Published3 days ago
Super Bowl 58: San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs
Venue: Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas Date: Sunday, 11 February Start: 23:30 GMT (15:30 PST)
BBC coverage: Listen to commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live and follow live text on the BBC Sport website and app
Named after the prospectors of California’s 1849 Gold Rush, it seems apt the San Francisco 49ers are playing in the first Super Bowl to be staged in Las Vegas.
Many before them have visited the gambling mecca, which was transformed from a Nevada frontier town, looking to make their fortune.
Now the 49ers hope to strike it rich in Sin City by winning the NFL’s biggest prize, and coach Kyle Shanahan has a strong hand as they take on defending champions Kansas City.
The Chiefs may be aiming to cement their dynasty with a third Super Bowl win in five years – the first was against the 49ers in 2020 – but San Francisco are considered slight favourites because of their star-studded roster.
They are ready to take the stage and shine on the Strip, although ‘Mr Irrelevant’ is not the standard name for a headline act.
Purdy proves to be perfect leader
Little was expected of Brock Purdy in 2022 when he was selected with the 262nd and final pick of the NFL draft. That comes with the title of ‘Mr Irrelevant’, but coach Shanahan soon realised the quarterback was anything but.
San Francisco’s chief executive Jed York revealed last week that, during the 2022 training camp, Shanahan recognised Purdy – their third-string rookie – was actually the 49ers’ best quarterback.
With the team having invested heavily in Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance, Purdy did not get his chance until both were injured, but since becoming the starter in December 2022 he has won 21 of his 26 games, showing remarkable composure and inner confidence.
His first defeat came one game shy of last year’s Super Bowl, when an elbow injury left him needing off-season surgery, and this season the humble 24-year-old set the franchise record for passing yards as the 49ers secured the top seed in the NFC Conference.
Yet Purdy still has his doubters. While his passing has been accurate, he is not physically imposing.
Some put San Francisco’s success down to the calibre of players Purdy has around him and have dismissed him as merely a ‘game manager’, which Purdy this week claimed “can be a compliment at times” – again showing his lack of ego.
Shanahan added “it’s weird to hear the whole world talking about this. That’s how you become a consistent quarterback – you’re a game manager, you run the system right and you can make plays”.
“Brock does all three of those things so I don’t get how being a system quarterback or a game manager is a negative. Like, [that’s] the job of a quarterback,” he added.
McCaffrey aiming to emulate his father
Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have gradually turned the 49ers into one of the NFL’s best teams since joining in 2017, but the mid-season trade for running back Christian McCaffrey in October 2022 took them to another level.
He hit the ground running, literally, and is also a threat in the passing game. Last season he even threw a touchdown pass too. He can pretty much do it all. Including the play-offs, McCaffrey leads the league with 24 touchdowns.
McCaffrey’s move from Carolina also completed some neat family links. His father Ed was a wide receiver who helped San Francisco to their last Super Bowl win in 1995, before winning two more with Denver.
The Broncos were coached by Mike Shanahan, Kyle’s father, and the families were close. It was rumoured a teenage Kyle used to babysit Christian, although it turns out his sister was actually in charge., external
“I was so close with Christian’s dad growing up,” said Kyle Shanahan. “Him and Rod Smith were the two receivers on the Broncos, and I’d meet them after school to run routes and do workouts.
“Then it was just so funny watching Christian over the years. I just couldn’t believe how talented he was. But I also knew his dad and how psychotic he was with his work ethic and attention to detail.
“That’s what’s been so neat, trading for Christian and actually getting to know him. I feel like I’m watching Ed half the time.”
Dual-threat weapons make up electrifying offence
San Francisco’s offence has plenty more weapons. Like McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel is a versatile target, with offensive mastermind Shanahan scheming plays to get them into positions where they can do the most damage – and Purdy usually finding them.
Samuel had 892 receiving yards in the regular season but also 225 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns, while Brandon Aiyuk was their top receiver with 1,342 yards.
Like Purdy, George Kittle was a late draft pick who was developed into one of the NFL’s best tight ends. As well as being a fearsome blocker, he had 1,020 receiving yards this season, meaning the 49ers became the first NFL team to have four players with more than 1,000 scrimmage yards.
Full-back Kyle Juszczyk is another multi-purpose threat and in 11-time Pro Bowler Trent Williams they have one of the best tackles to have played the game.
And don’t forget the defence
San Francisco also have one of the NFL’s best defences. Nick Bosa was last season’s defensive player of the year after claiming a league-high 18.5 quarterback sacks. He has claimed another 12.5 this season.
In November the 49ers brought in another top defensive end, trading for Washington’s Chase Young. The defensive rookie of the year for 2020 has 7.5 sacks for this season.
Only Dallas (nine) had more players selected for this season’s All-Pro team than San Francisco (seven), with McCaffrey and 49ers linebacker Fred Warner two of the three unanimous choices.
Cornerback Charvarius Ward was also selected after claiming five interceptions this season and he will have some inside knowledge having played for Kansas City when they beat San Francisco in Super Bowl 54.
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