MIAMI – During Game 2 of the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship game, Patrick Mahomes attempted nine passes.
In the NFC Championship game, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo threw eight passes throughout the game.
When the Chiefs and 49ers reunite for Super Bowl LIV in South Florida, which can be streamed live on the Yahoo Sports app, it will be one of the most intriguing Super Bowl matchups in a while. Both teams were very good in the regular season and made it through the playoffs. The 49ers are trying to break a 26-year drought without winning a Super Bowl. The Chiefs haven’t even attended a Super Bowl in 50 years.
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They come to the Super Bowl with very different approaches.
The 49ers play retro style
It’s too simple to portray Chiefs vs. 49ers as a matchup between the hit, high-scoring team that matches the modern NFL and a team that relies on an old-fashioned, heavy-handed approach. The Chiefs run the ball pretty well and their defense has improved, and the 49ers threw for 3,792 yards in the regular season. But there is some truth in the story.
The 49ers want to run the ball. They were second in the NFL in rushing attempts and yards, and first in rushing touchdowns. The Baltimore Ravens, who got 176 carries and 1,206 rushing yards from quarterback Lamar Jackson, are the only team that relied more on the run. The 49ers were so dominant in the playoffs that Garoppolo threw just 27 passes for 208 yards in two playoff games.
Kyle Shanahan has an offensive system similar to the one that succeeded his father, Mike. The 49ers want to run the ball to set up the pass. And if you can’t stop the run, the 49ers will continue to ground the ball. They have tremendous defense, so this style makes sense for them. Against the Packers in the NFC title game, Raheem Mostert rushed for 220 yards and four touchdowns, and the defense made sure the early lead was never threatened. The 49ers barely threw the ball because they didn’t have to.
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In some ways, the 49ers could mirror the Dolphins of 1972 and 1973. In four of the Dolphins’ five playoff games that season, quarterback Bob Griese threw for 11 or fewer passes and failed to break for 88 passing yards. The Dolphins have won back-to-back Super Bowls, letting the running game and defense do the work.
The 49ers are a little more open than that, but it’s a decidedly old-school approach that should appeal to fans who like to reminisce about the good old days.
Chiefs rely on their great quarterback
The Chiefs like to throw the ball, and that makes sense considering they have Patrick Mahomes at quarterback.
Kansas City was fifth in the NFL in passing yards and touchdowns, and that was with Mahomes missing two games and most of a third with a knee injury. Kansas City finished 27th in the NFL in rush attempts despite going 12-4. Most teams run the ball more when they have a lead.
It works for chefs. Kansas City’s defense improved and played well after its bye week, but it’s still a team that wants to score a lot and hopes the defense makes some key plays and saves. The Chiefs aren’t on the same level defensively as the 49ers, but they don’t need to be. Kansas City has been in the NFL’s top six in points and yards for three straight seasons and led in both categories last season. The defense just has to be pretty good, and it has been lately.
The Chiefs are adapting to the changes of the modern game. They have a great passing offense and rely on it a lot. Kansas City has no problem trying to beat opponents in a shootout. That seems to be the way the NFL game is going, although not every team is lucky enough to have a Mahomes at quarterback.
The 49ers are proof that there’s more than one way to win in the NFL. Great defense and a productive running game can always put a team on the doorstep of a Super Bowl title. The same goes for a very open passing game with a defense that has improved but is still in the middle of the pack. Super Bowl LIV should be a fascinating contrast of styles.
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