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Super Bowl LIV game preview: 49ers vs. Chiefs

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It’s San Francisco vs. Kansas City for the Lombardi.

NFL: JAN 19 AFC Championship - Titans at Chiefs Photo by William Purnell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

On the Super Bowl preview edition of the Arrowhead Pride Laboratory, we talked about three points on offense — and three on defense — to watch as the Kansas City Chiefs take on the San Francisco 49ers for a world championship.

Offense

Explosive plays

The Chiefs have one of the most explosive offenses in football and the 49ers are one of the best at limiting explosive plays. Something has to give. The Chiefs will be able to challenge with their speed against a slower secondary, but they’ll need time to give deep plays a chance. Plays out of structure could be an excellent source of explosive plays for the Chiefs offense with the 49ers having to chase around the fastest team in football.

Beating zone coverage

The Chiefs will be playing the heaviest zone team in football. Expect a heavy dose of Cover 3 and Quarters when these teams line up. Recently, they’ve been heavier Cover 3. It’ll be interesting to see if the 49ers will try to mix things up a little more, but the Chiefs will still very likely get over half of the snaps against zone. Be it match or static coverage, Patrick Mahomes has found success against it. If the 49ers do run-heavy Cover 3, expect their underneath defenders to work to depth, leaving shorter routes and running backs out of the backfield as short passing outlets. That’s not to say the Chiefs won’t be able to attack vertically.

Handling pressure

The 49ers have a fantastic rotation of pass rushers that are the key to their success defensively. The Chiefs offensive line has been excellent during the playoffs. Stefen Wisniewski has been a welcome addition along the interior and he and a healthy Laurent Duvernay-Tardif have helped stabilize the line. The line’s performance is an underrated point about this postseason. If the Chiefs can continue to hold up in pass protection for another 60 minutes of football, they’ll be Super Bowl champions.

Defense

Defensive ends vs. outside zone

A staple of the 49ers offense is outside zone runs. They’ll get tight end George Kittle — one of the best blocking tight ends in the game — involved and have had a lot of success in the regular and postseason. It will be up to Frank Clark, Tanoh Kpassagnon and Terrell Suggs to set hard edges and force everything inside of them. Suggs has held his own in two matchups this season against Kittle and the offensive line while playing with the Cardinals. Clark will likely continue to be avoided in the run game. Kpassagnon will be challenged. If a good edge is set this week, the 49ers offense becomes a lot less scary.

Misdirection and motion

Kyle Shanahan is one of the best offensive minds in football. His usage of personnel groupings, run concepts and play action is exceptional. The window dressing of his core principles and misdirection off of it makes it a lethal system. They’ll use shifts and motions to force mismatches and isolate players they want to pick on. They’ll hit the Chiefs with reverses, wham blocks and even option plays with their fullback Kyle Juszczyk taking a handoff and pitching the ball. The 49ers will force all 11 players on the field for the Chiefs to play with outstanding eye discipline the entire game. They’ll have to be prepared for a variety of looks and concepts thrown at them.

Making Jimmy Garoppolo beat you

If the Chiefs can get the 49ers into more predictable passing downs and force Garoppolo to beat them as a drop-back passer, that’s advantage Chiefs. The San Francisco quarterback has found a lot of success off play-action passing. Kansas City wants this game to turn into Mahomes vs. Garoppolo. The passing potential of the Chiefs offense is significantly higher than San Francisco. The 49ers passing game thrives on yards after the catch from players like Kittle and rookie wide receiver Deebo Samuel with shorter throws in the middle of the field. Take the 49ers out of their game and force their quarterback to earn the victory.

Arrowhead Pride Laboratory

We went into further detail on these storylines — and listed players we’re looking forward to watching — on this week’s game preview edition of the Arrowhead Pride Laboratory.