Mahomes, Chiefs square up with Bosa, 49ers in the “Big Game”

Kevin Singhel, Asst. Sports Editor

The NFL’s big game has turned into an American holiday over the years. Millions of people watch the event worldwide, making the game one of the most watched sporting events every year. This year, the hype is no different, as two of the NFL’s best regular season teams prepare to square off. 

The San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs have looked dominant in both the regular season and the playoffs. So who has the edge in this anticipated matchup?

Not much was expected of the 49ers coming into the year, as their 2018 campaign was a miserable one resulting in just four wins (the second-worst record in the league). However, the 49ers used the second overall pick in last year’s draft to select Nick Bosa, a huge boost to their defense.

The defense has been a huge part of San Francisco’s success this year, emerging as one of the best defenses in the league. The addition of Bosa was definitely a factor, but the reemergence of former All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman and adding former Chief Dee Ford to an already talented defensive line also helped. 

In the regular season, the 49ers’ defense ranked second in total defense and first in passing defense. So, scoring on this unit has proven to be quite the challenge. 

However, last year’s regular season MVP Patrick Mahomes has proven that he is also hard to stop. He is a quarterback who seems primed to dominate the big game and the league for years to come. 

Mahomes followed his MVP year with another stellar season, and he is in the discussion for the award again despite missing a few games due to injury.

In the postseason, Mahomes has been spectacular, throwing for eight touchdowns and rushing for another with zero interceptions. He also seems to show maturity beyond his years, overcoming large deficits in both of the Chiefs playoff games this year before quickly turning them into blowouts the other way.

Mahomes has plenty of weapons to utilize on offense, including stars like tight end Travis Kielce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill. The Chiefs can score quickly and often, leaving the stout 49ers defense with their work cut out for them. 

The 49ers offense may not be led by a former MVP, but their offensive unit is not something to overlook. The offense is led by Jimmy Garoppolo, a quarterback who has learned under the tutelage of greats like Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the well-respected mind of head coach Kyle Shanahan, who has a career record of 21-5 when under center.

However, unlike the Chiefs, the 49ers primarily focus on running the ball. 

Raheem Mostert has evolved into a top running back, and he and the rest of the 49ers running back corps can earn large chunks of yardage on any given carry.

In their previous game against the Green Bay Packers, the 49ers had almost 300 rushing yards. In that game, Garoppolo only completed six passes on eight attempts for 77 yards, a far cry from Kansas City’s high-flying passing offense. Even still, slowing down Mosert and the rest of the 49ers rushing game is going to be a tall task for Kansas City.

Luckily for the Chiefs, they already have experience slowing down some seemingly impossible-to-stop running backs. 

Just last week, the Chiefs were able to hold Derrick Henry to under 100 yards rushing, even though he rushed 203 times for 1,273 yards over his last eight games prior to playing Kansas City, an NFL record.

The Chiefs defense had been the Achilles heel in the past, but this year things have changed. Additions like Tyrann Mathieu, Frank Clark and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo have turned Kansas City into a respectable unit that can more than hold their own.

If the Chiefs want a shot at winning this game, their defense is going to need to slow the 49ers’ running game down and force Garoppolo to throw the ball more.

This matchup is so intriguing to NFL fans because of the stylistic differences between these two teams. The unstoppable force of the Chiefs offense meets the immovable object of the 49ers defense.

The Chiefs will try to score quickly and often, forcing the 49ers to throw the ball to stay in the game.

On the flip side, the 49ers will look to grind out an old-school smash-mouth game. They’ll look to control the time of possession, keep Mahomes off the field as much as possible and rely on their defense.

The effectiveness of each strategy will come down to execution and the play-calling of each team. Veteran head coach Andy Reid is seeking his first championship to cement his legacy, while Shanahan returns to the big game for the first time since 2017 when he was the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons and their infamous “28-3” game. Now he makes his debut as a head coach. 

A championship is on the line, as well as how these two coaches and their teams will prepare a strategy for one last game. It will be old school versus new school, defense versus offense and a matchup of the NFL’s best teams.