Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers punched their tickets to Super Bowl LIV with resounding wins on Championship Sunday.

Riding the Houdini act that is Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City came back from a 10-0 deficit to defeat the Tennessee Titans in the AFC title game.

Over in the NFC, San Francisco rode a dominant rushing attack to a 27-0 halftime lead and blowout win over the Green Bay Packers at Levi’s Stadium.

Heading into Super Bowl LIV between two evenly matched teams, here are five questions we have for the big game:

Will the Chiefs start slow again? 

By now, it’s well known that Kansas City fell down 24-0 in the first half against the Houston Texans in the AFC Divisional Playoffs. The Chiefs ultimately scored 51 of the game’s final 58 points. Then, on Sunday, Kansas City fell down 10-0 to Tennessee before getting it going on offense.

The question here is whether Kansas City will start slow in the Super Bowl. If that were to happen against the game’s best defense, it would be a bigger issue than what we saw against both the Texans and Titans.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Can 49ers sustain success without passing?

Through the first two games of the playoffs, Jimmy Garoppolo has completed 17-of-27 passes for 208 yards. That’s about a half worth of football for Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. This speaks to the contrasting styles of the two offenses that will be on display in Miami.

We have no idea whether this is sustainable against a high-flying Chiefs offensive attack. San Francisco put up 471 rushing yards in its two NFC Playoff victories. It will want to repeat this against Kansas City. That doesn’t mean Garoppolo won’t have to put the ball up in the air more.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Who will protect their quarterback better?

Both the Chiefs and 49ers bring a plus-level pass rush to the mix. For Kansas City, that includes stud defensive tackle Chris Jones as well as edge rushers Terrell Suggs and Frank Clark. This unit sacked Deshaun Watson four times in the divisional playoffs before getting to Ryan Tannehill for three sacks this past Sunday.

The 49ers are a completely different monster with four former first-round picks making up their studly pass rush. San Francisco put up 12 quarterback hits and nine sacks in its two playoff games heading into the Super Bowl. Rookie Nick Bosa has three sacks during that span.

There’s good news on this front for the offenses. Mahomes has gone down just three times in his past four games while Garoppolo has found himself sacked five times over the past three outings.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Will Richard Sherman follow Tyreek Hill? 

There’s been a lot made about Sherman staying true to his natural position on his side of the field rather than following the other team’s No. 1 receiver. It enabled the future Hall of Famer to give up an average of 10 passing yards in his previous 13 games prior to a dominant performance against the Packers in the NFC Championship Game.

At this point, no one can keep up with what Hill brings to the table. The 49ers are going to have to shade double coverage to his side. Even then, it will be interesting to see if the 49ers go away from their season-long scheme and have Sherman follow the electric All-Pro performer. If not, Emmanuel Moseley will be tasked with stopping Hill.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Can Andy Reid get over that hump? 

The Chiefs’ coach being known as a choke artist in the playoffs is narrative street at its finest. It’s also a narrative that won’t die down until Reid earns that elusive first Super Bowl title.

Reid is now 14-14 in the playoff career. It’s not a terrible record. The issue here is that he’s led a team to the playoffs 15 times and is just now making his second career Super Bowl appearance.

It’s not going to be easy. Reid will be tested by up-and-coming 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. His defense will be thrown to the wolves against Kyle Shanahan’s absurd game-calling abilities. A win here would represent the high-water mark of Reid’s 21-year head-coaching career. A loss would continue a worn-out narrative.

This article first appeared on Sportsnaut and was syndicated with permission.


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Can you name every winner of the AP NFL Coach of the Year Award?
2018 / CHI
Matt Nagy
2017 / LAR
Sean McVay
2016 / DAL
Jason Garrett
2015 / CAR
Ron Rivera
2014 / ARZ
Bruce Arians
2013 / CAR
Ron Rivera
2012 / IND
Bruce Arians
2011 / SF
Jim Harbaugh
2010 / NE
Bill Belichick
2009 / CIN
Marvin Lewis
2008 / ATL
Mike Smith
2007 / NE
Bill Belichick
2006 / NO
Sean Payton
2005 / CHI
Lovie Smith
2004 / SD
Marty Schottenheimer
2003 / NE
Bill Belichick
2002 / PHI
Andy Reid
2001 / CHI
Dick Jauron
2000 / NO
Jim Haslett
1999 / STL
Dick Vermeil
1998 / ATL
Dan Reeves
1997 / NYG
Jim Fassel
1996 / CAR
Dom Capers
1995 / PHI
Ray Rhodes
1994 / NE
Bill Parcells
1993 / NYG
Dan Reeves
1992 / PIT
Bill Cowher
1991 / DET
Wayne Fontes
1990 / DAL
Jimmy Johnson
1989 / GB
Lindy Infante
1988 / CHI
Mike Ditka
1987 / NO
Jim Mora
1986 / NYG
Bill Parcells
1985 / CHI
Mike Ditka
1984 / SEA
Chuck Knox
1983 / WAS
Joe Gibbs
1982 / WAS
Joe Gibbs
1981 / SF
Bill Walsh
1980 / BUF
Chuck Knox
1979 / WAS
Jack Pardee
1978 / SEA
Jack Patera
1977 / DEN
Red Miller
1976 / CLE
Forrest Gregg
1975 / BAL
Ted Marchibroda
1974 / STL
Don Coryell
1973 / LAR
Chuck Knox
1972 / MIA
Don Shula
1971 / WAS
George Allen
1970 / CIN
Paul Brown
1969 / MIN
Bud Grant
1968 / BAL
Don Shula
1967 / LAR
George Allen
1967 / BAL
Don Shula
1966 / DAL
Tom Landry
1965 / CHI
George Halas
1964 / BAL
Don Shula
1963 / CHI
George Halas
1962 / NYG
Allie Sherman
1961 / NYG
Allie Sherman
1960 / PHI
Buck Shaw
1959 / GB
Vince Lombardi
1958 / BAL
Weeb Ewbank
1957 / DET
George Wilson

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