by Jordy McElroy
The stampeding herd of the San Francisco 49ers’ ferocious defensive front can be heard galloping off in the distance. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes would do well to start running right now to ensure he gets a head start for Super Bowl LIV.
The bull is rapidly approaching, and there will be no hiding in that red jersey wrapped around his torso.
No offense has been more electrifying than the Chiefs with Mahomes in the saddle. The 24-year-old gunslinger is the Mike Tyson of the NFL. Blink once and you’re convulsing on the ground after he scores multiple touchdowns.
Just ask the Houston Texans after they blew a 24-point lead in the second quarter of the divisional round of the NFL Playoffs. Ask the Titans after they got buried by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship game. The Chiefs aren’t just beating their opponents. They’re knocking them out, devastatingly.
And so are the 49ers.
Mahomes and company may boast the scariest offense in the NFL landscape, but there isn’t a defense in existence that chills the bones of opposing quarterbacks like San Francisco. It’s the type of defense that makes a quarterback get their tap-dancing shoes out. The kind that makes them see the sort of ghosts in the pocket that not even a Catholic priest can save them from.
Make no mistake, 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has been good when he’s needed to be, but the real headliner in San Francisco is the defense. That unit will ultimately be responsible for winning or losing the Super Bowl. And don’t think for one second they don’t embrace that challenge.
The 49ers will get after Mahomes like no other team has all season. They are one of the few teams capable of generating consistent pressure without blitzing. A big reason for that is the sheer dominance being put on display by defensive savants like Arik Armstead, Nick Bosa and DeForest Buckner.
They had the fourth-lowest blitz percentage throughout the regular season, despite having the second-highest pressure percentage and tying fifth in the league with 48 sacks. The ability to get after the quarterback without forcing the blitz has given 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh an opportunity to be more creative with his play-calling.
It also ensures more bodies are available to drop back into coverage to help deal with the bevy of receiving weapons at Mahomes’ fingertips. You don’t want to get caught blitzing with speed daemon receivers Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins flanked on both ends in one-on-one coverage.
Not even 49ers legendary cornerback Richard Sherman is immune from getting Tyson’d by a Mahomes’ deep ball to Hill.
Being great may not be enough for Mahomes to carry the Chiefs to the Promised Land and deliver a Lombardi Trophy to Kansas City. He will need a transcendental performance to leave Miami as a Super Bowl champion.
Can he out-finesse the bull?
The answer to that question holds the outcome of Super Bowl LIV. Mahomes has never seen a defense as good as San Francisco’s, and the 49ers haven’t seen an offense with the Chiefs’ explosive playmaking potential. Never have two teams with the same goal looked so different.