Kyle Shanahan and his coaching staff went from coaching in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., last season to coaching in the Super Bowl in Miami, Fla., this year.
The San Francisco 49ers went from 4-12 to 14-3 and with one more victory can become the third NFL franchise to win six Super Bowls.
Standing in the 49ers way are the Kansas City Chiefs, who by all accounts were one of the teams expected to be in the Super Bowl this season. They came within a game and a narrow loss of playing in the game last season.
The game is very intriguing. Kansas City’s high-powered offense will get maybe its toughest test of the season against the 49ers’ top-ranked passing defense.
Can the Chiefs’ offensive line block San Francisco’s vaunted pass rush, which features five first-round draft picks?
Will Kansas City be able to slow down the 49ers’ impressive rushing attack, which features more motion before the snap than any other team in the league?
The game features two of the best tight ends in football in Kansas City’s Travis Kelce and San Francisco’s George Kittle, a former Iowa Hawkeye.
San Francisco powered its way through the NFC playoffs with a strong rushing attack. Their quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo threw only eight passes in the easy win over Green Bay on Sunday night. The 49ers rushed for nearly 300 yards.
But Jimmy G. has proven he can win games for the 49ers if he has to.
That’s the most impressive thing about the NFC Champions. The 49ers have won games a lot of different ways this season.
Jimmy G threw for 296 yards and four TDs against the Cincinnai Bengals, passed for 317 yards and four scores against Arizona and tallied 349 yards and four TDs in a win at New Orleans.
The 49ers defeated the Washington Redskins 9-0 in a monsoon, defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 24-20 despite turning the ball over five times and had three interceptions, including a pick six, and three sacks in a win over Tampa Bay.
They rushed for 275 yards against Cleveland on Monday Night Football, tallied 232 rushing yards against Carolina and held the Los Angeles Rams to 48 passing yards while sacking Jared Goff four times.
San Francisco was down 16-0 to Arizona in the second meeting but rallied to win 36-26.
The 49ers started 8-0 but ran into plenty of injuries.
They lost linebacker Kwon Alexander for half the season, played a few games without starting offensive tackles Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey and even lost to the Atlanta Falcons without five starters on defense.
They are battle tested, having won at New Orleans, at Seattle and defeated Green Bay twice. San Francisco also lost at Baltimore on a last-second field goal and was defeated at home by Seattle on a last-second kick in overtime.
Also in that game against Seattle, a rookie kicker who was playing for the injured Robbie Gould missed a potential game-winning field goal in overtime.
All three of San Francisco’s losses have come on the final play of the game.
They have had three different running backs lead them in rushing. Also, Jeff Wilson, the fourth running back, had two rushing TDs in the win over the Bengals but hasn’t been active in either playoff game.
The 49ers are as healthy as they’ve been all season.
They are 10-0 when Kwon Alexander plays and they just look different when their best 53 players are on the field.
Kansas City is about as tough of a matchup as they could have gotten though.
Patrick Mahomes is one of the best quarterbacks in the league. And he has plenty of weapons with a lot of speed to throw to. Besides Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman and Sammy Watkins are all dangerous.
The Chiefs have won eight straight games. In their four losses, they have not been able to run the ball and have not stopped the opposing team’s rushing attack.
They were under 100 yards rushing in the losses to the Colts, Texans, Titans and Packers. Those teams gained at least 118 rushing yards against them. But the Chiefs lost to Green Bay without Mahomes.
Kansas City has been much better with its rushing defense lately, holding Houston to 94 rushing yards and Tennessee to 85 in the postseason.
If the Chiefs want to defeat the 49ers, stopping the run will be paramount.
Shanahan and Bill Walsh both started their 49ers coaching career with two under .500 seasons. Walsh won the Super Bowl in year three and went 13-3 in the regular season. Shanahan equaled the 13-3 and has the Niners in the Super Bowl with a chance to duplicate what Walsh did.
The game should be fun. And it features two likeable franchises.
I, of course, am Forever Faithful.
Contact Troy Hyde at firstname.lastname@example.org