The festivities got underway on Monday’s Opening Night, with players and personnel from both sides engaging with the media.
The Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers arrived in Las Vegas, which is hosting the Super Bowl for the first time, on Sunday evening and both sets of players are looking forward to putting on a show in Sin City.
“There’s nowhere that has a better show than Las Vegas,” said Chiefs star tight end Travis Kelce. “It’s like the Mecca of the world for entertainment.”
A two-time Super Bowl champion and a nine-time Pro Bowl selection, Kelce was already one of the biggest names in football prior to this season. However, he has seen his popularity skyrocket in recent months when it emerged that he is dating pop superstar Taylor Swift.
Swift made history at the Grammys on Sunday night as she became the first artist to claim the prestigious album of the year award on four different occasions, and now Kelce might be feeling the pressure to keep up the winning theme.
“She’s unbelievable, she’s rewriting the history books herself,” Kelce said of Swift.
“I told her I need to hold up my end of the bargain and bring home some hardware, too.”
Though he is highly regarded around the league and amongst fans, Kelce was not the most popular figure in Vegas on Monday and was met with boos during an on-stage interview from 49ers fans in the partisan crowd at Allegiant Stadium.
The 34-year-old appears to be content with being an anti-hero, however.
“I love the boos more than I love the cheers, baby, keep ’em coming, Niners Gang! Keep ’em coming!” he said in response to the crowd.
Chiefs superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes also shook off jeers from crowd as he prepares for his fourth Super Bowl appearance.
Mahomes and Co. are looking to continue their Super Bowl love story and defend the championship that they won last year against the Philadelphia Eagles – and win their third Vince Lombardi Trophy in five years in the process – though they enter Sunday’s matchup as the underdog against the 49ers.
“I think you approach it like any other game, I never feel like the underdog,” the two-time MVP told the media. “I always feel like we have a chance to win the football game and that’s how we approach every single game. We were underdogs in the last Super Bowl, so all you can do is just have that same mindset of just going out there, playing your football and hoping that you end up with the win.”
After Kansas City finished the regular season with an 11-6 record, the worst of the Mahomes era, the odds were stacked against the squad to make it back to the Super Bowl. However, the Chiefs reeled off wins against the Miami Dolphins in freezing conditions and the Buffalo Bills on the road before defeating MVP favorite Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens in their sixth straight AFC Championship Game.
As a result, Mahomes is strengthening his case in ‘greatest of all time’ debates and football fans are wondering if he can ever match Tom Brady’s seemingly unattainable total of seven championship rings.
For now, though, Mahomes is focused on getting the job done on Sunday.
“I’m not even close to halfway, so I haven’t put a lot of thought into it,” he said. “I mean your goal is to be the best player you can be and I know I’m blessed to be around a lot of great players around me, and so right now, it’s doing whatever I can to beat a great 49ers team and try to get that third ring.
“If you ask me that question in like 15 years and I’ll see if I can get close to seven, but seven seems like a long way away still.”
Mahomes also saw the funny side of the ‘dad bod’ comments he received after the win against the Ravens. The QB’s unassuming physique became a topic of conversation when he was featured shirtless in a video posted on the NFL’s Instagram page.
“I have a six pack. It’s just under the dad bod,” Mahomes joked. “You just got to get real close and you gotta squint a little bit and I think you’ll see it.”
‘We’re not trying to get wrapped up in us versus Taylor Swift’
Mahomes’ counterpart is the 49ers’ Brock Purdy, AKA the 2022 ‘Mr. Irrelevant,’ who has gone on a remarkable journey from being selected last overall in that year’s NFL draft to being the starting quarterback for a team in the Super Bowl.
Purdy led the side to the No. 1 seed in the NFC before picking up wins over the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions to advance to the championship game. Despite Purdy’s success, he has been criticized by some as a “system quarterback” who relies on his team’s talented skill players, such as Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, to lead the offense, though the 24-year-old hit back at his detractors on Monday.
“More than anything, it’s sort of a compliment: you get to go into the system and play within the system really well,” Purdy told the media. “There’s not a lot of quarterbacks that can (do that).
“People can say what they want, but at the end of the day, I think it comes down to winning.”
Purdy was certainly the more popular of the two starting QBs at Allegiant Stadium and had the Niners faithful chanting his name while he was on stage next to Mahomes. He also made sure to remain focused on who his opponents actually are and avoid making enemies among ‘Swifties.’
“We’re not trying to get wrapped up in us versus Taylor Swift or anything like that,” he said.
San Francisco tight end George Kittle is another of the big names who will be taking to the field. While some players discussed the excitement and nerves that come with the occasion when asked about playing in a Super Bowl in Las Vegas, Kittle gave a typically casual answer.
“I’m playing football in February. I’ve got nothing to complain about,” said the 30-year-old. “I’m in Las Vegas at the Super Bowl, playing football with my teammates for an extra week, there’s only two teams doing it. I’ve got nothing to complain about.”
The Niners are seeking to move level with the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers with their sixth Super Bowl title, while Chiefs are attempting to become the first team to win back-to-back championships since the Patriots in 2005.
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