Feb 1, 2020 - Sports

How the 49ers offense deploys its zone-running scheme

Table: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Kyle Shanahan uses the same zone-running scheme that his father, Mike, used to lead the Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowls in the late 1990s.

Zone blocking, explained: Offensive linemen block a space instead of a person. This requires mobility (hence why San Francisco has the NFL's lightest O-line) and running backs who can get through holes quickly, rather than dance in the backfield à la Le'Veon Bell.

  • "For a lot of players, that approach requires unlearning years of what they've been taught," writes The Ringer's Danny Heifetz. "If less-heralded running backs pick up the system, they can earn the job — even if they've previously been cut six times." (See: Raheem Mostert.)

What they're saying: Future Hall of Fame LT Joe Thomas said Shanahan's scheme was his favorite offense he ever played in.

"It was like a computer program where everything was dichotomous; it was either a zero or a one and you knew exactly what you had to do on every single play and why."

On defense... The Chiefs have one of the worst run defenses in the NFL. Their best bet at disrupting San Francisco's attack is 311 pound DT Chris Jones, who will try to wreak havoc on the interior against an O-line built for speed not brawn.

The bottom line: The marquee matchup — Mahomes vs. the 49ers — may not end up being the decisive one, as the action on the other side of the ball reflects a bigger point of differentiation between the two teams.

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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."

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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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