Columnists, Sports

Helmet-to-Helmet: previewing the big game

At last, we have reached the big game —  the game that every kid dreams of playing in. 

Lila Baltaxe | Senior Graphic Artist

This is where legends are made, where stars seize their opportunities and where intensity reaches unmatched levels: the Super Bowl. 

Will we see another playoff masterclass from Mahomes, as he so often produces, or will it be Brock Purdy, Mr. Irrelevant, taking the glory for San Francisco? 

For what will be a thrilling game in Las Vegas, here’s a preview of how each team can succeed as well as legacy implications for both squads before Sunday’s game.

Starting off with the team that needs no introduction: the defending champs, Kansas City Chiefs. 

The offense has evidently regressed, with Travis Kelce posting his first non-1,000 yard season in seven seasons and minimal production from receivers not named Rashee Rice. However, their playoff intensity has revved up, and during the postseason Kelce has gotten back on track. 

He comes off a dominating performance against the league’s No. 2 overall defense in Baltimore, where he caught 11/11 targets for 116 yards and a touchdown. 

In the process he also broke Jerry Rice’s postseason reception record with 156, in eight less games. Safe to say he’ll show up and have an impact on Sunday. 

This has also been arguably the best defense Mahomes has had in his career. They have the second best total yards allowed per game, fourth-best pass defense in yards allowed, as well as the second-best points per game allowed (17.3). 

Part of the recipe will be for this Chiefs defense to come up with timely, clutch plays as they’ve done so far this postseason — for example L’Jarius Sneed’s punch-out at the goal line and Deon Bush’s late-game interception that shut the door on the Ravens comeback. 

As far as impact goes, another Super Bowl ring for Kansas City would be their third in five years, which would cement the Chiefs as a modern-day dynasty. 

Andy Reid and Travis Kelce will firmly put themselves in the conversation for the best to ever do it, and Kelce should be considered the best-catching tight end ever. 

For Pat Mahomes, he will have won his third Super Bowl at the age of 28. Along with two MVPs and plenty more success ahead of him, he would enter the conversation for the all-time QB Mount Rushmore. 

Moving into the NFC, the 49ers, who have been knocking on the Super Bowl door for the past five years, will finally get their breakthrough. 

Led by another stellar defense, captained by Fred Warner and Arik Armstead, the star-studded team will finally have a healthy starting QB in a crucial matchup. 

Christian McCaffrey is deservingly on the ballot for MVP, after leading the league with 21 TDs and over 2,000 all-purpose yards. 

Purdy had a great year himself, having the most yards per attempt and second highest TDs thrown amongst all starting quarterbacks (min. 100 pass attempts). 

However, a key to the recipe for success for this Niners squad will be the availability of a player not yet mentioned: Deebo Samuel. 

Though he isn’t on the injury report, he picked up a shoulder injury that forced him out of the Packers game which has kept him from being 100%. Simply put, Purdy is a different player without Samuel, his go-to gadget guy. 

In five career games without him, the 49ers QB has an average passer rating of 99 out of 158, with eight TDs and six interceptions. In twenty games with him, his rating jumps to 115.2, with 36 TDs and nine interceptions. 

Utilize him early and often if you’re Kyle Shanahan, and watch how that’ll open up the passing game towards Brandon Ayiuk and George Kittle. 

On defense, they’ll need to create a pass rush without blitzing to limit Mahomes’ time to make the stellar plays he’s capable off.

Winning the Super Bowl for the 49ers would knot them up with the Steelers and Patriots for most rings by a single franchise. 

It would also finally end coach Shanahan’s misery with an 0-2 Super Bowl record, one of which came at the hands of Tom Brady in the infamous “28-3 lead” game. 

A ring could certainly help CMC’s hopes of one day making it to Canton, while Brock Purdy would quickly silence any doubters after being picked last in his draft class.

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