This Super Bowl is chock-full of fun one-on-one matchups on both sides. Andy Reid vs. Kyle Shanahan. George Kittle vs. Travis Kelce. Nick Bosa vs. Mitchell Schwartz.
But, per usual, the matchup that will draw the most eyes and discussion involves two quarterbacks who have taken very different paths to Miami: Patrick Mahomes vs. Jimmy Garoppolo. Mahomes needed to put the Chiefs on his back to come back from two double-digit deficits on the AFC side of the bracket to get Kansas City back to the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years. Garoppolo, meanwhile, threw 27 passes total in two blowout wins over the Vikings and Packers to earn San Francisco an appearance on Super Bowl Sunday.
As a result, the overarching discussion for this game comes down to if the Niners can dominate on the ground like they've done so thus far, and if Mahomes can continue his otherworldly play. While the teams are evenly matched and it should be a close game, most would probably predict that if the Niners do win, it's not because Garoppolo outplays Mahomes, but does just enough to get the W while San Francisco runs roughshod over KC's defense. On First Take on Tuesday, Max Kellerman suggested that there is a timeline where Garoppolo does, in fact, best Mahomes in the biggest game of the year:
His argument is fairly simple and logical: if the Chiefs sell out to stop San Francisco's run game, Garoppolo could have a big game. If that happens in tandem with the Niners' defense dominating the Chiefs up front, it's conceivable that Mahomes doesn't have his best game, and when the final whistle blos, Garoppolo will have the more impressive statline and the victory.
Is it likely? Not particularly, since everything we've seen from Mahomes indicates that even if he's feeling the heat from the opposite side's dangerous front four, he'll figure it out and still put up big numbers. It's just what he does, and what he has done throughout his NFL career to this point.
But the Chiefs did do a good job of stopping Derrick Henry, and improved their run defense considerably over the second half of the season. I wrote last week that Garoppolo would need to step up if the Niners want to win, and he's certainly capable of putting up big numbers when his team needs him. While I'm dubious that Mahomes won't have a great game come Sunday, it wouldn't be any surprise if Garoppolo threw for 250-plus yards and a few touchdowns, which would easily eclipse what he did through the air in the previous two games combined.