LAS VEGAS — It was exactly four years ago that the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers met in the Super Bowl, a game the Chiefs won, giving Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes his first Super Bowl win. It was a great match.
Since then, Mahomes has won one more, lost one more, and this week will try to become his third Super Bowl champion against the same 49ers organization he defeated four years ago.
I'm often asked what that first encounter means for this game.
Not so much.
The two teams had just 17 players combined in that game. But more importantly, take a look at the statistical leaders for that game.
The leading passers were Jimmy Garoppolo of the 49ers and Mahomes of the Chiefs. The leading rushers were Raheem Mostert of the 49ers and Damien Williams of the Chiefs. The top receivers in yards were Tyreek Hill of the Chiefs and Kendrick Bourne of the 49ers. There were four players with successful interceptions in this game. Three of those four players have left.
The only constant?
That's why I'm picking the Chiefs to beat the 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII, where Mahomes will win his third title, and win back-to-back championships, giving Tom Brady notice that he's coming.
Kansas City Chiefs (+2) vs. San Francisco 49ers
Sunday, 6:30pm ET (CBS, Nickelodeon, Paramount+)
This Chiefs team hasn't been the flashy offensive team we've come to expect from Mahomes, but he has had major offensive issues this season, including poor tackling play and receivers not being able to hold onto the ball. I found a way to solve it. football. Now, his team stands on the precipice of history.
The Chiefs are the first to win back-to-back titles since the New England Patriots and Brady did it in 2003 and 2004.
Mahomes hasn't put up big numbers in the playoffs, but he's consistently talented and has made big plays when needed without making a mistake. Game manager? It's unlikely. But he never threw a pick in three postseason games and was sacked just three times behind a leaky offensive line. That's working great so far.
That's not to say Mahomes can't get hot and lead this team, even if he has his problems. We know he can do it. However, against a 49ers defense that gave up 5.6 points per rush in the playoffs, I think the Chiefs will use Isaiah Pacheco to start moving the football in this game. The 49ers are being squeezed in by the green-pay Packers and Detroit Lions, trying to avoid giving up runs, but getting beaten. Andy Reid is smart and knows that's where he needs to attack.
On the other side of the ball, the Chiefs have the best defense of the Mahomes era. Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is one of the best players in postseason history, but he faces a tough challenge against the 49ers' high-scoring offense. Spagnuolo likes to use flashy looks a lot, but if he does, you can bet the 49ers will use Christian McCaffrey to attack it. The Chiefs, like the 49ers, are vulnerable to runs, and will become even more so if they don't play better base defense.
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And 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy will be playing in his first Super Bowl. This game could be his true proof moment for those who still have doubts. He's been really good this season, and his name has been mentioned a little bit in the MVP conversation. In the 49ers' two postseason wins, he showed great improvement on drives late in games. That's how quarterbacks are defined, even if they sometimes struggle in those games.
Purdy has been outstanding against the league's No. 1 blitz this year, so Spagnuolo will have to get creative with how he uses him. The Chiefs' secondary is a defensive strength, and its disguise and slow rotation could play a big part in deterring Purdy.
Early on, we could see the two teams playing the football against weak rushing defenses. The match will end late. But ultimately it will be Mahomes' era.
I understand that now. The 49ers led by three points, 20-17, with 2:20 left in the game and Mahomes had the ball in his own 25, giving him two timeouts. From there, Mahomes pulled off another moment of magic, surgically cutting through the 49ers defense to give the Chiefs the winning touchdown despite a field goal tying the game.
This gives Mahomes three Super Bowl wins and one loss in a big game in his six years as a starter. He played briefly in the other two games, blowing a 21-3 lead against the Bengals, whom they lost in the playoffs, and having an interception that could have defeated the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game negated by an offside penalty. I could have done it too.
The man is on a mission. Their mission is to beat Brady, the greatest quarterback of all time. But let's go bigger than that. He may be on his way to becoming the next Michael Jordan. He leaves stars without rings in his path and builds them up as the great man who accomplishes it.
He's certainly highly rated, but does anyone doubt Patrick Mahomes? Of course not.
choose: Chiefs 24, 49ers 20
Who will win Chiefs vs. 49ers in the 2024 Super Bowl? And what are the key X factors that make either side of the spread a must-have? Visit SportsLine now to watch Chiefs vs. 49ers Find out which team will take the biggest hit from our experts, who have an impressive 22-5 record with picks involving San Francisco.