When the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers take the field Sunday for the 54th edition of the Super Bowl, it will be a matchup of teams not just meeting in the NFL’s title game for the first time – but a game of teams with plenty of unique back stories entering the game.
For the 49ers, it’s a return to South Florida for the biggest game of the season inside a stadium where they won both Super Bowl XXIII and Super Bowl XXIX for two of the five championships in team history – with that last postseason win inside what is now called Hard Rock Stadium being the last time the Bay Area hoisted the Lombardi Trophy.
San Francisco comes into this game as a slight underdog despite having two dominating performances in the NFC playoffs. This year’s Super Bowl game, the first since losing to Baltimore to close out the 2012 season, will be the chance for head coach Kyle Shanahan to avenge his last Super Bowl appearance when he led the offense for the Atlanta Falcons in their overtime loss to the New England Patriots – a team whose backup quarterback is the man starting under center for the 49ers in this game, Jimmy Garoppolo.
Of course, Garoppolo has had his own critics this postseason despite two wins due to the fact he has thrown for a combined 27 passes in those games.
"Jimmy should never apologize for us running the ball too well," Shanahan said. "You can't run the ball if you don't do good on third down, and Jimmy's been as good as anyone, to me, on third down this year."
On the other side of the field will be a Kansas City team who hasn’t been to the final game of the season for a long time – over 50 years, to be exact, since the Chiefs won Super Bowl IV. One half century later, the Chiefs hope to avoid the inevitable pressure of being the ‘feel good’ choice for some football fans.
The Chiefs are being led by head coach Andy Reid – a man who has spent over 20 seasons as one of the most well known coaches in the NFL but with the reputation of not being able to win the big game, having lost his one previous Super Bowl game as a head coach.
"Just getting him here isn't the goal," Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce said of his coach. "Winning this thing for him is."
"He's had an amazing career," quarterback Patrick Mahomes added. "Obviously, we want to win this game, the big Super Bowl, put that on his resume. He's someone who's been successful from Day 1, and he's still successful now."
At the same time, Kansas City has been led on the field by Mahomes – a man who has already built himself into a Chiefs legend with a MVP award last season and being the third quarterback in league history to win that award and lead his team to the Super Bowl in his first three seasons.
"There's a ton that makes him unique. He got the MVP last year for a reason,” 49ers defensive back Richard Sherman said. “He throws a great deep ball. He trusts his receivers. He's creative with how he gets the ball to them. They have an explosive offense. He's tailor made for Reid's system."
With a combined 73 seasons between their last Super Bowl victories, the winner of Sunday’s game might be thinking the same thing no matter who it is: it’s about time.