-on, I think it’s over. The 49ers are not built to come back. They’re built for brute-force, with a power running game. Do they have an impressive offense? They do, with a lot of misdirection and a tight end named George Kittle, who is probably the best in the game. Ironically, the other tight end considered to maybe be the best right now is Travis Kelce, who plays for the Chiefs.
And that’s where I think we are with this. If the 49ers go down big early, then the Chiefs are probably winning. If the 49ers can play ball control, leave Mahomes and his fast wide receivers and Kelce standing on the sidelines, and slow them down just a little – hold them to say 24 points instead of 34 – then the 49ers win. It would also help San Francisco’s cause of Kittle had a big day. Ditto for Kelce on the other side.
No lead is safe for the 49ers. We’ve seen Kansas City go down 24-0 (to Houston, in the playoffs) and come back and win. They trailed against Tennessee, as well. So if the 49ers go up 17-0, don’t turn it off.
I’m not going to go into all sorts of stats. I’m just going to make my prediction. Here it goes, with my head and not my heart.
Mahomes throws for 315, 320 yards, three touchdowns, an interception, and runs for another score. Garoppolo throws an interception, but also passes for 250 yards and a couple of scores, and San Francisco’s running backs, who are the difference in this game, net 180 yards rushing on the Chiefs’ defense.
San Francisco leads the game late, but they leave Mahomes too much time. The KC offense overcomes the 49ers’ defensive strength, the pass rush, because they’re tired. The Chiefs drive into field goal range, kick a long field goal – and miss. The 49ers run out the clock. Official prediction: 49ers 34, Chiefs 31.
Don’t hate me. It could very easily go the other way. Enjoy the game, enjoy the commercials, enjoy the snacks.
Happy Super Bowl day, everybody.