Heroes and Anti-Hero: The UCSD Guardian’s Super Bowl LVIII Preview
Photo by Nicholas Regli/ UCSD Guardian

Heroes and Anti-Hero: The UCSD Guardian’s Super Bowl LVIII Preview

In a “Bad Blood” rematch of 2020’s thriller, the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers will face off in Super Bowl LVIII. One team’s “Wildest Dreams” will come true, and the other will have a very “Cruel Summer” ahead. Read below to find out who The UCSD Guardian’s sports section — who know “All Too Well,” in their infinite and unmatched football expertise — thinks will write their name on the “Blank Space” of NFL history.

 

Chiefs over 49ers, 27-24

Wyatt Bose, Staff Writer

 

Sunday, Feb. 11 will be déjà vu for 49ers’ fans.

 

In two playoff games, the 49ers allowed 318 total rushing yards. Look for the Chiefs to lean heavily on Isiah Pacheco, who will feast off a porous 49ers front seven that has no-showed all postseason.

 

The 49ers’ pass rush — what used to be the calling card for Steve Wilks’ defense — has been a disappointment. San Francisco’s star-studded front totaled just two sacks in two games, both courtesy of Nick Bosa in the NFC Championship. The Chiefs’ offensive line allowed just 28 sacks in 17 games this season (2nd best in the NFL), and Steve Wilks does not have a propensity to blitz. It might be a long day for 49ers fans, because Patrick Mahomes will have ample time against San Francisco’s run-of-the-mill secondary.

 

On the other side of the ball, Chiefs’ defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo loves to blitz with disguise. Kansas City plays elite man coverage behind Spagnuolo’s blitzes, courtesy of first team All-Pro Trent McDuffie and Pro Bowler L’Jarius Sneed. The X factor will be George Kittle, however, who will likely have Justin Reid one-on-one when Spagnuolo blitzes.

 

Finally, Harrison Butker’s reliability will provide reassurance for the Chiefs, while Jake Moody’s shaky right foot presents a cause for concern for the 49ers. Kicking may decide this game, so I’ll take the Chiefs by 3.

 

49ers over Chiefs, 24-17

Senji Torrey, Staff Writer

 

While statistics steadfastly favor Kansas City, San Francisco has volatile intangibles coming into this contest. Losing to the Chiefs at Super Bowl LIV and falling just short of a Super Bowl appearance last season has sprouted a massive chip on the 49ers’ shoulders that could very well propel them to a vengeful victory; alternatively, it could prove too heavy a burden as emotions cloud their judgment and play. 

 

Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes has proved reliable in the air and more importantly on the ground, where he has scrambled 14 times for 75 yards over three playoff games. The 49ers will need to kickstart their defensive line and get to Mahomes quickly if they hope to take hold of the game.

 

49ers’ Brock Purdy has been doubted at every turn, and he has returned convincing responses almost every time. Despite slightly faltering against the Detroit Lions, Purdy managed to throw for 267 yards. His playoff inexperience has not played a significant role so far, and it likely won’t come on Feb. 11 thanks to a honed-in 49ers atmosphere that should smooth over any jitters.

 

For San Francisco, this Super Bowl will come down to whether they can convert the weight of restitution into a gritty hour of football; if they can, it will be up to the Chiefs to match their energy.

 

Chiefs over 49ers, 24-13

Ryan Kirton, Staff Writer

 

Apologies in advance to anyone tired of the Chiefs winning, likes the 49ers, and has seen enough of Taylor Swift, or perhaps all three. Despite being the number one seed in the NFC and having enough talent to fill an entire Pro Bowl roster, the 49ers have looked outmatched in the playoffs thus far, barely scraping by against inferior opponents. The Chiefs, meanwhile, have finally come alive in the playoffs, defeating the three teams many believe were the best in the AFC. If this continues, the Chiefs have the inside track for the Lombardi Trophy.

 

Sure, Kyle Shanahan’s offense has stepped up when it mattered most these last few weeks. In each of the 49ers’ last two games, they trailed well into the second half before figuring things out and mounting a late comeback. These wins, however, have come against a relatively inexperienced Packers squad, and the Lions, a team whose aggressive play-calling finally got the better of them with two momentum-changing turnovers on downs.

 

The Chiefs are a different story. After what many consider to be an off year, the Mahomes-Kelce connection looks to be back, earning 262 yards and 3 touchdowns in the last 3 games. Young stars Isiah Pacheco and Rashee Rice have continued to impress throughout the playoffs. But the biggest game-changer is the defense, which is the best it has looked under Reid and Spagnuolo. During the regular season, the Chiefs were second in terms of scoring defense and yards allowed per game. So, if the 49ers continue to look sluggish out of the gate, the red-hot offense mixed with an elite defense will ensure the Chiefs come out on top.

 

49ers over Chiefs, 27-20

Alan Zhang, Staff Writer

 

Four years ago, these two teams faced off in Super Bowl LIV and the Chiefs took the victory, led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes and wide receiver Tyreek Hill. But Tyreek Hill is gone now, sacrificing the “beaches” of Kansas City for the beaches of Miami, as the Chiefs had their worst season in the Mahomes era. And while the Chiefs have only gotten weaker since their run in 2020, the 49ers have only gotten stronger.

 

Quarterback Jimmy Garropolo was replaced by Brock Purdy, who doesn’t possess the good looks of his predecessor but makes up for it with the talent that Garropolo lacked. Tight end George Kittle, the only 49ers receiver with over 1,000 yards on the 2019-20 team, is now joined by a more developed Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk in one of the best receiving corps in the NFL. But the biggest addition has to be Christian McCaffrey, who led the league in rushing and receiving yards and touchdowns.

 

But this game will come down to Mahomes. Over the course of his career, he has shown time and time again why he should be considered one of the greatest quarterbacks of his time. Despite his talent, 2023 has been his worst season yet, with a career-high 14 interceptions. In the playoffs, however, he showed glimpses of greatness that had eluded him this season. This game will be decided by which Mahomes we see: the one that we have seen all season or the incredible talent who won two Super Bowls in only five seasons.

 

49ers over Chiefs, 31-20

Kurt Johnston, Sports Editor

 

Entering the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LIV with a 10-point lead, Jimmy Garoppolo completed 3 passes on 11 attempts for a mere 36 yards, a 2.8 QBR, and a garbage time interception. 

 

Four years later, Brock Purdy is trying to prove he can be the quarterback that Garoppolo wasn’t. Apart from a few bad losses (e.g. ruining my Christmas), Mr. Irrelevant strolled through the regular season. The playoffs have been a different challenge, but Purdy has now led comeback drives in two consecutive games — more than any other quarterback in recent 49ers history.

 

Purdy’s “game manager” moniker is a misconception. He is not the generational talent of Patrick Mahomes, a surefire future Hall of Fame quarterback with the best playmaking ability of all time. His supporting cast — Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle, and, perhaps most importantly, Christian McCaffrey — is the best offensive unit in football. Yet, while Purdy does play within a system, he has been exceptional in exploiting that system to elevate his teammates.

 

The Chiefs will do their best to limit the 49ers. Purdy will face heavy pressure and excellent pass coverage; George Karloftis, Chris Jones, and Trent McDuffie lead one of the best defensive units in football. The recently leaky 49ers defense must stop Isiah Pacheco and force Mahomes to throw to a receiver other than Travis Kelce. If the game comes down to a field goal, Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker will be far more confident than 49ers rookie Jake Moody.

 

But this year’s Super Bowl will truly rest on Purdy, the 24-year-old from Queen Creek, Arizona, the four-year starter at Iowa State, and the 262nd pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. And like he’s done all season, he’ll win in the biggest moment. Sorry, Swifties.

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