There are a ton of metrics and angles to compare the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs for Super Bowl LVIII this Sunday. Let’s take a look at five crucial factors for each team and – based on historical Super Bowl records – how that could tip the scales for either team.
5 Factors Favoring the Chiefs
Mahomes has Owned the 49ers
In three games against SF, including the 2020 Super Bowl victory, the Chiefs QB is 3-0 with eight touchdowns, two interceptions and 1,023 yards. In his last game against the Niners, during the 2022 regular season, Mahomes passed for 423 yards and led TD drives on six of seven possessions after trailing 10-0. The Chiefs have scored an average of 37.7 points in Mahomes’ three games against the 49ers.
More Sacks = More Titles
Since the 1970 merger, the Super Bowl team with the most sacks in the regular season has won the big game nearly 60 percent of the time. Led by Chris Jones (10.5) and George Karlaftis (10.5), KC got to the QB 57 times compared to SF’s 48 during the regular season.
Steve Spagnuolo has a regrettable 11-41 record as a head coach, but as defensive coordinator he’s been amazing. His 2007 New York Giants defense sacked Tom Brady five times in Super Bowl XLII in a 17-14 victory that ruined the Patriots’ hopes for what would have been the only 19-0 record in NFL history.
Spagnuolo’s defense held the 49ers scoreless in the fourth quarter in the 2020 Super Bowl while the Chiefs scored three straight touchdowns in a 31-20 victory. He’s the only DC in NFL history to have rings with two different franchises.
The Kelce Factor
In seven of the past eight years, the team with the highest-ranking receptions leader has won the Super Bowl. These “go-to guys” have come up huge in the big game, including the Rams’ Cooper Kupp (8 receptions, 92 yards, 2 TDs) in 2022 and the Eagles’ Zach Ertz (7 receptions, 67 yards, 1 TD) in 2018.
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Travis Kelce, who ranked 16th with 93 receptions during the regular season, had six receptions and a touchdown in the 2020 Super Bowl and six receptions and a TD in last year’s big game.
Kelce had 19 more receptions than the 49ers’ Brandon Aiyuk, their highest-ranking receptions leader.
Reid Likes Rest
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has a 29-5 record in games following a bye week in his career, but of course that includes his Super Bowl losses with the Eagles in 2005 and Chiefs in 2021. 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan has a much smaller sample size but is a middling 6-4 after bye weeks.
5 Factors Favoring the 49ers
Stronger Against the Pass
Since the 1970 merger, the Super Bowl team with the better defensive pass rating during the regular season had a 34-18 record in the big game. The 49ers allowed a 79.6 passer rating while the Chiefs allowed a 83.6 rating during the 2023 regular season.
Passer rating is calculated by taking into account completions, attempts, yards, touchdown and interceptions.
Conference Championship Rebound
Teams that have lost their conference championship game but then reached the Super Bowl in the following season have won the big game two-thirds of the time (a 12-6 record). It may indicate a team that not only got better on the field, but also stayed strong mentally and emotionally despite the crushing loss earlier – including the 2019 and 2022 Chiefs and the 2012 Ravens most recently.
The 49ers reached the Super Bowl this season after having lost the NFC Championship Game to the Eagles last year.
Rushing Champion, NFL Champion?
Oddly, only five times has the NFL regular season rushing leader reached the Super Bowl, but their team won the big game in four of those times – including Emmitt Smith three times. This season, SF’s Christian McCaffrey led the league in rushing with 1,459 yards.
Led by linemen Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead and linebackers Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw, the 49ers allowed 4.1 yards per rush during the regular season. By comparison, the Chiefs allowed 4.5 yards per rush, which ranked in the bottom 10. Super Bowl teams that have led this statistic have a 30-17 record since 1970 and are 7-1 over the past eight Super Bowls.
Repeats Are Rare
There were seven repeat winners in the first 33 Super Bowls — the Packers, Dolphins, Steelers (twice), 49ers, Cowboys and Broncos. However, in the past 24 years, there has been only one repeat, accomplished by Tom Brady and the Patriots in 2004 and 2005. It’s not easy to do, even if Patrick Mahomes is your QB.
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