MIAMI – In the Kansas City Chiefs’ second practice in the AFC Championship game, Patrick Mahomes attempted nine assists.
In the NFC Championship game, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo threw eight passes the entire game.
When the Chiefs and 49ers reunite for Super Bowl LIV in South Florida, which can be streamed live on the Yahoo Sports app, it will be one of the most intriguing Super Bowl clashes in a while. Both teams have been very good in the regular season and have rolled through the playoffs. The 49ers are trying to break a 26-year drought without winning a Super Bowl. The Chiefs haven’t even attended a Super Bowl in 50 years.[Watch Yahoo Sports Pregame Show, 4 p.m. ET Sunday]
They come to the Super Bowl with very different approaches.
The 49ers play retro style
It’s too simple to describe the Chiefs vs 49ers as a showdown between the high-goal, successful team that fits the modern NFL and a team that relies on an old-fashioned, heavy-handed approach. The Chiefs are handling the ball fairly well and their defense has improved, and the 49ers have thrown for 3,792 yards in the regular season. But there is some truth to the story.
The 49ers want to run the ball. They were second in the NFL for attempts and rushing yards, and first for rushing touchdowns. The Baltimore Ravens, who had 176 carries and 1,206 rushing yards from quarterback Lamar Jackson, are the only team that relied more on running. The 49ers have been so dominant in the playoffs that Garoppolo threw just 27 passes for 208 yards in two playoff games.
Kyle Shanahan has an offensive system similar to his father, Mike. The 49ers want to run the ball to prepare for the pass. And if you can’t stop the run, the 49ers will keep kicking the ball to the ground. They have terrific defense so this style makes sense to them. Against the Packers in the NFC title game, Raheem Mostert rushed for 220 yards and four touchdowns, and the defense made sure the lead was never threatened. The 49ers barely kicked the ball because they didn’t have to.
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In some ways, the 49ers could mirror the 1972 and 1973 Dolphins. In four of the Dolphins’ five playoff games these seasons, quarterback Bob Griese threw 11 or fewer passes and failed to pass 88 yards. The Dolphins have won back-to-back Super Bowls, leaving the running game and defense to do the work.
The 49ers are a bit more open-minded than that, but it’s a decidedly old-school approach that should appeal to fans who like to remember the good old days.
Chiefs rely on their excellent quarterback
The Chiefs love to throw the ball, and that makes sense considering they have Patrick Mahomes as quarterback.
Kansas City was fifth in the NFL in passing yards and touchdowns, and it was with Mahomes who missed two games and almost a third with a knee injury. Kansas City was 27th in the NFL in rushing attempts despite going 12-4. Most teams throw the ball more when they have a lead.
It works for chefs. Kansas City’s defense has improved and played well after their week off, but it’s still a team that wants to score a lot and hope the defense makes some key plays and saves. The Chiefs aren’t on the same level defensively as the 49ers, but they don’t need to be. Kansas City has been in the NFL top six for points and yards for three consecutive seasons, and led in both categories last season. The defense just has to be good enough, and it has been lately.
The Chiefs are adapting to changes in modern play. They have a great passing attack and rely on it a lot. Kansas City has no problem trying to beat their opponents in a shootout. That seems to be the way the NFL game is going, although not all teams are fortunate enough to have a Mahomes as a quarterback.
The 49ers are proof that there is more than one way to win in the NFL. Good defense and a productive running game can always put a team at the door of a Super Bowl title. The same goes for a widely open passing game with a defense that has improved but is still in the middle of the pack. Super Bowl LIV should be a fascinating contrast in styles.
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