"Defense wins championships" is one of the most popular phrases in the sports world. It's practically etched in sports lore with how well-known of a saying it is.
So by that measure, the San Francisco 49ers are a sure lock to win the Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs right?
Well, not exactly. The Chiefs are a high powered offense lead by Patrick Mahomes, the most threatening quarterback in the league. San Francisco's defense has done a renowned job of making the opposition's best player look pedestrian.
However, Mahomes is a different beast. Perfection is the name of the game if the 49ers want to keep him from being himself, which is performing at a legendary level. Mahomes has been a starter for two years in the league, yet no defensive coordinator has been able to crack the code to stop him.
He just defies logic. From throwing across his body with unreal precision, to being able to consistently hit his receiver deep down field. The main key to this game will be how the defense of the 49ers can contain the offense of the Chiefs. The 49ers' offense will be able to move the ball and put up points against the Chiefs' defense. That isn't the main attracting matchup in this game.
It all boils down to the top defense against the top offense.
This Super Bowl matchup resembles that of the Seattle Seahawks against the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. Seattle was a top ranked defense with the legion of boom against Denver's top ranked offense lead by Peyton Manning. The result? One of the most lopsided Super Bowl matchups in Super Bowl history.
History favors defense in the Super Bowl. Teams that have entered the grand stage ranking as a top two defense have finished with a record of 15-5 via David Lombardi of The Athletic. San Francisco is a top two defense, which is why the intrigue lies on that end.
Could the 49ers replicate the Seahawks' success against the Broncos from their Super Bowl victory?
It's not a far-fetched scenario. Countless times this season the 49ers' defense was supposed to meet it's match, yet they came out on top in dominant fashion. The last two games during their playoff run is a testament to that. They could very well do the same with Patrick Mahomes and their speedy offense.
Which is what I believe will be the case.
The 49ers have had two weeks to rest and prepare for the Chiefs. While the same goes for the Chiefs to prepare for the 49ers, Robert Saleh has demonstrated that when he has time to digest an offense - he concocts the ultimate gameplan.
All of the attention the 49ers' defense garners derives from their pass rush, but they are more than just that. The back end coverage from their secondary and even their linebackers, who lurk the middle and flats, is stout. While the coverage does get boosted by the quickness of the pass rush, the reverse is also true.
The pass rush benefits when the coverage is lasting, so that the defensive line can get to the quarterback. Now the secondary will have be faced with the challenge of holding up against the speed receivers of the Chiefs. Tyreek Hill is at the forefront of the speed, but Mecole Hardman is no slouch either.
However, the 49ers' cover-3 style of coverage will work well against that speed if the Chiefs look to go deep. San Francisco could even switch it with some quarters coverage if need be, but cover-3 has been the predominant scheme.
Super Bowl LIV will not replicate Seattle vs. Denver. Mahomes and Andy Reid are eons better from the 2014 version of Peyton Manning and John Fox. Do not expect the same type of defensive dominance that the 49ers have had for most of the season. But they will be enough to keep Mahomes away from great, which is what they've done against every top talent.
Final: 49ers 34 Chiefs 28