The Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers have never played each other in the postseason, but their most recent regular-season meeting could give us a glimpse into how Super Bowl LIV will play out February 2.
In Week 3 of the 2018 campaign, the Chiefs defeated the 49ers 38-27 at Arrowhead Stadium, and while some of the main characters have changed, the approaches of the respective coaching staffs may help us understand the matchup more.
The odds for the clash at Hard Rock Stadium are in favor of the Chiefs and a large total, with part of that reasoning dating back to the September 23, 2018, meeting at Arrowhead Stadium.
Super Bowl LIV Information
Date: Sunday, February 2
Start Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
Odds (via Caesars): Kansas City (-1); Over/Under: 53.5
Kansas City (-1) and Under 53.5
The 49ers and Chiefs have changed a bit since their last meeting, but similar principles are in place on both sides.
San Francisco owns a run-first offensive scheme devised by head coach Kyle Shanahan that has thrived regardless of whoever is on the field.
In the 2018 meeting with the Chiefs, Matt Breida and Alfred Morris racked up 157 of the 49ers' 178 rushing yards.
Breida, Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman all recorded over 500 rushing yards this season, and Mostert earned the bulk of the carries in the NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers.
The NFC champion ran the ball so well Sunday that quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo only had to throw eight passes.
The Chiefs have a heavier reliance on their quarterback to achieve the majority of their success.
Patrick Mahomes is coming off a 294-yard, three-score performance in the win over the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Championship Game, and he produced 314 passing yards and a trio of scoring plays in his lone meeting with the 49ers.
In the 2018 contest, the signal-caller was only sacked twice by a defensive line that included Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner.
The difference between that game and the forthcoming Super Bowl is the presence of Nick Bosa, who has 25 quarterback hits, 16 tackles for loss and nine sacks.
With Bosa, Armstead, Buckner and Dee Ford rushing at Mahomes, the 49ers could achieve success getting to the quarterback with just four players, which would allow others to help in pass coverage if Mahomes eludes the rush.
While the defensive line pressure may work on some drives, Kansas City's offensive line has kept its quarterback relatively clean in recent months.
Before suffering two sacks in the AFC Championship Game, Mahomes had been taken down once in the previous three games.
Since the start of December, the Kansas City quarterback has been sacked on eight occasions over seven games, with three coming in Week 15 against the Denver Broncos.
Eluding the pass rush will be key for Mahomes, but he also has to avoid a third consecutive slow start.
The Chiefs produced seven first-quarter points versus Houston and Tennessee, and another sluggish beginning could put the over of 53.5 in danger.
An argument can be made the slow starts will not matter because Kansas City went on to total 86 points in those two games, but scoring may not be as easy with San Francisco holding on to the ball.
The 49ers have the capability to take minutes off the clock because of their reliance on the run game. In the NFC Championship, 42 of their 50 plays were runs.
If the NFC West champion runs at a similar clip and Garoppolo attempts 15-20 passes, it could slow the game and limit Kansas City's scoring opportunities.
While that approach could be effective for stretches, the Chiefs were successful against the run Sunday, as it slowed down Derrick Henry for the Titans.
If the Chiefs implement a similar strategy to containing the ground surges, their defense could set up Mahomes and Co. to pull away in the second half.