Jan 21, 2020

Setting the scene for Super Bowl LIV

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

After a grueling four months of football, Patrick Mahomes has led the Chiefs out of the darkness and into the Miami sun, where the 49ers football machine awaits them in the Super Bowl.

What to know ... "The Gunslinger": Mahomes is 24 years old, arguably the best player in football and he just toppled Tom Brady as the top seller of NFL merchandise. A star has already been born — now he has the biggest stage in sports to showcase his brilliance.

  • By the numbers: Through four career playoff games, Mahomes has 11 TD and zero picks, giving him the highest QB rating in postseason history since the merger.
  • Go deeper: "You cannot tell the story of Mahomes in 2020 without his head coach, Andy Reid, and vice versa. Mahomes would likely still be special playing for another coach, but the beautiful thing for football fans is that we do not have to find out." (The Ringer)

"The Super Bowl of Speed"

Kansas City and San Francisco got here using different blueprints (old coach who likes to pass vs. young coach who likes to run), but they share something far more fundamental: "They're both fast. Really, really fast," write WSJ's Andrew Beaton and Jim Chairusmi.

  • The Chiefs' offense is built around spreading the field and giving its quickest players space to operate, and four of their five WRs ran 40-yard dash times faster than 4.5 seconds.
  • The 49ers' defense is built to counteract these exact types of offenses, with the team spending a first-round pick on a speedy defensive lineman in four of the last five drafts.

Starving vs. spoiled

This is the Chiefs' first Super Bowl appearance in 50 years and second overall. The 49ers, meanwhile, will be playing in their seventh and are one win away from tying the Steelers and Patriots for most Super Bowl wins.

  • Kansas City major pro sports this century: The Royals have appeared in the World Series twice, losing in 2014 and winning in 2015.
  • Bay Area major pro sports this century: The Giants have won three World Series (and lost one), the Warriors have won three NBA Finals (and lost two), the 49ers have appeared in two Super Bowls, the Raiders have played in a Super Bowl and the Sharks have played in the Stanley Cup Final.

Unheralded running backs

  • Raheem Mostert (SF), undrafted out of Purdue and cut by six NFL teams, became the first player to rush for 200 yards and four TD in a playoff game last week. With Tevin Coleman injured, he'll likely be making his first career NFL start in the Super Bowl.
  • Damien Williams (KC), an undrafted Dolphins castoff who was thrust into the starting job a year ago following Kareem Hunt's suspension, has nine career playoff TDs, tying Terrell Davis and Larry Fitzgerald for the most in a player's first five postseason games.

More:

  • Kittle vs. Kelce: San Francisco's George Kittle and Kansas City's Travis Kelce are the best tight ends in football and two of the league's most colorful personalities.
  • Reid vs. Shanahan: Andy Reid has more wins than any coach who has not won a Super Bowl, and Kyle Shanahan has a chance to join his father, Mike, as the first father-son duo to win Super Bowls as head coaches.
  • Red-on-red: This is the first time that two teams with red as a primary color will meet in the Super Bowl. The AFC is the designated home team (it alternates every year), so the Chiefs will wear red, while the 49ers will be in white jerseys with gold pants.
  • Flipped the script: The 49ers join the 1988 Bengals and 1999 Rams as the only teams to reach the Super Bowl a year after winning four or fewer games.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

What the Super Bowl coaches are saying ahead of the game

Photo: David Eulitt/Getty Images

Andy Reid, 61, hasn't been to the Super Bowl in 15 years and is the NFL's best coach to never win one, making him the sentimental favorite among neutral fans.

What he's saying: Did I mention he's quirky and hilarious? Yesterday, he compared having nine grandchildren to eating Chinese food: "They keep you young and at the same time make you feel old. It's kind of like sweet and sour pork."

Go deeperArrowFeb 1, 2020 - Sports

Special preview: Super Bowl LIV

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Super Bowl isn't just a football game. It's the halftime show; it's the ads; it's the seven-layer dip; it's the fact that, for four hours on Sunday night, nobody is expected to be doing anything else.

Why it matters: The Super Bowl is one of the last remnants of an era when we all watched the same things at the same time. It is the "live sport" of all live sports, which is currently the only form of content tethering many consumers to traditional TV.

Go deeperArrowFeb 1, 2020 - Sports

How the 49ers will try to stop the juggernaut Chiefs offense

Table: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Andy Reid has built an offensive juggernaut in Kansas City thanks to an otherworldly QB and the NFL's fastest group of receivers. He also happens to be the sport's most valuable play-caller.

By the numbers: The Chiefs scored on nearly half of their possessions this season, trailing only the Ravens. They also faced the third-fewest third downs of any team — and led the NFL in third-down conversion rate anyway.

Go deeperArrowFeb 1, 2020 - Sports