Why the San Francisco 49ers will win Super Bowl LVIII

    On Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ET, the Kansas City Chiefs face the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. Here’s why San Francisco will win its record-tying sixth championship. 

    Brock Purdy motivated by the doubters

    Purdy has seemingly played with a chip on his shoulder his entire (brief) career. Some believe the last pick in the 2022 NFL Draft lucked into the starting QB job simply because of injuries to the players in front of him. 

    After the 49ers traded former No. 3 overall pick Trey Lance to the Dallas Cowboys in August, Purdy shouldered even more pressure to prove San Francisco didn’t make a mistake. Then, in December, former Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton slapped Purdy with the “game manager” label — a moniker analysts haven’t been able to stop talking about ever since. 

    But a victory on Sunday and none of it matters. Winning a Super Bowl ring in just his second year, against Patrick Mahomes while quarterbacking the NFC’s No. 1 seed, would be a star-making moment for the 24-year-old.

    49ers have MVP candidates at QB and RB

    On paper, there’s plenty to like about the defending champion Chiefs, who are a well-balanced team with arguably the best QB in the NFL and more championship experience. But the 49ers have the NFL’s leading rusher (1,459 yards) and yards-from-scrimmage leader (2,203) in Christian McCaffrey and Purdy. 

    The second-year QB led the MVP race for much of the regular season, and he finished first in passer rating (113), third in touchdown passes (31), fourth in completion percentage (69.4) and fifth in passing yards (4,280). Purdy also thrives when under pressure, posting the second-best completion percentage (55.8), second-most passing yards (1,278), third-most touchdown passes (11) and fourth-best passer rating (90.2) when pressured this season, per Pro Football Focus

    Relentless San Francisco pass-rush

    Mahomes was pressured on 35.66% of his dropbacks this season, eighth most of QBs to play in 15 or more games. Per Pro Football Focus, when pressured, Mahomes’ numbers significantly worsened. His completion percentage dipped from 67.2% to 49.2%, and he averaged nearly a full yard less per pass attempt and threw the fourth-most interceptions (eight) in the league.

    Conversely, San Francisco had the second-most pressures (387) and hurries (262) and the fifth-most hits (66) of any team during the regular season. Edge-rusher Nick Bosa had the third-most pressures (95) during the regular season, while his counterpart, Chase Young, ranked 20th with 66 pressures. Expect defensive coordinator Steve Wilks to bring the pressure at Mahomes aggressively and frequently.

    Unexpected hero: TE George Kittle

    Kittle does his most damage in the biggest games. His 32-yard touchdown reception got the 49ers on the board in the second quarter of their divisional-round win over the Green Bay Packers after the offense had struggled to put anything together in the first quarter. In losing efforts, he came up big in Week 17 against the Baltimore Ravens (seven receptions, 126 yards) and Week 8 against the Cincinnati Bengals (season-high nine receptions, 149 yards). 

    He also has had big games against several playoff teams, including the Dallas Cowboys (three touchdown catches) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (eight receptions, 89 yards, one TD). 

    The Chiefs had the second-best defense in the NFL during the regular season, ranking fourth against the pass (176.5 yards per game), and if they shut down Purdy, Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, expect 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan to turn to Kittle to inject life into the offense.

    PREDICTION: 49ers 27-23

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