Count­down to Su­per

DROUGHT:

The Citizen (KZN) - - Sport - Mi­ami

It has been 50 years since the Kansas City Chiefs last ap­peared in the Su­per Bowl – and Pa­trick Ma­homes is de­ter­mined to make sure it has been worth the wait.

The Kansas City quar­ter­back chases his first Vince Lom­bardi Tro­phy to­mor­row against the San Fran­cisco 49ers at the Hard Rock Sta­dium, home of the Mi­ami Dol­phins.

The big­gest event on the US sport­ing calendar prom­ises to be a clas­sic bat­tle of styles, with Ma­homes and the Chiefs try­ing to out­fox the 49ers de­fence as the cur­tain comes down on the Na­tional Foot­ball League’s 100th sea­son.

On the flip­side, the Chiefs will have their hands full at­tempt­ing to con­tain a multi-faceted 49ers of­fence which is equally ef­fec­tive whether at­tack­ing through the air and on the ground.

For Ma­homes’ op­po­site num­ber, 49ers quar­ter­back Jimmy Garop­polo, it is a chance to play and win a cham­pi­onship ring in what is his third trip to the Su­per Bowl.

Garop­polo was Tom Brady’s back-up at the 2015 and 2017 Su­per Bowls, both won by the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots, be­fore later be­ing traded to San Fran­cisco.

But Garop­polo’s hopes may hinge on how suc­cess­fully the 49ers de­fence, led by the ma­raud­ing rookie de­fen­sive end Nick Bosa, is able to thwart Ma­homes.

It is a puz­zle that San Fran­cisco de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Robert Saleh has spent the past fort­night try­ing to un­ravel.

“He’s a su­per­star in ev­ery way you can pos­si­bly imag­ine and he’s go­ing to be tough to deal with,” Saleh said this week when asked about Ma­homes’ range of threats.

The Kansas City quar­ter­back has elec­tri­fied the league over the past three sea­sons with his mo­bil­ity, arm strength and sheer va­ri­ety of passes.

But he also has an ar­ray of re­ceiv­ing weapons at his dis­posal, with the blis­ter­ing pace of Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins com­ple­mented by the dy­namic pres­ence of tight end Travis Kelce.

Nowhere was the Chiefs abil­ity to pro­duce ex­plo­sive bursts of scor­ing more ev­i­dent than in their divi­sional round against Hous­ton.

Trail­ing 24-0 in the sec­ond quar­ter, Ma­homes led a come­back which ended in a 51-31 win.

Ma­homes, who at 24 would be the sec­ond youngest quar­ter­back to win a Su­per Bowl, has cut a re­laxed fig­ure dur­ing this week’s build up.

“I’m go­ing to go out there and try and have fun and play the way I’ve played all sea­son long,” the young Texan said.

“It’s a once in a life­time op­por­tu­nity that I hope I get to have many times in my life. It’s early in my ca­reer and I’m ex­cited to go out there with my broth­ers and try to win.”

A vic­tory for Kansas City would also be the crown­ing glory of Chiefs head coach Andy Reid’s long ca­reer.

A pop­u­lar fig­ure known af­fec­tion­ately among his play­ers as “Big Red”, the 61-year-old Reid is the most suc­cess­ful coach never to win a Su­per Bowl.

“He’s had an amaz­ing ca­reer,” Ma­homes said this week. “Ob­vi­ously, we want to win this game, the big one, to put that on his ré­sumé.”

“I’m hum­bled by it,” Reid said of his play­ers’ sup­port. “Very hum­bled by it. But right now I’m fo­cused on giv­ing them the best chance to win a Su­per Bowl.”

Reid’s coun­ter­part, the 49ers head coach Kyle Shana­han is more than ca­pa­ble of up­set­ting that fairy­tale nar­ra­tive how­ever.

The 40-year-old Shana­han is one of most cre­ative of­fen­sive minds in the NFL, ca­pa­ble of un­stitch­ing any de­fense with a play­book brim­ming with in­ven­tion.

And the 49ers head coach may feel he has a point to prove af­ter the night­mare of the 2017 Su­per Bowl. Shana­han was the of­fen­sive co-or­di­na­tor of the At­lanta Fal­cons when they blew a 28-3 third quar­ter lead to lose in over­time against the Pa­tri­ots.

Yet his tal­ent as a coach is un­de­ni­able. This sea­son Shana­han has over­seen a 49ers re­nais­sance which trans­formed the team from a 4-12 record in 2018 to an im­pos­ing 13-3 pow­er­house.

Shana­han says he has used the bit­ter mem­ory of the 2017 Su­per Bowl loss as a ral­ly­ing cry for his young team. – AFP

Pic­ture: AFP

FACE TO FACE. Kansas City Chiefs quar­ter­back Pa­trick Ma­homes (left) and his San Fran­sisco 49ers coun­ter­part Jimmy Garop­polo are look­ing to lift the Vince Lom­bardi Tro­phy in Mi­ami to­mor­row.

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