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Musburger column: Defense, rushing attack make 49ers the pick

By Brent Musburger  (VSiN managing editor) 

February 2, 2020 12:39 AM

There are two reasons I have decided to take San Francisco over Kansas City in Sunday’s Super Bowl: 

1. Better defensive team, especially up front. 

2. Much better running team, allowing the 49ers to control the clock in the fourth quarter. 

Final score: 49ers 24, Chiefs 21. 

Yes, I also like the Under, especially if bettors push the number to 55 or higher.

Let me introduce you to four Niners, all of whom were drafted in the first round and all of whom will take dead aim at Patrick Mahomes:

— Arik Armstead. Fifth year out of Oregon. He led the team with 10 sacks.

— Nick Bosa. Probable defensive rookie of the year out of Ohio State. He totaled nine sacks from the defensive position opposite Armstead.

— DeForest Buckner. Fourth year, also out of Oregon. He had 7½ sacks.

— Dee Ford. Acquired from the Chiefs during the offseason. He had 6½ sacks despite not playing the last three weeks of the regular season because of a hamstring injury. He is good to go Sunday.

This quartet raised the Niners’ sack total from 2.3 a game last season to 3.2 this year.

No question Mahomes is special. He moves well in the pocket and, as a former baseball shortstop, throws well on the run while using different arm angles. He is facing a front that went 3-2 against the most mobile quarterbacks in the game — 2-0 vs. Kyler Murray and the Cardinals, 1-1 vs. Russell Wilson and the Seahawks and 0-1 vs. Lamar Jackson and the Ravens.

In the loss to the Ravens at Baltimore, Jackson’s longest run was 14 yards, and his longest pass completion was 20 yards. In the division clincher at Seattle, Wilson’s longest run was 5 yards, and his longest completion was 24 yards.

Mahomes and the Chiefs beat you with the deep ball, but I’m predicting the 49ers’ fierce rush will prevent Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Mecole Hardman from dominating their secondary with 40-yard completions. Look for TE Travis Kelce and RB Damien Williams underneath to be Mahomes’ go-to targets.

The other big edge for the 49ers is running the football. Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman (questionable after dislocating his shoulder in the last game) and Matt Breida averaged 144 yards a game, second in the NFL. The Chiefs averaged fewer than 100 rushing yards a game.

But the NFL is a passing league, you you’re thinking? Listen up. Teams that run the ball better in the Super Bowl are 40-13 straight up and 37-13-3 ATS.

Kyle Shanahan’s offense is built around motion, misdirection and three vital cogs — tight end George Kittle, fullback Kyle Juszczyk and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. 

For their positions, Kittle and Juszczyk are elite blockers, and believe it or not, Garoppolo threw one more touchdown pass than Mahomes did this season, 27-26. However, Garoppolo also threw more interceptions, 13-5. 

If you are a Chiefs fan hoping I am wrong, interceptions are your fondest hope. Teams losing the turnover battle have won only six Super Bowls. 

Hope you cash some tickets this week, because that’s what it’s all about.


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