BAY AREA NEWS GROUP
Let’s face it, no one predicted the 49ers to be here. And yeah, it’s a bit unexpected for the 49ers to be playing in Super Bowl LIV.
But they did have the front office, veteran leadership, a top talent quarterback, and a wealth of depth on both sides of the ball.
Yet coming into Week 1, it was questioned whether this team can outduel Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And throughout the regular season, after many other questions to be answered and national analysts being put to shame, the NFC West was clinched as well as home-field advantage.
And come playoff time, Kirk Cousins shined against the New Orleans Saints which naturally put San Francisco in a prime upset position. The Niners defense had its best performance of the season. Aaron Rodgers will never get picked against in January, but he couldn’t get anything going for the second time at Levi’s Stadium.
Yet even in the buildup to Super Bowl LIV, the 49ers continue to be overlooked and play second fiddle to the Kansas City Chiefs. But why exactly should 49er fans continue to buy in or even listen to what is being put out.
In the 18 games that they have played, we’ve seen that this team is resilient, explosive and can win in many ways. The shootout in New Orleans, the comeback win against the Rams, and most recently, running the ball right down Green Bay’s defense in the NFC Championship.
Raheem Mostert began the year as the third running back on the depth chart, now he has become a household name who is running aggressive and patient. He has put Matt Breida in Kyle Shanahan’s doghouse and hid the key. But nobody should look at this as the end of Breida in a Niners jersey, it means that if his number is called come Sunday, he will take full advantage of it.
Jimmy Garoppolo will look to get his third ring, with this one more than likely to be flourished than the two from his time with New England. Criticism has followed Garoppolo this entire season like its shadow, no different in the playoffs. The pick thrown against Minnesota in the divisional round might have shown some nerves and it doesn’t help that his next game saw him throw eight passes.
His win-first attitude counters against all of the outside noise that is there just to rattle him. He has gone the entire season without any arrogance, showing he knows his role on this team and nobody should expect different on Sunday. When Garoppolo is needed, he will deliver
The return of Dee Ford this playoff run has proved his worth on this defense, another obstacle that Patrick Mahomes will look to escape. Even though Mahomes hasn’t played like his MVP self from last season, he has stepped up in the playoffs, despite his defense not showing up early on. The weapons they have across the board match up uniquely with the secondary of San Francisco. Their lack of a running game will be huge if Mahomes is unable to get big plays through the air.
On both rosters, the Super Bowl is new to a bunch of these players. It almost seems set up for Andy Reid to finally get his first Super Bowl in his 21st season as an NFL coach and Patrick Mahomes to have his coming out party in Miami. Yet I see the 49ers coming out on top for two reasons.
As mentioned before, Dee Ford along with Kwon Alexander has given the entire defense a spark. Nine sacks, three interceptions in two games speaks for itself. They are getting after the quarterback. If Mahomes is pressured early and often, their game plan might be over early.
Next is Jimmy Garoppolo. With all the running that has been displayed by Mostert and Tevin Coleman, I expected the defense of Kansas City to sell out everything to stop the run and make San Francisco to beat them through the air. I see Emmanuel Sanders and Deebo Samuel to have big plays off the slant routes and expose the Kansas City secondary. Do we see Tyrann Mathieu line up on George Kittle if so, does that play in favor or against Kittle? Regardless, it’s going to be won with Jimmy G throwing the damn ball.
A lot has happened in the seven seasons since we were here last. The fallout between Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke, the disasters that were Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly, so Sunday let’s all enjoy it for what it is. The 49ers have a chance to win their sixth Super Bowl title.