NFL-Niners look to strike gold at Super Bowl

By Thomson Reuters Feb 9, 2024 | 6:09 PM

By Rory Carroll

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) – The San Francisco 49ers enter Sunday’s Super Bowl with a chance to avenge their agonizing loss to the Chiefs in the championship game four years ago and capture their sixth Lombardi Trophy.

While it was the Niners defense that led them to the Super Bowl last time, their explosive offense has paved the way to the rematch.

That all starts with dynamic running back Christian McCaffrey, who led the NFL with 1,459 rushing yards this season while averaging 5.4 yards per carry.

The MVP finalist has been essential to the team’s success this term and they are 12-1 when he rushes for 75 yards or more.

If Kansas City focus their defensive attention on McCaffrey, head coach Kyle Shanahan has plenty of other weapons to choose from including tight end George Kittle and wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk.

Meanwhile, quarterback Brock Purdy has the opportunity to go from “Mr. Irrelevant” to “Mr. Irreplaceable” and silence his critics with a title.

Selected last in the 2022 NFL Draft, Purdy has shown he is more than simply a “game manager” after willing the team to two gutsy come-from-behind playoff victories.

But standing in their way is an outstanding Chiefs defense that limited the Baltimore Raven’s high-powered offense to 10 points in the AFC Championship game.

“That’s obviously a great team, a great defense,” McCaffrey said this week. “It’s a huge opportunity and we’re excited about it.”

To keep McCaffrey and the running game involved, the Niners must avoid getting off to a slow start like they did against the Detroit Lions in the NFC Championship game, where they had to rally from a 17-point halftime deficit.

Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes, tight end Travis Kelce and running back Isiah Pacheco will look to pick apart a 49ers defense that has looked shaky in their last two starts.

Nor can the 49ers feel any lead is safe against the Chiefs, who scored three touchdowns in the final 6:13 to break San Francisco hearts in Miami four years ago.

A Niners win on Sunday would erase those bitter memories and bring the storied franchise a sixth championship and first since the 1994 season.

(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Las Vegas; Editing by Peter Rutherford)