Brock Purdy

How 49ers, Chiefs match up in ‘perfect' Super Bowl LVIII showdown

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SANTA CLARA — With their unlikely come-from-behind NFC Championship Game victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday night, the 49ers earned the right to join the Kansas City Chiefs in Las Vegas for Super Bowl LVIII.

“It’s perfect,” 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa said in the aftermath of the 49ers’ 34-31 win over the Lions.

The Chiefs are, without question, the NFL’s flagship team after the New England Patriots enjoyed their run of six Super Bowl titles with quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick.

Bosa referred to the Chiefs as being “as great of an organization as there is,” with quarterback Patrick Mahomes and coach Andy Reid at the helm.

That pair won their first of two Super Bowl titles four years ago against the 49ers, rallying from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit for a 31-20 victory in Super Bowl LIV in Miami.

Kansas City advanced in the early game on Sunday with a 17-10 victory over the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship Game.

Then, the 49ers had a rally for the ages to propel them to a Super Bowl rematch.

Here is a closer look at the 49ers-Chiefs matchup:

When the 49ers are on offense

The 49ers’ offense was nowhere near impressive from start to finish in their two NFC playoff wins over the Green Bay Packers and Lions.

Quarterback Brock Purdy and that entire unit will have to do a lot better in two weeks against Kansas City. In two playoff games, Purdy has completed 43 of 70 passes for 519 yards with two touchdown passes and one interception.

On Sunday, he picked up big big yards on scrambles, rushing for 48 yards on five attempts.

Running back Christian McCaffrey is the focal point of the 49ers’ offense, and Kansas City has allowed 4.6 yards per rushing attempt in the postseason.

McCaffrey left the NFC title game late in the fourth quarter against Detroit with a shoulder stinger. An hour or so after the game, he said he was all the way back and does not believe there is any concern for the Super Bowl.

The 49ers will be tested at every level, starting with their offensive line. Wide receiver Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, as well as tight end George Kittle, will be tested against the Chiefs' top-flight defense.

The Chiefs owned a top defense in the NFL, as the opposition managed just 289.8 yards per game and 17.3 points per game against defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s group.

Defensive tackle Chris Jones has been one of the NFL's best for a while. He was one of the key players in the Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory over the 49ers in Super Bowl LIV when he batted down three Jimmy Garoppolo pass attempts at the line of scrimmage.

Jones and defensive end George Karlaftis tied for the Kansas City lead with 10.5 sacks apiece during the regular season. Former 49ers defensive lineman Charles Omenihu added seven sacks, though left Sunday’s game with a knee injury, but vowed to be ready for the Super Bowl.

Cornerback L'Jarius Sneed is Kansas City’s best cover man. He came through with one of the big plays on Sunday against Baltimore when he stripped Ravens receiver Zay Flowers for a second-half turnover at the goal line. Nickel back Trent McDuffie was named first-team All-Pro for his work against slot receivers.

Kansas City’s defense made life difficult for presumptive NFL MVP Lamar Jackson, who completed just 20 of 37 pass attempts for 272 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Safety Deon Bush intercepted Jackson in the end zone in the fourth quarter for one of the key plays of the game.

When the 49ers are on defense

It does not get any more difficult than going up against Mahomes.

Kansas City’s run game is not quite to the level of the Lions, but Kansas City running back Isaiah Pacheco still is a threat. He rushed for 254 yards and three touchdowns in the Chiefs’ first three playoff games.

The 49ers’ run defense has been abysmal. The Lions ran the ball at will against them in the first half before they were able to tighten things up, enabling the second-half comeback.

The 49ers face a huge challenge to contain the best quarterback on earth over the past five seasons. Mahomes is a two-time NFL MVP and a two-time Super Bowl MVP, and while he might not have the kind of pass-catchers he’s enjoyed in the past, he still has tight end Travis Kelce.

Mahomes directed 11 passes Kelce’s way on Sunday, and they connected for 11 pass completions for 116 yards and a touchdown. Kelce has three touchdown receptions in the Chiefs’ three postseason victories.

Mahomes also has a nice thing going with rookie wide receiver Rashee Rice, who has 20 receptions for 223 yards in the postseason.

And when Kansas City needed a play on Sunday, Mahomes delivered down the field to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who caught a 32-yard pass on a key third-and-9 play with two minutes remaining.

The 49ers must get pressure on Mahomes, and that starts with defensive end Nick Bosa, who had two sacks on Sunday against Lions quarterback Jared Goff.

Linebacker Fred Warner was all over the place against the Lions, registering 13 tackles and playing well in pass defense. He intercepted a Mahomes pass in the Super Bowl last time.

Ji’Ayir Brown moved back into the starting lineup in place of veteran Logan Ryan, and the rookie safety had a big game with 10 tackles.

Kansas City will look to go after cornerback Ambry Thomas in nickel situations when Deommodore Lenoir moves inside to cover the slot receiver.

Four years ago, cornerback Charvarius Ward was a starter with the Chiefs. He has developed into one of the top players at his position in the NFL, and he is looking for his second Super Bowl title — and his first with the 49ers.

Special teams

Kansas City has a lot more consistency with their kicking game.

Harrison Butker has a lot of big-game experience, having appeared in 18 playoff contest, including three Super Bowls. He is 27 of 31 in the playoffs over the course of his seven-year NFL career, including five of six in Super Bowls.

Meanwhile, there’s still uncertainty with 49ers rookie kicker Jake Moody, who has missed field-goal attempts in both of his first two postseason appearances.

Moody is three of five on field goals in the playoffs, while Butker is 7-for-7 in Kansas City’s three postseason games.

Ray-Ray McCloud has been sure-handed while fielding punts, though he has yet to have a return in this postseason. With another two weeks of rest for his shoulder, Samuel could be used on kickoff returns.

Punter Mitch Wishnowsky is having a good season. His net average is 41.8 yards on five postseason punts. Former 49ers receiver Richie James handles Kansas City’s return chores with postseason averages of 8.5 yards on punt returns and 23.0 yards on kickoffs.

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