New era beckons as Chiefs, 49ers clash in Super Bowl

Rob Woollard
·3 min read
Patrick Mahomes is hoping to end Kansas City's 50-year wait for a second Super Bowl title on Sunday (AFP Photo/Mark Brown)
Patrick Mahomes is hoping to end Kansas City's 50-year wait for a second Super Bowl title on Sunday (AFP Photo/Mark Brown)

Miami (AFP) - The Kansas City Chiefs chase their first Super Bowl title in 50 years on Sunday when they face the San Francisco 49ers in a championship clash poised to usher in a new era for the NFL.

Around 100 million Americans are expected to tune in for the biggest event on the US sporting calendar, which kicks off at Miami's Hard Rock Stadium at 6.30pm (2330 GMT).

The eagerly anticipated showdown could mark a changing of the guard for the NFL's quarterback hierarchy as the curtain comes down on the league's 100th season.

With Tom Brady and the New England Patriots failing to reach the Super Bowl for the first time since 2016, the stage is set for the Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes to crown his emergence as the best quarterback in the league.

The gifted 24-year-old Texan could become the second youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl if he leads the Chiefs to victory in only his second full season as a starter.

Mahomes, who became only the second quarterback in history to amass 5,000 passing yards and 50 touchdowns in a season in 2018, has cut a relaxed figure during this week's build-up.

- Having fun -

"I'm going to go out there and try and have fun and play the way I've played all season long," Mahomes said.

"It's early in my career and I'm excited to go out there with my brothers and try to win."

Attempting to frustrate Mahomes and the Chiefs, who start as narrow favorites according to Las Vegas bookmakers, are a 49ers team chasing a record-equalling sixth Super Bowl.

Led by the 28-year-old quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo -- who won two Super Bowl rings during his stint as a back-up to Brady in New England -- the 49ers boast a fearsome defense which will attempt to knock Mahomes out of his stride.

Garoppolo has an array of weapons at his disposal.

Against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game, the 49ers blew away their opponents with a fearsome ground game which saw running back Raheem Mostert rush for four touchdowns and more than 200 yards.

The 49ers are also bound to have a few offensive tricks up their sleeve as they prepare under the guidance of head coach Kyle Shanahan, one of the most innovative minds in the NFL.

- Father-son double -

A win on Sunday would see the 49ers coach emulate his father Mike Shanahan, who won back-to-back Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos in 1998 and 1999.

But Shanahan's coaching wizardry may prove moot if the 49ers defense is unable to contain Mahomes and a Chiefs offense bristling with pace in the form of receiver Tyreek Hill and power in the shape of tight end Travis Kelce.

The Chiefs have averaged 43 points per game in two playoff games, and during the regular season averaged just over 28 points per game.

Kansas City's ability to produce devastating bursts of scoring was showcased in their playoff game against Houston last month, when they came back from a 24-0 deficit to win 51-31.

They also started slowly in the AFC Championship game against the Tennessee Titans, going 17-7 down before eventually running out 35-24 winners.

The Chiefs are all too aware that conceding an early lead against the 49ers and their stingy defense could well be fatal.

"We obviously want our guys to go out there and have a faster start," said Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. "You certainly never ever want to spot a team 24 points."

A victory for Kansas City, meanwhile, would be the crowning glory of Chiefs head coach Andy Reid's distinguished career.

A popular figure known affectionately among his players as "Big Red", the 61-year-old Reid is the most successful coach never to win a Super Bowl, having just missed out when his Philadelphia Eagles lost to New England in 2005.

"He's had an amazing career," Mahomes said of Reid. "Obviously, we want to win this game, the big one, to put that on his résumé."