The Super Bowl is still five days away as both the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers are ramping up their intensity in preparation for the big game in Miami, Florida.
Despite how even the two teams are on paper, there are two trends that have defined Super Bowl success since 2002. Offensively, Patrick Mahomes and Jimmy Garoppolo need to limit their turnovers. And on the other side of the ball, the defenses have to get after the quarterback.
Since the New England Patriots defeat of the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl 36, teams that win the turnover battle have a sterling 11-3 record.
In 2019, the Chiefs have done a great job of taking care of the football, committing the third-least turnovers and posting a 5-0 record in the regular season when winning the turnover battle. In the postseason, Kansas City has scored 86 points and their lone turnover came on special teams.
It’s been a different story for the 49ers offense, who turned the ball over 23 times in the regular season, including eight games when they turned the ball over multiple times. However, San Francisco was 6-2 in those contests due to their defense terrorizing opponents for 27 turnovers, the sixth-most in the NFL.
Sixteen of the 23 turnovers forced by the Kansas City defense came on interceptions, so if the 49ers continue their run-heavy approach, it may be difficult for the Chiefs to take the ball away and give Mahomes and company a short field.
However, the advantage in this category would lean toward the Chiefs. In Reid’s tenure, Kansas City has been among the best at taking care of the football, never ranking lower than eighth in giveaway and finishing among the top four 5 times.
Where the 49ers can win the game will come in the trenches. Teams are 12-4 in the last 20 Super Bowls when having more sacks than their opponent.
San Francisco finished 2019 with 48 sacks, good for fourth in the NFL. But the 49ers have turned up the pressure in the postseason, sacking Kirk Cousins and Aaron Rodgers a combined nine times in their two playoff contests.
As for Kansas City, Steve Spagnuolo’s crew has amassed eight sacks so far in the postseason and finished with 43 in the regular season. However, San Francisco has done a great job of keeping Garoppolo upright, allowing just three sacks in the postseason. Although, the run-heavy nature of Kyle Shanahan’s offense has helped to an extent.
Throughout 2019, the Chiefs and 49ers dominated inferior opponents and racked up quality wins against good teams. In a Super Bowl as close as this one is shaping up to be, something as simple as one turnover or sack could be the difference.