LAS VEGAS — Eight teams delivered back-to-back Super Bowl victories, and the Kansas City Chiefs are in line to become the first in 19 seasons to repeat as Lombardi Trophy winners if they can turn away the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII on Sunday.
The same two teams met in the Super Bowl four years ago, with Chiefs coach Andy Reid again opposing 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan.
“The 49ers have a lot of talent. They’re a better team than the one we played (in 2020),” Reid said. The Chiefs won that game 31-20.
Only four head coaches have at least three Super Bowl wins, and each of the previous three instances of a coaching rematch in the Super Bowl has gone to the victor of the first matchup.
That would be a positive omen for Reid.
The 65-year-old is closing in on all-time legends on the career wins list and is 2-2 in Super Bowls, including a victory over the 49ers in Super Bowl LIV. He gives an immense amount of credit to two-time NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes and a reconstructed defense. In three career games against the 49ers (regular season and postseason), Mahomes is 3-0 with 1,023 yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions.
“I think the quarterback is as hard to beat as anyone who’s ever played the game,” Shanahan said. “The things he can do from a talent standpoint and then you pair that up with his scheme with Andy, how Andy runs a team with Mahomes’ experience now. That’s why no matter what type of game it is, whether it’s low-scoring, high-scoring, whether they’re struggling or not, they always have a chance.”
Mahomes, 14-3 in 17 career playoff games, is the youngest quarterback to start four Super Bowls in league history at age 28.
Winning on Sunday would give Mahomes three Super Bowl wins — something five other quarterbacks have accomplished — and keep him ahead of Tom Brady’s record pace of seven wins in 10 appearances. Brady was 30 when he started his fourth Super Bowl.
“I mean, I’m not even close to halfway (to Brady’s Super Bowl wins record),” said Mahomes, who took his only Super Bowl loss and one of his two AFC Championship Game defeats head-to-head vs. Brady. “So right now, it’s doing whatever I can to beat a great 49ers team and trying to get that third ring. And then, if you ask me that question in like 15 years, then I’ll see if I can get close to seven. But seven seems like a long ways away still.”
The 49ers won’t see many familiar faces on the defense of the Chiefs, which retains only defensive tackle Chris Jones and replaced 10 other starters on the crew that started Super Bowl LIV. But these aren’t the yesteryear 49ers, either.
San Francisco’s remodeling includes changes at quarterback and running back. Christian McCaffrey, acquired via trade from the Carolina Panthers, tied for the NFL lead with 21 total touchdowns in the regular season to become an MVP finalist alongside quarterback Brock Purdy.
Mr. Irrelevant as the final pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, Purdy stormed to stardom with a 21-5 combined record in the regular season and playoffs the past two seasons. He underwent elbow surgery after getting hurt in last year’s NFC Championship Game, and now he has the 49ers in their eighth Super Bowl, tied for second most. San Francisco is shooting for a sixth Lombardi Trophy, which would match the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots for the record.
Purdy comes packing direct advice from Joe Montana, who downplayed the need for San Francisco’s quarterback to steal the show.
“You’ve got a good team around you, just go through the reads and what Kyle’s calling and trust in Kyle,” Purdy said of Montana’s guidance. “You don’t need to be this superstar or anything. If you go out and do your job, you’ve got a good team around you and you guys can win that way.”
Shanahan’s father, Mike Shanahan, won back-to-back Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos following the 1997 and 1998 seasons. Kyle Shanahan lost his only title opportunity as a head coach in the first matchup with Reid, and he was the offensive coordinator for the Falcons in Atlanta’s defeat at the hands of Brady and the Patriots after the 2016 season.
“I’ve been able to coach in two Super Bowls and to lose either of them, both of them are heartbreaking,” Kyle Shanahan said.
Purdy and McCaffrey aren’t the only key factors facing Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who can become the first four-time Super Bowl champion coordinator in NFL history. The Chiefs’ defense has some serious chops, ranking second in the NFL in points per game (17.3 average) but is well behind the 49ers in turnover margin. San Francisco was plus-10, and Kansas City was minus-11.
However, the Chiefs’ defense has been better this postseason, holding the Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills and Baltimore Ravens to a combined total of 41 points.
“We focus on the points allowed, our third down, red zone, turnovers, two-minute, all the situational things,” Spagnuolo said. “Let’s face it: The No. 1 job of any defensive unit is to limit the amount of points that are scored. That gives your team a chance to win.”
Jones and cornerback Trent McDuffie were named first-team All-Pros in 2023.
The Chiefs lean on cornerback L’Jarius Sneed to erase the No. 1 receiver on the opposing team, as he did with Miami’s Tyreek Hill in the wild-card round and Buffalo’s Stefon Diggs in the divisional playoffs.
Figuring out which 49ers playmaker is most dangerous is a crapshoot. In addition to Purdy clearing 4,000 passing yards, San Francisco had McCaffrey top 2,000 yards from scrimmage, while three of his teammates went over 1,000 total yards (wide receivers Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel and tight end George Kittle).
“They’re the best I’ve ever seen,” Jones said. “This is the biggest challenge we’ve faced so far.”
–By Jeff Reynolds, Field Level Media