Feb 1, 2020 - Sports

The best players on the field for Super Bowl LIV

Photo: David Eulitt/Getty Images

Patrick Mahomes plays the QB position unlike anyone else. Between the sidearm slings, the no-look passes and the weaving scrambles, he's made so many ridiculous throws that there is an entire glossary of them.

The intrigue: Mahomes is the poster child for the multi-sport athlete, and his rapid rise supports several studies that have shown athletes who play multiple sports in their youth require less time to become elite in the game they ultimately choose.

What they're saying: "From just the way he looks at the field, it's similar to what a basketball player would see. … Sometimes it looks like he's going to backhand a ball and he's throwing across the diamond," said his high school football coach, Adam Cook.

Photo: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Jimmy Garoppolo has not been asked to do much this postseason (17-27, 208 yds, TD, INT), but don't be fooled into thinking he's merely a "game manager."

By the numbers: When called upon to win games through the air, Garoppolo came through time and time again this year, tying for the league lead in fourth-quarter comebacks and notching an NFL-best QBR of 84.0 in the fourth quarter of games within one score.

What to watch: Garoppolo's receivers rave about the catchability of his passes, a QB trait that often goes underappreciated. "Man, it's great," WR Deebo Samuel told The Athletic (subscription). "You really get the ball the same way every time."

Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Tyrann Mathieu has done it all for the Chiefs this season and is one of the few truly position-less defenders in the NFL (look at this activity map! He's everywhere!).

What to watch: The 49ers motion opponents to death on offense, making communication within the defense paramount, and "The Honey Badger" is Kansas City's undeniable leader and top communicator.

Nick Bosa, who grew up in nearby Fort Lauderdale and will likely be named the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year tomorrow, is already the face of the 49ers' defense.

  • By the numbers: Bosa was credited with 8o quarterback pressures (sacks, hits and hurries) in 2019, the sixth-most among all edge rushers and the most ever recorded by a rookie in the history of the stat.
  • Fun fact: Bosa's great-grandfather was Tony Accardo, aka Joe Batters, a notorious Chicago mobster who worked closely with Al Capone.

More key players:

  • Tight end battle: Travis Kelce is the sleek "Mercedes" in Kansas City's wide-open offense, while George Kittle is the off-road "truck" in San Francisco's more run-heavy scheme.
  • Hill vs. Sherman: Richard Sherman will have his hands full trying to contain Tyreek Hill. How the 49ers use him (zone vs. man) will be indicative of their overall game plan.
  • The fullback wrinkle: Kyle Juszczyk will force the Chiefs to use certain defensive personnel that they might not want to put out there.

Go deeper:

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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.

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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.

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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