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By: JB Scott
What impressions have the Chiefs and 49ers made on the rest of the NFL?
The Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers are set to face off in Super Bowl LVIII. It’s a reunion of the 2019 season Super Bowl where KC emerged victorious for the first time under head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
The 49ers and Chiefs took much different approaches since their last meeting in the championship game, and how they returned looks quite different as well.
The Chiefs, of course, are built around their all-world quarterback. They even traded away his best playmaker and one of the best receivers in the NFL in Tyreek Hill in hopes of building a more well-rounded roster. It was a risk that paid off in a big way for Kansas City, as their defense stifled some of the more potent offenses in the AFC conference this season: the Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, and Baltimore Ravens. If you have a quarterback like Mahomes that can elevate his supporting case, why not allocate resources elsewhere across your team?
The 49ers are an interesting juxtaposition to the Chiefs. While Kansas City is built around its quarterback, the 49ers are have established an ecosystem that allows its quarterback to thrive. The Kyle Shanahan offense has done the same with Jimmy Garoppolo, but the difference between this year’s squad is that Brock Purdy is able to go off-schedule and contribute on his own from time to time. San Francisco doesn’t rely on Purdy to be their best player, but when the defense seemingly has all the answers he can be the Uno “reverse” card that flips the circumstances on their head. He made key scramble after key scramble in the NFL Championship game against the Detroit Lions that ultimately proved to be the difference between winning and losing.
Each year the final two teams standing represent larger than life gambles, hard lessons learned, and innovative team building approaches that could soon sweep the NFL. What can the Los Angeles Rams glean from this year’s Chiefs and 49ers teams?
Never stop investing in pass rushers
The Chiefs don’t exactly have an elite pass rush, especially outside of Chris Jones; however, they are a model because they continually reload this position group each offseason. Mike Danna is a solid starter for KC. Last year the Chiefs drafted DE George Karlaftis in the first round and then doubled down in 2023 with Felix Anudike-Uzomah. They also signed Charles Omenihu as a free agent from the 49ers this past offseason.
San Francisco, meanwhile, is no stranger to pass rushers themselves. They turned a losing season without Jimmy Garoppolo into a high draft selection and Nick Bosa. Arik Armstead and Javon Kinlaw are former first round picks. At this year’s trade deadline the 49ers added Randy Gregory and Chase Young from the Broncos and Commanders, respectively. They also signed Sebastian Joseph-Day after he was cut by the Chargers late into the season.
You can never have a surplus of players who can get after the quarterback, and both KC and San Francisco have invested significant resources in this department.
Slot corner is a premium position
One of the biggest strength of Kansas City’s roster is their secondary. L’Jarius Snead was KC’s slot specialist until the team drafted Trent McDuffie in the first round a year ago. McDuffie was named a first-team All-Pro in just his second season.
Deommodore Lenoir is also a plus player inside for San Francisco. Opposing quarterbacks threw just one touchdown and three interceptions into his coverage over this season.
What does that mean for the Rams? Finding a slot corner with potential in Quentin Lake is something worth exploring further—and he may be more valuable there than a move to full-time safety. There will be pressure to move Lake if John Johnson, Jordan Fuller, and maybe others leave in free agency.
Spending at kicker can save frustrations
Harrison Butker was a seventh round pick by the Carolina Panthers in 2017 but was relegated to the practice squad. When Cairo Santos was injured for the Chiefs, they scooped Butker up from Carolina. He signed a five-year, $20.2M extension with Kansas City in 2019 which showed a strong financial commitment at the time—Butker seems like a relative bargain now but is in line for a big pay day after next season.
While Kansas City invested in Butker from a salary cap perspective, the 49ers spent premium draft capital to select Michigan’s Jake Moody in the third round this past spring. He immediately brought stability at kicker and helped the team seamlessly transition from veteran Robbie Gould. It started out rocky in the preseason, but Moody finished 21 of 25 in the regular season and made 60 of his 61 extra point attempts.
The Rams are outsmarting themselves by trying to go cheap at kicker. You have to allocate notable resources in order to find a long-term solution and have stability at the position.