Super Bowl Sunday is here. The Kansas City Chiefs are officially set to take on the San Francisco 49ers in a championship game that could earn Patrick Mahomes his third Super Bowl ring in four seasons and may establish his team as the NFL’s next dynasty.
Tonight’s game may be the most important moment of Mahomes’ career to this point, and with his legacy on the line, the 2022 MVP is sure to put together a stellar showing in Las Vegas, Nevada.
But the 49ers are no slouches. San Francisco was the NFC’s best team all season with Brock Purdy under center, Christian McCaffrey running the ball, and a defense that punishes any mistake their opponents make.
We took a deep dive into the 49ers this week with Kyle Madson, managing editor of Niners Wire, to gain valuable insight about San Francisco ahead of Super Bowl LVIII.
Take a look at his responses to our best questions below:
Chiefs Wire: What do you make of Brock Purdy’s rise to stardom? Is he truly capable of being a Super Bowl winning QB or is he being “carried” by his supporting cast?
KM – I don’t think the two things there at the end are mutually exclusive. Purdy, in this 49ers offense, is certainly capable of winning a Super Bowl. Would it be the case if he played for the Panthers? Probably not. But within this system with these players he operates at an extremely high level. Perhaps Chiefs DC Steve Spagnuolo is locked in and slows down the 49ers’ offense. It should be noted that happened to MVP Lamar Jackson and the Ravens though so a Super Bowl loss doesn’t undo everything Purdy has done through 26 starts (regular season and postseason). I’m not sure I’d call him a “star” based on my own definition, but he’s a big enough improvement over Jimmy Garoppolo to give them a better chance to win a title than they had previously.
Chiefs Wire: How has the absence of Talanoa Hufanga affected the 49ers defense? Will safety be a concern against the Chiefs?
KM – It hasn’t been a major issue. Hufanga is a good player whose instincts and athleticism lead to some splash plays, but he’s also susceptible to missing tackles, taking bad angles or getting out of position. Those same issues plague his replacement, rookie safety Ji’Ayir Brown. Safety alone isn’t a major concern, but Brown will miss some tackles, and those have killed the 49ers defense in stretches this season. On the other hand, Brown has a penchant for generating takeaways which is a big reason he’s on the field over veteran Logan Ryan.
Chiefs Wire: If you could add one former 49er to this team to guarantee a Super Bowl victory, who would it be?
KM – This is a dynamite question. I think QB Steve Young is the right answer. He’s a better version of what they get from Purdy. Young was brilliant, accurate, had a strong arm, and could really affect games with his legs. Watching prime Young operate head coach Kyle Shanahan’s system would be magic. He might legitimately complete 80 percent of his throws. There are a handful of great players who could help this team, but shoring up and adding a Hall of Famer at the most important position on the field makes the most sense.
Chiefs Wire: Will San Francisco lean on Christian McCaffrey for the lion’s share of their offensive production, or will other contributors play more prominent roles?
KM – My guess is it’s a heavy McCaffrey game. The Chiefs were 27th in run defense DVOA this season and allowed 4.5 yards per carry. I don’t think they’ll follow the Ravens’ path of abandoning the run. In fact, I’m expecting a heavy dose of the 49ers’ run game even if they fall behind early. That’s their bread and butter, but they’ll certainly supplement it with their other stars. WR Deebo Samuel can get involved in the run game, but don’t sleep on him, WR Brandon Aiyuk, TE George Kittle and FB Kyle Juszczyk making a big play or two on quick throws to beat some of Spagnuolo’s blitzes.
Chiefs Wire: What would a win (or loss) mean for the long-term trajectory of the 49ers moving forward?
KM – I don’t think it does that much. Shanahan is locked in as the head coach, and he loves Purdy. There’s probably not a performance bad enough for Purdy that would cause Shanahan to question him as a franchise QB. If they get 40 points hung on them or something we may see a change at defensive coordinator, but I’m not totally certain there’ll be any other major changes.
However, if they lose it will probably mean the Samuel-Kittle-Warner-Armstead-Juszczyk core never gets back since it’s so difficult just to make the Super Bowl. If they win, maybe LT Trent Williams hangs up his pads and retires? But that’s just speculation.