Again in December, after San Francisco misplaced in Baltimore and dropped to 10-2, I mentioned I didn’t count on to see the 49ers within the Tremendous Bowl. I predicted they might lose the NFC West race to Seattle, be the NFC’s No. 5 seed, beat the NFC East champ within the wild-card spherical after which get knocked out by New Orleans or Seattle.
Mea culpa, 49ers. Whereas I used to be a number of inches away from being proper on the Seahawks successful the division, I clearly underestimated how far San Francisco’s working recreation and protection would take them. These are the essential elements which have led them to Miami for a Tremendous Bowl date with Patrick Mahomes and the high-flying Chiefs.
MORE SUPER BOWL 54:
Skilled picks, predictions | Odds, betting line
My lack of religion within the 49ers successful massive began with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and his maiden playoff voyage. Sure, Garoppolo was having a strong season, however as I identified, he and the group had feasted on a comparatively gentle schedule over the primary half of the season. Garoppolo additionally had proven a propensity to throw interceptions — 10 by way of Week 12, and he now has 14, together with one within the divisional spherical win over the Vikings. He did have his largest recreation every week after I questioned him with a 349-yard, four-TD efficiency within the 48-46 shootout victory in New Orleans.
However Garoppolo has barely been examined this postseason, because the 49ers have run 75 p.c of the time whereas enjoying with the lead aside from a 7-7 first quarter tie within the divisional spherical win over the Vikings. Garoppolo threw 19 instances towards Minnesota with 131 passing yards and tried solely eight passes — finishing six for a minuscule 77 yards — within the NFC championship win over the Packers.
I knew San Francisco had a great working recreation (ranked No. 2 in common season). I used to be impressed with their offensive line, however I mentioned their working again corps lacked an elite participant. So what occurs? Dealing with two good defenses, the 49ers rushed for 186 yards towards Minnesota and topped that with an incredible 285 yards on the bottom towards Inexperienced Bay.
I clearly didn’t see that stage of efficiency coming from their backs, who’ve flourished behind a dominating O-line with assist from an amazing blocking tight finish (George Kittle) and a Professional Bowl fullback (Kyle Juzczyk) together with broad receivers blocking downfield.
Tevin Coleman gave the impression to be the third choice amongst Coach Kyle Shanahan’s steady of backs going into the playoffs. But he ran for 105 yards and two TDs towards the Vikings. Then when Coleman acquired damage early within the title recreation, Raheem Mostert stepped up and exploded for 220 dashing yards and 4 TDs towards the overwhelmed Packers. This monster efficiency on the large stage got here from a participant who has been lower seven instances.
Sorry, however I didn’t see that coming. (Who did?)
I’ve been impressed all 12 months with a 49ers protection that was extremely ranked in common season (ending No. 2). I assumed in early December they had been able to main a playoff run. Then I noticed Drew Brees ring up 5 TD passes and 349 passing yards in that Week 13 recreation, which made me involved with how a comparatively younger protection would carry out beneath playoff stress.
Once more, my unhealthy. I underestimated the ability of the San Fran entrance 4 led by a trio of 49er first-round picks in Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and tremendous rookie Nick Bosa, plus commerce acquisition Dee Ford (a former first-round choose of the group he’ll face within the Tremendous Bowl). That group sacked Kirk Cousins 5 instances within the divisional spherical, and one other 49ers first-round choose, Solomon Thomas, added a sixth sack within the 27-10 win.
MORE SUPER BOWL PICKS:
In opposition to the unfold | Straight-up prediction
They adopted up by placing immense stress on Aaron Rodgers, sacking him 3 times and forcing him into three turnovers — two interceptions and a misplaced fumble. Rodgers put up some second half yards, however solely after the 49ers had jumped out to a 27-Zero halftime lead.
Aiding that stellar entrance 4 play has been the work on the again finish by Richard Sherman, who at 31 has interceptions in each playoff video games and offers veteran management within the secondary.
As they approached the playoffs, I questioned concerning the 49ers run protection that ranked No. 16 in common season. They’ve performed lights out, shutting down a pair of 1,000-yard rushers the previous two weeks. Minnesota’s Dalvin Prepare dinner was held to 18 dashing yards, and Inexperienced Bay’s Aaron Jones picked up simply 56 yards on the bottom. Stopping the run has led to the entrance 4 teeing off on Cousins and Rodgers.
The worst narratives for Tremendous Bowl 54
Lastly, I additionally questioned San Francisco kicker Robbie Gould, who as of Week 12 was combating by way of a tough season of accidents and inconsistency (14-of-22 on subject objectives at that time). He has responded to the adversity and has been an ideal 14-of-14 since then. Within the playoffs, he has made all 5 of his subject purpose makes an attempt, together with a 54-yarder within the NFC title recreation.
Whereas the 49ers have answered my doubts about their capacity to win a couple of playoff recreation, I now have another problem for them (which might be music to their ears).
Within the Tremendous Bowl, I simply can’t go towards the NFL’s finest QB who’s on a roll in Patrick Mahomes — even towards a protection as formidable as San Francisco’s — because of his capacity to flee stress and make massive performs working and throwing to his gifted receiving corps. I additionally nonetheless query Garoppolo’s capacity to keep away from turnovers and make sufficient performs to win if Kansas Metropolis’s D holds down the San Francisco dashing assault because it did with Derrick Henry and the Titans within the AFC title recreation.
So I’m selecting the Chiefs, which units up one other golden alternative for the 49ers to show me improper.
Jeff Diamond is a former president of the Titans and former vp/normal supervisor of the Vikings. He was chosen NFL Government of the Yr in 1998. Diamond is at present a enterprise and sports activities marketing consultant who additionally does broadcast and on-line media work. He makes talking appearances to company/civic teams and school courses on negotiation and sports activities enterprise/sports activities administration. He’s the previous chairman and CEO of The Ingram Group. Comply with Jeff on Twitter: @jeffdiamondNFL.