Joniak Super Bowl Edition: Chicago-Area Players Prepare For Chiefs Vs. 49ers Match

Jeff Joniak
February 01, 2020 - 4:30 pm
jimmy garoppolo

Jimmy Garoppolo (Getty Images)

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WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- It’s time to breakdown the matchup between the Chiefs and 49ers after a week of sidebar stories on Chicago-area players in Super Bowl LIV, catching up with Bears WR Allen Robinson, CB Prince Amukamara, kicker Eddy Pineiro, and punter Patrick O’Donnell. 

-- San Francisco is trying to win its sixth Super Bowl in franchise history, and third in Miami. The Chiefs are looking for their first Super Bowl win in 50-years.

-- For Chicagoans, I would imagine the Jimmy Garoppolo connection to the Northwest Suburbs draws some rooting interest. The Rolling Meadows high school, Eastern Illinois, and Arlington Heights native is trying to become the first Chicago-area quarterback to win the Super Bowl as a starter.  

-- San Francisco has relied on its powerful running game, but when needed they have turned Garoppolo loose in the passing game.  Kansas City DE Frank Clark is mindful of Garoppolo’s ability to make key throws to his backs, and seem throws to the dangerous tight end George Kittle.

-- “He makes every throw he wants to when he’s hot,” Clark said. “That’s the thing about Jimmy. When the guy is on his stuff, he’s dishing out passes, he’s throwing for 300-yards, and he’s throwing four touchdowns.”

-- Garoppolo is an outstanding play-action passing quarterback on first downs, and his season long production on that particular part of the offense for head coach and play-caller Kyle Shanahan sets up some easy pitch and catch plays that keep the chains moving.

-- Clark and Pro Bowl defensive tackle Chris Jones must shine both defending the run and rushing the passer. Clark has 43 career sacks and 11 forced fumbles. The 49ers run game is more than new star Raheem Mostert. It is an army of backs who are capable of ripping off a big game with the collective support of receivers, and tight ends that are outstanding blockers at the second and third level.

-- It is not likely that Oak Forest product Tevin Coleman will be 100% given his shoulder injury, but he is fast and dangerous. The Chiefs ranked 29th defending the run in the regular season, so it is not their strength.  Their hope is they challenge Garoppolo to beat them with his arm. The 49ers led the NFL in rushing average at nearly 5.8 yards-per-carry when using a tight end and a fullback to run the ball.  To me, it’s the biggest key in the game. The outstanding soul of the Chiefs defense Tyrann Mathieu is the type of safety needed to win championships and he must have a huge game around the ball.

-- For Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes to work his magic, the offensive line must hold up against a fierce and destructive pass rush of the 49ers. It features size, speed, and length. There is some tall timber with a pair of giants inside with Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner.  On the outside, Dee Ford, the former Chief, teams with Nick Bosa(3 playoff sacks) for a dangerous 1-2 punch.  Ford has 37 career sacks and 11 forced fumbles.

-- KC’s Tyreek Hill is arguably the fastest receiver in the league and he could find himself running a lot of his routes in the slot paired against San Francisco’s outstanding nickel defender K’Waun Williams. It is a matchup that Mahomes will try to take advantage of early and often and to test the ability for the 49ers secondary to deal with Hill’s speed. A big deep throw early to set the tone would not surprise me.  The Chiefs want to send a message early. Keeping Mahomes from getting outside the pocket and preventing late stage or bailout throws is critical for the 49ers. He is sensational and a threat to put points on the board on every snap. 

-- This game could turn on the production at tight end.  San Francisco’s George Kittle and Kansas City’s Travis Kelce define the modern day excellence at the position to make big yards after the catch and after contact.  They both are dangerous and both are matchup problems. It is the first time in Super Bowl history that two 1,000-yard tight ends are on the field.

-- These are two very good special team units. I give Kansas City’s Dave Toub the edge with his experience, scheme excellence and big game experience. They were one of the best in the league again in 2019.  They have returners that can take it to the house, a reliable young kicker in Harrison Butker and speed all over the unit. 

-- San Francisco is also talented with Robbie Gould on field goals.  He is 5-for-5 in the playoffs including a 54-yarder against Green Bay.  During the regular season he was 0-for-4 on 50+ and 74.2% overall, but there were reasons for that beyond Gould.  He is coming into the game hot. Neither team can afford any special teams breakdowns that can lead to a missed scoring opportunity or a loss of a possession. 

-- If this game becomes as tight as everyone suggests, it could turn on one big play or one missed opportunity, or maybe a team stealing a possession like the Saints did in SB XLIV with an on-side kick recovery to start the second half against the Colts.  However, it is the 49ers who have the chance to win the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and that typically wins ballgames. 

Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.