MIAMI — It’s been a week unlike any other for this San Francisco 49ers team.
From what seems like a never-ending media circus to photo shoots and corporate events, Super Bowl Week in Miami is hectic at best for players and coaches alike who are involved with the actual game.
“It just keeps going and going and going,” 49ers running back Jeff Wilson Jr. told the Examiner. “I can’t wait to just get to Sunday and play.”
Lucky for Wilson and the rest of the 49ers, the Super Bowl is here as San Francisco gears up to take on the AFC-winning Kansas City Chiefs at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, FL.
It’s the biggest game the 49ers have played in the better part of a decade and undoubtedly the biggest one they’ve faced under head coach Kyle Shanahan. With a Lombardi Trophy on the line, San Francisco will have to be as buttoned-up as they’ve been all season, competing against a Chiefs team that’s seemingly never out of a game — no matter how far they fall behind.
“I know how big of a deal it is to get here,” Shanahan said. “You know how big of a deal it is to the country — and even to the world. I think it’s always been my favorite time of year whether i’m watching it or coaching in it … It’s cool to just be here and be a part of it.”
Here are three things to watch when the 49ers take on the Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV at 3 p.m. Pacific Time.
Don’t ever count the Chiefs out
Surely the Houston Texans were feeling confident when they found themselves up 24-0 over the Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional round of the playoffs three weeks ago.
They had held Pat Mahomes and the rest of the Kansas City offense to just 41 yards and even returned a punt for a touchdown. What they didn’t know is that no lead is ever safe with the Chiefs.
Scoring 41 unanswered points, on their way to a 51-31 win over Houston, the Chiefs were unaffected by such a large deficit. A week later in the AFC Championship game, they did it again, by rallying back against the Tennessee Titans after being down 17-7 in the first half to win 35-24.
As the 49ers prepare to take on a team with such explosive capabilities, able to drop heaps of points on teams within minutes, they must be mindful that even comfortable leads can evaporate in the blink of an eye.
So far this postseason, the 49ers have done a good job of building early leads, including a 27-0 halftime advantage over the Packers in the NFC Championship game.
But in order to successfully hold off the Chiefs in the event San Francisco gets up on them early, consistently keeping its foot on the gas will be essential.
Keep on running
The San Francisco 49ers put in a rushing clinic against the Packers two weeks ago. With 285 yards of rushing — including 220 from Raheem Mostert alone, the 49ers had the best rushing day in postseason franchise history.
In order for the 49ers to win and hoist a Lombardi Trophy for the sixth time in team history, they’ll need to wash, rinse and repeat.
The only problem for the 49ers is that Kansas City was the third-best team against the run this season, allowing just 89.5 rushing yards per game in the regular season.
Against Derrick Henry and the Titans offense, the Chiefs did much of the same allowing just 85 total yards on the ground, snapping Henry’s streak of three games with at least 180 rushing yards in the process.
San Francisco’s offense revolves around the running game so keeping that momentum on their side will be essential. In addition, keeping the clock running will be important to keep the ball out of Mahomes hands.
Shanahan’s shot at redemption.
All week, Kyle Shanahan has been asked about two numbers: 28 and 3.
Yes, arguably Shanahan’s biggest blunder as coach when he blew a 28-3 lead against the New England Patriots in the 2016 Super Bowl has been front and center this week.
Then, Shanahan was the Atlanta Falcons’ offensive coordinator. Now as a head coach for the 49ers, he has a chance to put those criticisms to bed and finally capture a Super Bowl win.
“I don’t think there’s anything to run away from. I was very proud of that year, I was proud of our team,” Shanahan said. “I’m very disappointed about losing a 28-3 game. But I think I can deal with that, and knowing that has made me a little stronger.”
While the memes about 28-3 have piled up since 2016, Shanahan has done a marvelous job taking the jabs in stride. In fact, he’s even been able to joke about it within the 49ers locker room according to starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
Despite this laughing matter, Shanahan says he won’t let that affect how he coaches or how he’ll approach Sunday’s game even though it would be nice to finally put the jokes behind him once and for all with a 49ers victory.
Visit SFExaminer.com for complete Super Bowl coverage today and look for our special section in Wednesday’s paper.