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Neal: Super Bowl will be superb, but the best story missed out

We have the Chiefs and the 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII. With all due respect to the Ravens, it's probably the best matchup among the teams who played in the AFC and NFC championship games Sunday.

Kansas City is football's current dynasty, led by quarterback supreme Patrick Mahomes, a play-calling savant in coach Andy Reid and an improving defense. The Chiefs are hunting back-to-back Super Bowl wins and their third in the last five seasons.

The 49ers had lost the last two conference championship games and lost to Mahomes and the Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV. It took a while Sunday, but San Francisco's elite offense — and self-inflicted wounds by Detroit — fueled a 17-point second-half comeback. The 49ers head to Super Bowl LVIII with unfinished business packed in their equipment trunks.

It will be a fabulous matchup. There will be plenty of story lines.

The best story line, unfortunately, will not materialize during Super Bowl week.

The best story would have been the Lions and their long-suffering fans enjoying their first appearance in a title game since 1957.

It would have been Dan Campbell, the Lions' quirky hulk of a head coach, bringing a team that has lifted Detroit football from the depths of the NFC North.

And Vikings fans would have seen wide receiver Jameson Williams, who was drafted by Detroit with the 12th overall pick in 2022 — the pick the Vikings dealt to the Lions to move down and select Lewis Cine, who barely plays.

It looked like a Lions-Chiefs matchup was a lock when Detroit led San Francisco 24-7 at halftime. The Lions had 13 plays of at least 10 yards in the first half. The 49ers had three. San Francisco quarterback Brock Purdy had a 39.0 passer rating at halftime. The Lions were following the same script as the Chiefs did against the Ravens in the first half of their conference championship game: get a lead and make the opposing quarterback play from behind.

Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson, a favorite to be selected league MVP, found it to be an impossible task as he completed just 20 of 37 passes for a touchdown with an interception and 75.5 passer rating. The Lions' fortunes changed at the end of the first half when Campbell, a notoriously aggressive play caller on fourth downs, opted to kick a field goal on fourth-and-2 from the 2-yard line with 10 seconds left. Another touchdown there makes it a three-touchdown game and potentially slams the door.

When he opted for the field goal, the football gods seemed to notice.

Campbell couldn't do anything right after that. He went for it on fourth-and-2 from San Francisco's 28 in the third quarter when a field goal would have helped. Lions cornerback Kindle Vildor had a would-be interception of a Purdy deep ball doink off his mask and into the hands of Brandon Aiyuk. The 49ers scored three plays later.

Detroit's Jahmyr Gibbs fumbled on the next offensive play, and the collapse was on. Campbell could have ordered a game-tying field goal midway through the fourth but saw a pass on fourth-and-3 fall incomplete. When he was aggressive, he was wrong. When he wasn't, he was wrong.

That leaves us with a good Chiefs-49ers rematch from Super Bowl LIV. Can the Chiefs cement their dynasty in two weeks at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas?

"The Chiefs have reshaped their DNA," former Viking and local media star Ben Leber wrote in a text following Sunday's games. "They now have a physical run game paired with Mahomes' dynamic abilities. Plus, defense has been their calling card all year."

San Francisco's loaded offense has to show it can thrive against Kansas City. And the 49ers defensive front must handle Mahomes and the Chiefs' running game.

We are also left to ponder this: Will Taylor Swift, who performs in Japan late that week, be able to arrive in Vegas in time to see her boyfriend, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, play for the Lombardi Trophy?

Lions fans were hoping to see Eminem in a neighboring suite, cheering Detroit on.