Okay, faithful, it’s Super Bowl week, and we’re in Miami. That means you already know why you’re here and what we’re doing is we’ve been doing it all season. You should also already know the playbook. But I’m one for fluency, so we’ll briefly go through it again. Every ride up until now has prepared us for this.
This ride is a culmination of every ride before this one. So, with my chest out and with all the confidence and enthusiasm in the world, I say, welcome back to the Silverado, for our Super Bowl ride. That said, buckle up because I’m about to hit this gas so we can get to the stadium! If not, and you end up with our face on the dashboard, don’t look at me crazy because you’ve received the safety brief.
Okay, enough of all that. This is it faithful! This is the last ride! Question is, will it be in victory or defeat? Truthfully and being non-bias, I wholeheartedly feel the 49ers should win this game.
I don’t care what you’ve seen TV, social media, or read on social media about this high scoring and relay team fast Chiefs offense. One thing is fact, not fiction. Defense wins championships! It just so happens, the 49ers happen to have the best one. In addition, they’re healthy and have shown up in the playoffs thus far.
Now that this 49ers defense has reformed Voltron so to speak, with the return of Dee Ford, Kwon Alexander, and Jaquiski Tartt, Head Coach Kyle Shanahan, General Manager John Lynch, and the team can put together the best game plan on defense to attack and slow down Patrick Mahomes and that Kansas City offense.
Actually, I’ll reword that. The goal should be to keep Mahomes off the field altogether. Meaning force them off the field with lockdown defense, then keeping them off the field displaying the brilliance (versatility) of Shanahan on offense controlling the clock while scoring points. The 49ers execute, they win this game. Let’s talk about what I see as the keys to victory.
Maintain defensive (intensity) identity
Thus far this season, the 49ers defense has faced the likes of its share of mobile quarterbacks (Russel Wilson twice, Kyle Murray twice, Lamar Jackson) and even some that may not be categorized as a running threat but mobile enough to move the chains with their legs and move the pocket using play-action (PA) or bootlegs, like Aaron Rodgers.
Even Jared Goff, under Sean McVay, had some success getting the 49ers defense to bite backside (over commit to the run) on PA/bootlegs, and using their quarterback to scramble for yards and find open receivers for chunk yardage at times.
Despite missing key pieces from their defense, namely, their pass rush, Robert Saleh, and the defense never got blitz-happy to compensate. They continued to play their game, maintain their identity rushing with four (and at times five), and used timely blitzes to confuse and hurry the opposing QB’s. They also changed up and disguised coverage to keep offenses off balance.
Patrick Mahomes torched the blitz last season with a 93.2 passing grade, highest in the NFL! pic.twitter.com/PjzPoCM6Ye— PFF (@PFF) June 17, 2019
The numbers show Mahomes is the best in the business vs. the blitz as his 93.2% success rate led the league. Be that as it may, he can be neutralized, and the 49ers defense doesn’t need to blitz a lot to do so. But when they did so, they were #1 in the league and blitzed in a number of ways, including with nickel cornerback (NCB) K’waun Williams.
.@49ers #K’WaunWilliams is the “Nickel” CB for the #49ers and it’s a role that is vital to their success in all phases having played 79/109 defensive snaps in the post season. Could be a higher % v @chiefs. #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/Ld72Ag22NS— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) January 28, 2020
Look to see more of Williams Super Bowl Sunday as the Chief use three and four receivers quite often, which means the nickel package will be in full effect. This bodes well for the 49ers defense, though, so this trend of timely blitzes needs to continue if they want to mix up looks and keep Mahomes guessing and running simultaneously.
For the 49ers to only blitz 140 times and be ranked 25th in blitz rate but got home on 71% of the time with said blitzes is huge, especially since Mahomes has been lights out vs. the blitz. Even without blitzing, the 49ers defense has done very well with getting pressure and hurries.
Getting to Mahomes is the key to beating KC & #49ers are the team that can do it— Al Sacco (@AlSacco49) January 20, 2020
SF had the highest regular season hurry percentage at 14.7% & the 2nd highest pressure percentage at 28.7%
In the playoffs, SF has 9 sacks & 26 hurries
In 18 games the Niners have 57 sacks
Yes, Mahomes has Speedy receivers in Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardeman, and Sammy Watkins. And yes, he has all-pro Travis Kelce (aka the second-best tight end in the league) to throw to as options for explosive (meaning plays of 20+ yards) plays.
So what! Just so happens this defense did a great job at limiting those type plays.
This defense also has a group of linebackers that can fly around and cover as well.
All three of the 49ers linebackers are top 15 in coverage grade among LBs with at least 30 targets (including playoffs)— PFF SF 49ers (@PFF_49ers) January 27, 2020
9 Fred Warner: 78.5
10 Kwon Alexander: 78.3
14 Dre Greenlaw: 72.7 pic.twitter.com/lzqHwDBtS3
Bottom line, this defense has to tools to get after Mahomes with the front four without blitzes and cover at the second (linebackers) and third (secondary) levels. As I said, when I started this topic, maintain your defensive (intensity) identity.
I don’t care how much speed he has in his playmakers if his eyes are on the rush and looking for escape routes instead of downfield for the open man, those playmakers are obsolete as sharks surround him. It’s difficult to look downfield when you’re being chased from behind by sharks and trying to avoid them right in your face.
It’s going to look like they have him locked in an escape room in the middle of the Atlantic ocean during shark week with Nick Bosa, Ford, DeForrest Buckner, and Arik Armstead looking to feast. Let’s do it one more time, fellas! If you get your hands on him, he needs to go down, finish the play! GET HIM TO THE GROUND!
Speaking of edge pressure, I’m sure Ford is more than ready to show why miscues on his part, leading to a trade to the 49ers, will lead to his direct impact on the pass rush.
The key to Dee Ford's success as a pass rusher?— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) January 29, 2020
Ford wins with elite first step quickness, as measured by "pass rush get-off", which represents the time it takes for a pass rusher to cross the line of scrimmage after the snap.#SBLIV | #GoNiners pic.twitter.com/FqOvINmGX7
The 49ers pass rush has underachieved when one their starting DL has been off the field, most notably without Dee Ford.— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) January 29, 2020
The @49ers defense generates +11.5% more pressure when Dee Ford is on the field (34.2%) compared to off the field (22.7%).#SBLIV | #GoNiners pic.twitter.com/iJnwOBOiwD
Ford’s impact is real. Look for him to have his best game yet!
Offensive line: Control the line of scrimmage
No other way to say this. This is the one game this unit needs to dominate from start to finish, inside and out! Starting with very confident Frank Clark on the edge.
Frank Clark. Enjoy. Trust me.— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) January 20, 2020
I'll give TEN credit, they did try to run at Frank Clark. They listened. Unfortunately for them, Clark absolutely manhandled Jack Conklin. Clark stacks, holds edge. Give credit to Wilson too, good job getting outside on that zone block, not allowing center to push pic.twitter.com/SFUgwU2Iwy— Nate Christensen (@natech479) January 21, 2020
Frank Clark's second-half resurgence has ignited the pass rush as the Chiefs have headed into the postseason. One of the memorable plays of the season he gets a tremendous jump off the snap to bend the corner and get to Brady. His relentless play has lead the D @ArrowheadLive pic.twitter.com/uQ2nN0qHts— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) January 29, 2020
This play deserved its own tweet @ArrowheadLive This is sick. There is no question Frank Clark is healthy now. 4 sacks in two postseason games. As Lewan goes to play the spin Clark comes speeding back around the edge off the fake spin to send the Chiefs to the Super Bowl. pic.twitter.com/rCGoIHeIE4— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) January 22, 2020
So, we’ve learned a couple of things here with these clips of Clark. He’s very confident in his abilities, he can get after the passer and set the edge vs. the run, he leads the league in postseason sacks (4) thus far, and well he’s clearly delusional as he thinks the Chiefs are the best defense right now. As I digress.
No question Clark is very talented and can have an impact on the game, that’s known information. Newsflash: The 49ers are aware of this as well. Whether lined up over left tackle Joe Staley (who’s been playing great football recently) or right tackle Mike McGlinchey, I’m positive there is a plan in place to keep him in check.
This unit has seen the likes of edge rushers Za’Darius and Preston Smith (Green Bay Packers), and Everson Griffen, and Danielle Hunter (Minnesota Vikings) as well and did a good job preventing them from wrecking the game. No reason why they can’t do the same lined up across from Clark. The best of Shanahan’s run and blocking schemes has yet to be seen.
The interior offensive line will also have their work cut out for them as they have to contain defensive tackle, Chris Jones.
Chris Jones steps up huge. Defeats a double team as he shifts into a 3 tech. Suggs has a great get off and is able to run down Henry who hesitated due to Jones taking on the double team and there not being much of a gap. As the game went on the Chiefs DL started to take control. pic.twitter.com/psuYUmVBcF— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) January 22, 2020
(Excuse the technical error)— Nate Christensen (@natech479) January 22, 2020
Chris Jones absolutely ate the lunches of Nate Davis and Rodger Safford, getting in the backfield and with pressure continuously
After being beat up by bigger guys like Nnadi and Pennel, you get to deal with a fresh Jones
That wouldn't be fun pic.twitter.com/Akmcg3M6kT
Again, while Jones is an impact player from his defensive tackle position, this unit has faced Aaron Donald twice this year, and as they did with other elite edge rushers, they held their own and prevented them from dominating the game.
Just another week, they have to be great. One more game hogs, one more game. So long as the offensive line keeps a body on these guys and on their side of the line of scrimmage, the offense will take care of the rest.
A very balanced offense
You know, it’s funny. It seems like regardless of how the 49ers win the media, haters, and naysayers find a way to talk about how they didn’t win. Not that they lost, but how they didn’t win. I can’t make this up.
Though the passing game hasn’t needed to be the focal point thus far in the playoffs, let’s not forget how Jimmy and this offense can throw the ball around the field and effectively.
Two games into the postseason, the 49ers are 2-0 and have one game left to play, 3-0 coming soon. Even if it means the win comes as a result of another big day from the run game. Here is a clip of how they’ve won but still didn’t get it done through two playoff games.
In the postseason, three 49ers have scored touchdowns (Raheem Mostert 4, Tevin Coleman 2, Kendrick Bourne 1), and a host of others have contributed. Just because their contributions don’t show up on the stat sheet, doesn’t mean they didn’t happen. The best part, all the receivers love to block and are quite good at it.
Though Shanahan can dial-up both passing and running plays, after Mostert shredded the Packers defense to the tune of 220 yards and 4 TD’s, one would assume Kansas City will make it a point to shut down the 49ers high powered run game. Speaking of Mostert.
That’s where the genius of Shanahan comes in. Even his passing plays look like run plays and vice versa. What’s also impressive, is due to the formations looking the same and using the same personnel at times, the defense doesn’t know what’s coming.
Run plays, motion, and shifts. Pass plays, motion, and shifts. I wouldn’t be surprised if he used motion and shifts just to run the clock down or out.
Any player on the field can touch the ball either via pass or run at any given time, and all a defense can do is react. This Sunday, I expect to see a number of his playmakers touch the ball at different points in the game. Whether it be Deebo Samuel, Emmanual Sanders, Bourne, Kittle, don’t matter. I expect to see Shanahan in full attack mode and in a variety of ways keeping the defense off balance.
Will GREAT Jimmy, please stand up
Jimmy Garappolo only completed six passes in the NFC Championship game; Jimmy G can’t win the game if the 49ers need him to, Jimmy G is a liability. Just a few things that’s been said about Jimmy G all season, especially leading up to the Super Bowl.
The most important part of what I just said, “Super Bowl.” That said, here’s a look at how Jimmy G didn’t come through for his team in the clutch or didn’t make big throws this season along with some key numbers.
Jimmy Garoppolo had a 74.2% adjusted completion percentage on deep balls durnig the 2019 regular season.— PFF SF 49ers (@PFF_49ers) January 16, 2020
The next closest QB is at 54%
.#49ers #ChicksDigTheLongBall pic.twitter.com/Uiil3wCYHS
Jimmy Garoppolo didn't throw deep often this year, but was successful when he did.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 7, 2020
Only 6% of his throws were 20+ yards downfield this season (lowest in NFL).
But he completed 66% of those passes (19-of-29), the best for any qualified QB since ESPN began tracking that in 2006. pic.twitter.com/Nvpu9HDQ3O
I’ve been one record discussing the Good Jimmy vs. Bad Jimmy (shout out the homie Grant Cohn) dichotomy a number of times as he has had his moments where you really wonder just what he was doing or looking at. Fact of the matter is, Good Jimmy has been more present than Bad Jimmy. We’ve even seen Great Jimmy during the season.
Great Jimmy, in my eyes, is not throwing careless interceptions that were the result of a bad decision, putting the ball on the ground being stripped in the pocket, or sitting on reads and taking a sack.
Throw. The Ball. It should be coming out now but Jimmy pats it and takes another hitch before releasing it. That’s what I mean when I say “speed up his processes.” Just let it fly. pic.twitter.com/3fRlHkEmhy— KP (@KP_Show) January 22, 2020
Speaking of sitting on reads or holding onto the ball, the above can’t happen in the Super Bowl. Get the ball to him, Jimmy, he’s open.
In his defense, though, we’ve watched him make plays at different points in time throughout the season. So what he isn’t a fantasy (stat) monster, he gets the job done more often than not.
I, for one, would have no problem with Jimmy not having a career day in the Super Bowl, so long as he doesn’t turn the ball over and completes the passes, he’s asked to resulting in a win, that’s Great Jimmy. I’m sure the time will come where his number will be called, and he’s forced to throw.....
Yeah, I’m good with that and I’m sure he’ll be ready. Let’s go Jimmy, you got this and we’re with you. One more game!
As I’ve said repeatedly, fans lie, analysts lie, numbers don’t. Just look at the numbers. Flawed or not, Jimmy has come up big and when its counted most. Keep blocking out the noise but using it as motivation Jimmy.
I’ll leave this subject where it is after this, but again just look at the numbers. This offense and Jimmy gets it done not just shredding defenses with the run, but also by passing the ball. Is it Sunday yet?
I see Jimmy having a solid game regardless of what he’s asked to do. And in the event he needs to put up MVP type numbers, he’s very capable and the Chiefs defense will get torched if they sell out vs the run!
We’ve arrived: Time to go win a Super Bowl
This is it faithful, the time is now and it’s our time! Let’s go finish off this special season with a special display of 49ers football all the way around. On defense, between the multiple games vs offenses/QB’s that can scramble/move the pocket with bootlegs, and this defense now being healthy, I see no reason why the dominance doesn’t continue as they’ve seen it before and ready for it. Dee Ford Super Bowl MVP? How fitting would that be?
On offense, continue to attach them with the run along with timely PA passes gashing them when they bite on the run. Work the middle of the field taking advantage of the Chiefs mediocre at best linebackers. In the process of working the middle, keep Tyrann Mathieu busy and guessing. Mathieu is the heart of this Chiefs defense and is a game change no doubt. Plenty motion and forcing him to cover should do the trick. Go dominate one more time! GO NINERS!