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Chiefs, Niners set for Super Bowl rematch

Jan. 29—The Kansas City Chiefs are growing used to the underdog role.

After a 2-3 December sank the defending Super Bowl champions' hopes for the No. 1 seed in the AFC, Patrick Mahomes and company had to hit the road in the postseason for the first time.

The Chiefs won as underdogs at the Buffalo Bills and Baltimore Ravens — after knocking off the Miami Dolphins as a home favorite in the wild-card round — to reach the NFL championship game for the fourth time in the past five years.

Kansas City is looking for its third win in that span, cementing itself as a dynasty.

Standing in the way is a San Francisco 49ers team that has played the role of favorite throughout the season.

The No. 1 seed in the NFC sweated out a divisional round victory against the Green Bay Packers before rallying from a 17-point halftime deficit to defeat the Detroit Lions in Sunday's conference championship game.

The Niners were installed as a two-point favorite in the opening line.

It's the eighth Super Bowl appearance for San Francisco, which has won five of its previous seven title games. But the Niners haven't raised the Lombardi Trophy since winning the Super Bowl following the 1994 regular season.

Looking to end that drought, San Francisco featured the NFL's third-ranked scoring offense (28.9 points per game) and third-ranked scoring defense (17.5).

But the Lions showed the Niners can be run on. Detroit racked up 182 rushing yards and scored three touchdowns on the ground during its 34-31 loss in the NFC title tilt. Much of that production came in the first half, when the Lions raced to a 24-7 lead.

San Francisco rallied quickly, scoring 17 points in the third quarter to tie the game and going ahead 34-24 with 3:02 remaining on a 3-yard touchdown run by Eijah Mitchell.

The 49ers have stars all over the roster.

Quarterback Brock Purdy shook off a shaky first half to finish 20-of-31 for 267 yards with a touchdown and an interception Sunday.

Running back Christian McCaffrey — perhaps the most dangerous offensive weapon in the league — rushed 20 times for 90 yards and two scores and caught four passes for 42 yards.

Wide receiver Deebo Samuel had eight catches for 89 yards, and teammate Brandon Aiyuk caught three passes for 68 yards and a touchdown — including a phenomenal grab off a deflection that appeared destined for an interception early in San Francisco's rally.

Disruptive defensive end Nick Bosa added two sacks, and linebacker Fred Warner led the way with 13 tackles as all of the 49ers' stars played up to their billing.

Kansas City was not the offensive juggernaut its been in years past during the regular season, but the Chiefs also have gotten big games from their stars in the postseason.

Mahomes was 30-of-39 for 241 yards and a touchdown in a showdown against Ravens star Lamar Jackson, the probable MVP.

Tight end Travis Kelce surpassed legendary San Francisco wide receiver Jerry Rice's postseason record for receptions and caught 11 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown in a dominant performance.

But the biggest difference makers for the Chiefs in the Super Bowl could be running back Isiah Pacheco — who had 24 carries for 68 yards and a touchdown against Baltimore — and the best defense of the Mahomes era.

Kansas City ranked second in scoring defense during the regular season (17.3 points per game) and also was second in yards allowed (289.8 per game).

This is a rematch of the Super Bowl following the 2019 regular season, won by the Chiefs 31-20 after rallying from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter.