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How 49ers can mitigate Patrick Mahomes factor in Super Bowl LVIII

The Chiefs are the public favorite to beat the 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII despite the fact San Francisco was the better of the two teams for most of the 2023 season. Part of that is the recency bias of the playoffs. Kansas City blew out the Miami Dolphins and then knocked off two perceived juggernauts in the Buffalo Bills and Baltimore Ravens to reach the Super Bowl. Meanwhile the 49ers struggled against the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions. The other key reason people are picking Kansas City is their superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

It makes sense that Mahomes would be the overarching reason the Chiefs would be the pick. He doesn’t do much losing, especially in the playoffs, and his penchant for leading comebacks gives the Chiefs the ultimate trump card in a game that figures to be tight.

There’s nothing San Francisco can do about the previous couple of playoff games, but there are ways they can stop Mahomes’ individual brilliance from becoming a factor;

Get running

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The 49ers’ run game is essential in Sunday’s game for a variety of reasons, but shortening the game and keeping Mahomes on the sideline is one way it can be extremely helpful. Typically the 49ers have been able to tie opposing offenses into knots by racking up explosive plays and points. That’s unlikely to be the case in Super Bowl LVIII against one of the NFL’s best defenses. They can replace that with a ton of possession and taking advantage of a Chiefs run defense that hasn’t been stellar this season.

Don't let them run

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a little counterintuitive to say stopping the run game is best to limit the effectiveness of a QB. Less run game means more Mahomes. However, limiting the run and putting Kansas City in second or third-and-long puts additional pressure on a Chiefs receiving corps that has not thrived this season. It also takes some of the guesswork out for San Francisco’s defense. If they can pin their ears back and defend the pass it would make limiting Mahomes much less difficult than it would be in second or third and short.

No turnovers

(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

This relates a little bit to the run game for the 49ers offense. They cannot give the Chiefs and Mahomes even one free possession, especially in a one-score game. There’s not really much else to this.

Win early

(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

A huge way to mitigate Mahomes is by staying far enough in front that one possession can’t win the game. Going ahead by a couple scores early and getting a couple stops would be massive for the 49ers because then they can manage the game on their own script. This won’t be particularly easy, but the longer a Mahomes team hangs around the more dangerous he and their offense become.

Have the last possession

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

A good way to keep Mahomes from coming back from a deficit is to ensure he doesn’t have the ball at the end of the game. This is heavy analytics so we won’t go further in depth.

Defensive line dominance

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers defensive line is far too talented to be as ineffective as its been this postseason (and, frankly, for much of the regular season). Mahomes is as good as any quarterback at improvising and creating off-schedule plays, so it’s not enough just to pressure him. The 49ers DL has to get home and allow seven to drop into coverage, and then they need to hit the QB. If they can hurry him up even a little bit in the pocket it could expose some of the deficiencies in the Chiefs receiving corps.

Story originally appeared on Niners Wire