5 things to know heading into Super Bowl 54 this Sunday

Ethan Lee

The NFL’s electrifying 100th season will come to an end in Miami this Sunday as the Kansas City Chiefs prepare to take on the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl 54. Following a postseason filled with unforgettable upsets, the two conference champions are poised to provide what should be an epic finale. 

With so many storylines to discuss heading into the big game, I have taken the liberty of breaking down everything you need to know into five areas of analysis. 


1. New faces

Perhaps the best thing about this year’s Super Bowl, in the eyes of NFL fans around the country, is the fact that the game will not include Tom Brady and the much-maligned New England Patriots. Moreover, this Sunday will feature many of the league’s high profile youngsters, poised to take advantage of their first Super Bowl experience.

Starting quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes (24 years old) and Jimmy Garoppolo (28) both highlight the star-studded list, which also includes the likes of Tyreek Hill (25), Frank Clark (26), Nick Bosa (22), Deebo Samuel (24) and Arik Armstead (26). This kind of explosive, youthful talent will undoubtedly provide an exciting play style. 

2. History on the line

This Sunday marks the first postseason matchup between the Chiefs and 49ers, meaning that there are no old scores to settle. However, each side can make history with a win. A win for the Chiefs would mean capturing the organization’s first title in 50 years, breaking the second-longest active drought between Super Bowls in the league; the New York Jets have the longest with 51 years. A win for the 49ers would mean that they would tie the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most Super Bowl titles with six

3. Defense wins championships

The 49ers’ Super Bowl birth came as no surprise to anyone who witnessed their ferocious defense play this season. Their front seven terrorized quarterbacks all year, sacking opposing quarterbacks 48 times during the regular season. Additionally, the sideline to sideline speed of their linebacking core, led by Kwon Alexander and Fred Warner, made running the ball just as difficult as passing.

To compound the aforementioned defensive prowess of the big men upfront, the 49ers also boast a sound secondary. The unit, captained by veteran Richard Sherman, tallied 13 interceptions during the regular season and an additional one so far this postseason. 

Although the Chiefs’ defense unit has remained an afterthought for much of the season given the level of their offensive prowess, they have managed to provide numerous inspiring performances down the stretch of the regular season. The momentum carried into the postseason, highlighted by the defensive masterpiece provided in the AFC championship game in which the Chiefs held league-leading rusher Derrick Henry to just 7 yards rushing in the second half. 

4. Or does it?

The Chiefs offense is comprised of some of the most explosive players in the league paired with the league’s best quarterback in Mahomes. In the year in which Raven’s star Lamar Jackson received most of the media’s focus, it was easy to forget about last season’s MVP, Mahomes. In the 14 games Mahomes played, he finished the season with over 4,000 yards passing, 26 touchdown passes and only five interceptions.

While those numbers are impressive enough, Mahomes has put forth two unforgettable performances this postseason, tallying over 700 total yards of offense along with nine total touchdowns. With weapons such as Travis Kelce and Hill at their disposal, the 49ers defense is sure to have their hands full this Sunday. 

On the opposing sideline, the 49ers boast an offense that has quietly been one of the most productive units in the league. While the cast of characters is not nearly as star-studded as that of Kansas City, the 49ers have played to their strengths and finished second in average points per game during the regular season with 29.9.

Led by Garoppolo, the 49ers rely heavily on a run-first scheme in most games, splitting the workload among three talented running backs. The 49ers have playmakers in the passing game, which features their all-world tight end George Kittle and wideouts Emmanuel Sanders and Samuel. 


5. A tale of two coaches

One of the most intriguing matchups taking place in Super Bowl 54 will take place off the field between head coaches Andy Reid and Kyle Shanahan. While both coaches are known for their creative offensive minds, each is coming into Sunday’s game with a vastly different background. Reid is a veteran head coach having spent over 20 years trying to capture his first Super Bowl title.

Reid has made it to the big game once before as the head coach of the Eagles and has finally made it back after 15 long years. A win on Sunday could very well secure Reid a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and cement his legacy as one of the best coaches in league history. 

Kyle Shanahan, on the other hand, is relatively new to the head coaching game and has successfully turned the 49ers around just three seasons after taking over in 2017. That being said, Kyle Shanahan is no stranger to the Super Bowl, as he was once an offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons four seasons ago in a losing effort against the New England Patriots. Kyle Shanahan also has witnessed his father, coaching legend Mike Shanahan, capture two Super Bowl rings as the head coach of the Denver Broncos in the late 1990s. A win for San Francisco would allow Kyle Shanahan to write his legacy independent from his father’s and cement his status as one of the premier coaches of today’s game. 

This matchup of both premier offensive talent and stout defense should prove to be one for the history books. My final prediction:

Kansas City Chiefs: 45

San Francisco 49ers: 38

Super Bowl MVP going to Mahomes. 

Ethan Lee can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @EthanLee_99.