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49ers mailbag: In your wildest dreams, did you expect a Super Bowl appearance this year?

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Answering five questions on the 49ers

NFL: JAN 19 NFC Championship - Packers at 49ers Photo by Kiyoshi Mio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We are a little over a week away from the biggest game this decade. The San Francisco 49ers have a chance to win a Super Bowl a year after winning four games. This team was a quarterback injury away from a Wildcard berth last season. Some key additions and added team speed transformed the Niners from a good team to a dominant one. We reached out for some questions leading up to the game, and here are some of the better ones.

Do we use a spy this game to stop Mahomes, ala Ravens v. 49ers to stop Kaepernick in ‘12 Superbowl?- Ryan

Absolutely not. Mahomes is a smart player. If he sees man coverage and has room to run, he’ll take off like any good quarterback will. If you watch his long touchdown run against the Titans in the AFC Championship, there was some peewee football level tackling from Tennesee’s secondary. Mahomes is a capable runner. He’s nowhere near the level of Lamar, Kap, or even Wilson. I’d be more worried about Mahomes extending the play, running around, and heaving it down the field than his legs.

How many games did you really expect SF to win at the start of the season? In your wildest dreams, did you imagine a super bowl appearance? Can this team make three more super bowl appearance in the 2020s?- Betstroke

My prediction was 8-8 or 9-7, I believe. There was no reason to think the injury bug would go away. It didn’t. I did not see Daniel Brunskill, Dre Greenlaw, Emmanuel Moseley, Ben Garland, Marcel Harris, and a handful of other players filling in without much of a drop-off. The depth on this team was tested, and they passed with flying colors.

I didn’t. I thought a perfect scenario would be a playoff win in the Wildcard. Richard Sherman returned to his All-Pro form, Jimmie Ward stayed healthy and played at a Pr Bowl level, the top two rookies looked like future stars, and the addition of Emmanuel Sanders opened up the offense. The defensive line being juggernauts most of the season helped.

That’s a great question. People thought the Rams and Eagles would be the powerhouse of the NFC when they made the Super Bowl, but the “hangover” after is real, and there are so many moving parts in this sport that it’s tough to maintain greatness. This team is built to last, though. The core of this team is relatively young, so I can see the 49ers being consistently good, which gives you a shot to get to the big game every year.

When will the national media give Jimmy G the credit he deserves? Not saying he is a HOFer yet but the dude can play and lead.- Jim

James, if this is you, George is going to roast you for having a burner account. But seriously, this has been peak “moving the goalposts.” We have evidence from the entire regular season showing that Garoppolo can lead the Niners to a win. You know about the Saints and the Rams late in the season. Against the Falcons, Garoppolo led the offense on an eight-play, 50-yard drive to give San Francisco a five-point lead. He didn’t let Julio Jones score. It also feels like he is being penalized for the 49ers getting out to big leads.

I think it’s fair to have questions about Jimmy G without going to the extreme of saying, “he’s holding the team back.”

What are the top two things our D line has to do to stop Mahomes? We’ve had trouble all year w/mobile QBs, and he’s one of the best, if not the best. We’re healthier, but based on those games, how concerned are we that our edge rushers will over pursue? Or did we learn our lesson?- Aaron

Bosa has had issue keeping contain this season, so that’s something to keep an eye on. Kansas City isn’t a big rollout, bootleg team, so that shouldn’t be an issue. One of the problems you run into when you stunt, loop, and twist as much as the 49ers do is you get out of position and open up lanes to run for the quarterback. So San Francisco will need to rush under control and stay in their rushing lanes.

It’s been a disciplined defensive line all season. Dee Ford is the one guy that will rush with speed and get behind where the quarterback sets up to throw. That’s not a bad thing as it forces the quarterback to climb the pocket right into DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, and Nick Bosa. I’m not too concerned with over-pursuing from a dropback standpoint. I would be on any reverses, jet sweeps, or motion plays that give the illusion the ball is going back one way when it’s really coming back the other way.

To answer your question, rush with discipline and rush under control.

What changes will KC’s 26th ranked run defense make to try to stop our ground attack?- Notorious OMB

One thing about the Packers was they were stubborn. Mike Pettine refused to make changes, and Shanahan and company took advantage. The Chiefs are 29th in DVOA against the run, 28th in adjusted line yards, and allow a 50% success rate against the run since Week 10. I think the Chiefs stopping Derrick Henry in the manner that they did is the best thing that could happen to the 49ers. Kansas City plays a 3-4 defense with two-high safeties on early downs. The runs they were able to stop were more mess-ups by Tennessee. The Titan’s tight ends (they don’t use a fullback) didn’t do a very good job of blocking. George Kittle and Kyle Juszczyk are objectively the best in the business at blocking. Watching both games, I don’t see how the 49ers struggle to move the ball, despite what the talking heads will tell you on TV.

Teams have been slow to load the box against San Francisco because they fear the play-action passing game of the 49ers. I’d imagine once the Niners have success running the ball, we see more Tyrann Mathieu near the line of scrimmage to disrupt what the offense wants to do.