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Stagner Things: Five thoughts on Super Bowl LIV between the Chiefs and 49ers

On Sunday, the Chiefs’ 50-year Super Bowl drought will come to an end.

As we await the most significant Chiefs game of all of our lives thus far, I feel the calm before the storm. This has been a long, often difficult road leading up to Super Bowl LIV, but it’s also satisfying in a sense. Every championship story includes bumps, bruises, failures, surprises, injuries and highlights. The struggles have made this even sweeter as a Chiefs fan.

Enjoy it, folks. Your team is about to play on the biggest stage in the world. Oh, and they are playing their best, most-balanced football at the right time. And they have the greatest player in the game at the helm.

Here are a few of the thoughts bouncing around in my head as I wait for a kickoff I sometimes felt I would never see:

1) Just another game or something different?

We’ve always been told that January football is different, and you have to run the ball, and stop the run to win. I’ve argued in the past that this is a myth. The only difference between playoff football and regular-season football is that when you lose in the playoffs, your season is over. That’s it. Otherwise, it’s another 60-minute football game played with the same ball, on the same size field, with the same number of guys. Line up and be better on that day, and nothing else matters.

2) “Dance with the girl who brought you.”

When all of the smoke clears from a week of media, celebrity and other craziness, it’ll be a one-game season for the Chiefs in the Super Bowl. In order to win that game, they need to do exactly what they have done. It would be insane to try and run the ball 30 times or to stack the box to stop the run game. It’s just not what the Chiefs do. If the Chiefs win this thing, it will be because they played their game, with the ball in the hands of Mahomes on offense, and with the defense executing Spagnuolo’s system.

3) Balance brings trophies.

Great offenses sometimes fail against great defenses. Great defenses sometimes lose to elite quarterbacks in championship situations. The Chiefs have been the best team in the NFL over the last few weeks because they have been playing complementary football. The San Francisco 49ers are atop the NFC for the same reason — they can score and play great defense. A one-sided performance likely won’t beat either team on Sunday.

4) Big plays will break the 49ers.

I’m not taking anything away from this opponent, they have been great. But, This Super Bowl will be about big plays, and the Chiefs can come at you with one, after another, after another. It might start with the opening kickoff with Mecole Hardman speeding through the coverage unit. It might include Damien Williams bouncing off tackles and outrunning the 49er secondary en route to a long touchdown. It almost certainly will include Tyreek Hill doing things that only he can do on a football field. But, it might also be Kelce, Watkins, Robinson or someone unexpected. It could also come from the Chiefs defense, as Tyrann Mathieu, Chris Jones and Frank Clark are ready and able to make a game-changing play and let everyone know about it. We saw the special ability of this team in the playoffs with seven straight touchdowns that included plays from the offense, defense and special teams. Both teams can make big plays, but no team can string them together the way the Chiefs can.

5) Mahomes is the finishing move.

I still own (but rarely ever use) a Sega Genesis, which includes what I believe to be the greatest video game of all time — Mortal Kombat II. In that game, two opponents can chip away at each other’s energy level, and it can be pretty evenly matched. But, at some point, you need a finishing move. In this Super Bowl, the 49ers and Chiefs will likely trade body punches in the run game and throw haymakers in the passing game, and it should be pretty close. But in the end, you can count on Patrick Mahomes to throw fireballs and have that big play that finishes the game. Having Mahomes tips the scales in the Chiefs favor in a way that is immeasurable. The Chiefs players and coaches know that if there’s anything humanly possible that can be done to win this game, Mahomes will do it. Mahomes has the “Dragon’s Bite” ready to go this week; it’s just a matter of time before we see it.

From the Upside Down

The coverage of the matchups this week has really focused on the Chiefs offense and the 49ers defense. But, there is a case to be made for the Chiefs defense being the difference-maker in this game. In recent weeks, they’ve held Derrick Henry to 69 yards, Frank Clark has racked up four sacks, and there are suddenly ‘enforcers’ across this unit. Daniel Sorensen, Tyrann Mathieu, Damien Wilson and even Dorian O’Daniel have made highlight-reel hits. When Mahomes led comebacks in the Divisional and conference championship rounds, the defense was able to get him the ball back repeatedly and hold the lead when needed. Mahomes is going to do his thing in the Super Bowl, but this Chiefs defense has just as much swagger and are ready to make a statement.

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