This isn't the first time the Kansas City Chiefs have faced a strong defensive unit in the Super Bowl.
Though it has been 50 years.
The Chiefs' pass-centered offensive attack that averaged 379 yards going against the San Francisco 49ers defense that allowed an NFL-low 169 passing yards is one of the key matchups in Super Bowl LIV tonight in Miami.
“I think that’s pretty obvious, but it’s obvious for a reason,” said Kendall Gammon, the analyst on the Chiefs Radio Network. “Four of the five rushers up front for San Francisco are former first-round picks. There is some royalty there, some guys who can get after the QB. Of course, you have the (2018) MVP in Patrick Mahomes offensively and what they’ve done in the playoffs. That makes for a good matchup.
"This looks to be one of the most evenly matched Super Bowls we’ve seen in quite some time, which is awesome. You want to see a good game. Of course, I want to see the Chiefs come out with the win, but it’s going to be whichever team makes the least amount of mistakes, doesn’t turn the ball over. When it comes down to it, it’s just another football game. It’s just the only one being played, and the prize is a lot bigger this time.”
Mahomes, who burst onto the scene with 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns passing during his MVP season a year ago, saw his numbers go down this season in part because he missed two-plus games with injuries. Still, he threw for 4,031 yards and 26 TDs with just five interceptions.
His playoff performances have been even better, engineering second-quarter comebacks from deficits of 24-0 against Houston and 10-0 against Tennessee to lead at halftime in both games. He's passed for 615 yards, eight touchdowns and zero interceptions, and he's rushed for a team-high 106 yards. His 27-yard scramble up the sideline for the go-ahead score against the Titans will likely be one of the signature plays of his career.
Looking at the other side of the ball, the 49ers certainly can score points — winning a 48-46 shootout at New Orleans and averaging 32 points in playoff victories over Minnesota and Green Bay. While quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo threw only eight passes in the NFC Championship victory over Green Bay, he had almost 4,000 yards and 27 touchdowns passing in the regular season.
But the running game has been the 49ers' bread and butter, accounting for 71% of the team's total yards in two postseason games after averaging an NFC-best 144 yards in the regular season. Running back Raheem Mostert was virtually unstoppable against the Packers with 220 yards and four TDs after starter Tevin Coleman exited with a shoulder injury.
The Chiefs defense showed big improvement both overall and against the run in the six-game winning streak to end the regular season. The Chiefs allowed 68 points in the last six games — 21 in the finale against the Chargers — after yielding at least 23 points in seven of the first 10 games.
“I think they started to understand (defensive coordinator) Steve Spagnuola’s schemes better and understand what he was trying to do,” said Gammon, who is also the special assistant to the president at Pittsburg (Kansas) State University. “I think Steve started calling things a little more aggressive as he got more comfortable. He talked about it in the offseason (when) you saw the guys running around but you can’t see them hit. He wasn’t really able to completely evaluate what was going on until he saw them in training camp, but even then, there’s not a ton of (hitting).
“I think he was still evaluating as the regular season started ... mixing and matching and figuring out what schemes matched the personnel. He’s very big on it’s not his defensive schemes; it’s looking at the personnel and creating defensive schemes that fit the personnel he has. I think that just took a little while for both sides to be creative. I thought it would happen a lot quicker, so I was wrong. But all the same, once it did click, it clicked really, really well.”
The Chiefs are in the Super Bowl for the first time since a 23-7 victory in Super Bowl IV over Minnesota and its dominant "Purple People Eaters" defense.
“It’s been an interesting season,” Gammon said. “It’s 12-4, and they got back to the AFC Championship and won it this time but certainly not in the fashion that I think we all would have envisioned coming into the season. There was a lot of character built with all the injuries the Chiefs had to deal with this year.
"And it’s no small task as a head coach to manage that like ‘Big Red’ has. You have to give (Andy Reid) credit because he is a CEO. He could run any large company. He gets it. It’s fun to watch, fun to be around.”