In less than a week, the NFL will crown a new king.
Only the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs are left in the hunt for Super Bowl LIV, which is already sweeping through South Florida in advance of Sunday's collision at Miami's Hard Rock Stadium.
While both teams have held the throne before, it's been a while since either celebrated a title. The Niners last enjoyed the game's top honor in 1995, which they won inside this same stadium. The Chiefs won it all in 1970, and this is their first visit to the final round since.
Super Bowl 2020 Schedule, TV Listing
Who: San Francisco 49ers vs. Kansas City Chiefs
When: Sunday, Feb. 2 at 6:30 p.m. ET
Where: Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.
49ers, Jimmy Garoppolo Unbothered by Passing Questions
In an era largely defined by passing, we've come to expect gargantuan numbers in the aerial game. It's a bit jarring, then, to see San Francisco succeeding while asking so little of Jimmy Garoppolo as a passer.
He's 17-of-27 for 208 yards with one touchdown and one interception in these playoffs. That's a two-game total, by the way, which almost feels impossible. His Super Bowl counterpart, Patrick Mahomes, has totaled 615 passing yards and eight touchdown passes across his two outings.
Detractors hold the lack of production against Garoppolo. Some question if the Niners are guarding against him making a mistake. Others wonder if he could air it out if San Francisco needed him to.
Those inside the organization, though, swear they're fine. And considering they're headed to the Super Bowl after back-to-back 17-point playoff wins, why wouldn't they be?
"It's people telling you how to win," the 49ers cornerback said of the critics, per B/R's Tyler Dunne. "Like, Hey, we don't care that you're winning by double digits every game. You're not winning the way we want you to. So let's criticize him."
The Niners aren't passing much, because they haven't needed to. Their ground game has been that dominant. San Francisco has averaged 235.5 rushing yards per game and 5.3 yards per carry. The Niners have six rushing scores in the playoffs alone.
Time only knows if that formula can work against an offensive as explosive as Kansas City's, but if it does, San Francisco has no problems with handing the ball off one play after another.
Patrick Mahomes, Reigning MVP, Even Better Than Last Season
Last season, Mahomes didn't spring to life as much as he was shot out of a cannon. The 10th pick in 2017, he had the runway cleared after that season by the trade of Alex Smith, and he went soaring into the skies shortly thereafter.
Even a year later, the numbers from Mahomes' breakout remain hard to fathom. He threw for 5,097 yards. He completed 66.0 percent of his passes. He tossed 50 touchdown passes and only 12 interceptions.
His production wasn't the same this season. The yardage fell, the touchdowns plummeted and even the completion percentage dropped by 0.1 points. But this was a cleaner, more efficient, more well-rounded quarterback.
And once he could put his knee injury (dislocated kneecap) behind him, he proved as potent as ever. He's getting everything wants regardless what kind of defense he sees, and he's dismantling teams the way superstars do once the game starts slowing down for them.
"His first year, it was purely off talent," Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill said. "If you factor in coverages this year, you hear him yelling things right away. He's changing routes and that kind of stuff. It's his maturity and the work he's put in in the film room. He's grown a lot."
If teams are overloaded on Mahomes' aerial threat, he'll simply tuck it in and run now, too. He cleared 50 rushing yards once all of his last season. He's had exactly 53 in both of his playoff games so far.
Considering the caliber of defense awaiting him—San Francisco surrendered the second-fewest yards in the regular season and has the best scoring defense of the playoffs—Mahomes must be at his best to orchestrate a championship win. Luckily for the Chiefs, he's been climbing toward that peak all season.