TAYLOR Swift will be decked out in Chiefs red on Super Bowl Sunday, but by the end of the evening, I believe it will be the 49ers and their fans who will be singing some of her saddest lyrics from the 2020 song “Exile.”
I think I’ve seen this film before
And I didn’t like the ending.
When the Chiefs and 49ers meet Sunday night at Allegiant Stadium, it will be the eighth time that there’s been a Super Bowl rematch.
Only twice has the team that lost the first meeting won the second.
The first was the Redskins, who beat the Dolphins 27-17 in 1983 (I’ll be referring to the years each Super Bowl was played because I’m done with Roman numerals) after losing to them 14-7 in 1973 following Miami’s undefeated 1972 season.
In that time, the teams were almost entirely different.
The other was the Eagles in 2018 when they defeated the Patriots 41-33. That was 13 years after the Patriots beat the Donovan McNabb-Terrell Owens Eagles, but Tom Brady was involved in both games.
The Patriots also had a pair of Super Bowl showdowns with the Rams, winning both. They beat St. Louis’ Greatest Show on Turf, 20-17, in 2002 and Los Angeles, 13-3, in 2019. Despite the 17-year time-lapse, Brady was the winning quarterback in both games.
The other four instances are closer to what we have now, with rapid rematches. The Chiefs defeated the 49ers, 31-20, in Miami in 2020. The coaching matchup of Andy Reid vs. Kyle Shanahan remains, Patrick Mahomes is still the Chiefs quarterback, and there are quite a few key players who are back for the sequel.
I’ve heard some analysis from 49ers backers saying the Chiefs have lost Tyreek Hill from that game while the 49ers added Christian McCaffrey and gotten a big upgrade at quarterback with Brock Purdy over Jimmy Garoppolo.
That could be true, but the 49ers also have a lot of ground to cover here on the scoreboard. They need to win by three points to cover as two-point favorites. That’s a 14-point swing between the two results, against an excellent team. And as I mentioned, it would go against history:
* In 1976, the Terry Bradshaw-Steel Curtain Steelers beat the Cowboys, 21-17, and defeated them again in 1979 by a 35-31 score. (Dallas beat Pittsburgh in a third meeting in 1996, but that’s not part of this discussion).
* In 1982, the Joe Montana 49ers topped the Bengals 26-21, then in 1989, Montana spotted John Candy and led the 49ers to the winning drive in a 20-16 victory over Cincinnati.
* The Troy Aikman Cowboys drubbed the Bills in back-to-back Super Bowls — 52-17 in 1993 and 30-13 in 1994.
* Eli Manning and the Giants took down Brady and the Patriots twice in short order. Big Blue ended New England’s undefeated bid with the help of David Tyree’s helmet catch in 2008, 17-14, and beat them again 21-17 in 2012.
These instances don’t prove anything, but they fuel the notion that it’s easier for winners to keep winning than it is for the loser of an event to turn the result around. Sports bettors often like to be on the side of the “revenge” team, but I don’t think that always works out for them.
And though sports movies show us great moments begin with adversity, not all experience is good experience. Take Shanahan, who not only already has lost to Reid in the Super Bowl as a head coach, he also was the offensive coordinator of the Falcons when they blew a 28-3 halftime lead to the Patriots and lost 34-28 in overtime in 2017.
Good experience also seems to matter with quarterbacks. By my count, there have been 19 previous Super Bowls in which a quarterback who already has won a ring as a starter was facing a first-time starter. That’s the situation we have on Sunday with Mahomes vs. Purdy. The “winners” won 13 of those games and the “upstarts” won six. Here’s a quick list.
* Winners won: Bart Starr over Daryle Lamonica; Bob Griese over Fran Tarkenton; Terry Bradshaw over Vince Ferragamo; Joe Montana over Dan Marino; Montana over Boomer Esiason; Troy Aikman over Neil O’Donnell; John Elway over Chris Chandler; Tom Brady over Jake Delhomme; Brady over McNabb; Peyton Manning over Cam Newton; Brady over Matt Ryan; Brady over Jared Goff; Mahomes over Jalen Hurts.
* Upstarts won: Brady over Kurt Warner; Eli Manning over Brady; Drew Brees over Peyton Manning; Aaron Rodgers over Ben Roethlisberger; Russell Wilson over Peyton Manning; Nick Foles over Brady.
OK, so how is this matchup going to play out?
The Chiefs come in as the more battle-tested team. They have played three games in these playoffs and are 3-0 against the spread in their wins over the Dolphins (26-7) at Arrowhead, and Bills (27-24) and Ravens (17-10) on the road. They closed as underdogs of 2.5 at Buffalo and 4.5 at Baltimore. I had the wrong side in both of those games, and I’m not about to give the Chiefs any more points.
The 49ers had to win just two games, both at home, to make it to Las Vegas. They were trailing the Packers, 21-14, in the fourth quarter before rallying to a 24-21 victory. Then the 49ers were down 24-7 to the Lions at the half and came back for a 34-31 win thanks in part because Detroit coach Dan Campbell twice refused to try makeable field goals. San Francisco also is 0-2 ATS in the playoffs.
Of those five games listed above, I can see the Super Bowl playing out most like the Chiefs-Ravens game, though a little higher-scoring. In the 49ers’ two games, the Packers and Lions pressed the issue offensively, put up a few touchdowns, and the 49ers’ comebacks pushed the scorers higher. Same with the Chiefs-Bills game.
But in 49ers-Chiefs we have two teams with excellent defensive chops. In the regular season, the Chiefs ranked second in yards allowed (fourth in passing yards allowed) and second in points allowed. The 49ers likely will see their one vulnerability is to the run, and have a game plan heavy with McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel on the ground.
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The 49ers ranked eighth in yards allowed and third in points allowed. They were better against the run than the pass, and there should be chances for Mahomes to find Travis Kelce, dump it off to Isiah Pacheco, and scramble a few times himself. All of this on both sides will take time, and I think this will be more of a chess match than a Wild West shootout.
One last thing about the spread: It’s small and probably won’t have an impact on that ATS winner. But the fact the Chiefs are underdogs when they’re the team that has two recent Super Bowl rings, when they’ve already beaten this opponent for a championship, is an intangible Reid can work with.
The picks: Chiefs +2; Under 47.5.
Championship week: 3-1 overall (1-1 sides, 2-0 Over/Unders).
Lock of the week: Chiefs (Locks 7-13-1 in 2023, including playoffs).