Sunday marks 1,470 days since the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV in 2020.
In that time, plenty has stayed the same — both teams have the same coaches — and plenty has changed — the Chiefs were just a team with a young quarterback in 2019, now seeking a dynasty against a team with a young quarterback. The similarities and differences continue into both teams’ rosters, with four seasons worth of turnover since the first Super Bowl matchup.
Of the 44 combined starters from Super Bowl LIV, 12 will play on Sunday in Las Vegas for Super Bowl LVIII, with seven players still on the 49ers from 2019 and four on the Chiefs. Defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi would have been a fifth, but he was placed on injured reserve after a triceps injury a couple of weeks ago. Most of those players figure to make an impact on Sunday, including Nick Bosa, Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and Brandon Aiyuk, among others. One of the players, Mecole Hardman, left and returned in the four years, signing with the Jets over the offseason before being traded back to Kansas City in October.
However, only one of the 12 players will have played in Super Bowl LIV and LVIII in both teams’ uniforms, with Charvarius Ward taking those honors. After signing with Dallas after going undrafted in 2018, Ward was traded to Kansas City, where he only started two games in his rookie season before stepping into the starter role in 2019. Ward began to Super Bowl LIV in the Kansas City secondary across from Bashaud Breeland, playing on 98 percent of snaps against the San Francisco offense.
After establishing himself as a starting quality cornerback in his four seasons in Kansas City, Ward hit free agency after the 2021 season. The 49ers signed Ward to a three-year deal and made him their No. 1 cornerback, and in just two seasons, he’s established himself as one of the best corners in the league after receiving his first All-Pro honors this season.
With the Chiefs winning its second title in four years last season, Kansas City will potentially have 17 of its 22 starters — guard Joe Thuney has a chance to play despite a pec injury against Buffalo a couple of weeks ago — back for Sunday but who the 49ers have now compared to its last Super Bowl appearance is notable, to say the least. Brock Purdy, Christian McCaffrey, Brandon Aiyuk, and Trent Williams, among others, will play in their first Super Bowl in Las Vegas, all upgrades over their 2019 counterparts.
After playing in his first Super Bowl last season with Philadelphia, Javon Hargrave is another new addition compared to the 2019 season but will also be looking for revenge against Kansas City. Hargrave recorded a career-high 11 sacks last season with the Eagles, part of a pass rush that carried Philadelphia to the Super Bowl before falling to Mahomes and company. Now, with San Francisco, Hargrave will look for a different result against Kansas City — much like the 49ers — with his new team.