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CURCIO’S CORNER: Breaking Down Super Bowl LIV

With the big game upon us this weekend, here are five areas I think will make a big difference along with predictions from the newspaper staff, local high school football coaches, locals working in the NFL and finally my pick.

Offense vs. Defense

It’s not an exact fit in this part, since Kansas City and San Francisco are not the No. 1 offense or defense but both team’s success has been predicated on one or the other, with the Chiefs’ explosive offense going against the 49ers’ tough defense.

In the eight times the top offense on one team met the top defense on the other side, the team with the top defense has won seven times.

The only time the offense prevailed was Super Bowl XXIV when San Francisco demolished Denver, 55-10. It may be hard for some to remember now, but the 49ers were the team of the 80s as much as New England has enjoyed success in the past decade.

Advantage: 49ers (on the old adage “Defense Wins Championships”).

Style of Offense

I don’t recall a Super Bowl in recent memory where the team’s approach to offense was so different.

San Francisco, second only to Baltimore in rushing yards per game during the regular season, is a predominantly ground-oriented team while Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs were fifth overall in passing yards per game and relied more on the air assault.

The combination of a ground game which can run minutes off the clock adding into having a stingy defense reminds me all to well of the 49ers back in SB XIX when Joe Montana and Company broke the hearts of Miami fans with a strong second half. The 49ers were No. 1 in defense that year in points allowed and won.

Also, the Chiefs were 28th in the regular season against the run.

Kansas City’s last time in the Super Bowl was all about “65 Toss Power Trap” which you can learn more about if you watch the NFL Films package on it on YouTube.

But this year’s Chiefs would rather set fire to the air at Hard Rock Stadium then ground and pound (which for any Miami residents at the game who pull for the Dolphins would be a treat to see, an offense which moves the football).

Advantage: 49ers (if San Fran can get up early and rack up around 40 minutes in time of possession).

Kicking Game

This is one spot where Kansas City may have a slight edge. The Chiefs and kicker Harrison Butker were 34-of-38 on field goals this season with their longest coming from 56 yards out.

San Francisco’s Robbie Gould, a good kicker, was just 23-of-31 this year.

Advantage: Chiefs (by a foot)

Coaching Experience

Andy Reid has been coaching for 20 seasons and is 221-142 all time as a head coach, regular and postseason, but the Chiefs’ head coach has not won a Super Bowl yet as the head man. He was an assistant on the Green Bay staff when the Packers won Super Bowl XXXI.

San Francisco’s coach, Kyle Shanahan, is the son of former Denver coach Mike Shanahan and has far less time overall especially as head coach. Shanahan orchestrated the Atlanta Falcons’ offense which built a 28-3 lead over New England in 2017 but the team lost.

Advantage: Chiefs (by the length of a standard whistle lanyard)

Third-Down Conversions

For my money, the hidden stats which shows the most about an offense is third-down conversions. Teams who can get the yards they need more consistently keep other team’s offenses off the field longer and tire defenses more.

KC was second this season at 47.32 percent with the 49ers fourth at 44.59 percent. Close but the edge slightly goes to Kansas City.

Advantage: Chiefs (by the length of a football).

Staff Picks

As we have done many times over the years, I’ve asked the staff of The Stanly News & Press for their picks. Here they are:

BJ Drye: San Francisco 30, Kansas City 27
Debbie Holt: Kansas City 23, San Francisco 7
Keir James-Little: San Francisco 21, Kansas City 7
Tom Lowe: San Francisco 20, Kansas City 17
Chris Miller: Kansas City 31, San Francisco 28
Sherry Nance: Kansas City 37, San Francisco 30
Ally Ward: Kansas City 28, San Francisco 14

Traditions and Predictions

I also asked our local high school football coaches as well as the county’s representatives in the NFL.

Scott Crisco
North Stanly head football coach

I really don’t have a Super Bowl tradition. I usually only watch the second half after getting back from church. As far as a prediction, I believe it is close then I’d give it to the 49ers. Defense wins championships and I feel San Francisco is the better defensive team.

Richard Davis
Albemarle head football coach

My family always gets together and has a Super Bowl Party. My wife and I actually get the pleasure of hosting this year. As for my prediction, being an Eagles fan, I would love to see Andy Reid get a ring. Kansas City 27, San Francisco 18.

Brett Morton
West Stanly head football coach

We don’t really have any traditions other than watching the game. I like watching the game with my uncle because he and I can discuss what is going on in football terms. I would say this game is a toss up.

This game to me is a toss up. The 49ers have one of the best running games in the league and statistically one of the best defenses. K.C. seems to be able to score at will a lot of the time so that chess match is going to be interesting.

I’d like to see Andy Reid win a super bowl. I think he has been a really good coach for a long time and it would mean a lot for him to win one. I think the game will be tight, possibly decided within three points.

Ryan Ochier
South Stanly head football coach

My wife always makes a bunch of finger foods and appetizers for the game, we invite several friends over to watch the game, while all the kids play Madden or another football game in the playroom.

Prediction: Chiefs 21, 49ers 17.

RJ Prince
OL, Baltimore Ravens, AHS grad.

My mom always does this dish for the Super Bowl called “A Pile of Crap”. It’s like a taco salad with a bunch of layers (ground beef, lettuce, cheese, and all the other addings plus the tortilla chips)

I would watch it, but I just can’t seem to want to this year. I wouldn’t be able to stomach it. We had a great year, and we had our eyes set on the Super Bowl this year. But in the NFL, it’s any given Sunday for any team. You don’t play your best, and you will get exposed. It will humble you. We won’t make the same mistake next year. We are too talented of a team to go out like we did.

I’m gonna have to say K.C. Pat is a once in a lifetime talent at the QB position, and I have some boys that play for them, so I’m taking them. I can say San Fran’s D Line (front four) were the best we went up against this season, and if they can wreak some havoc and impose their will on K.C’s offensive line; they’re gonna be dangerous. However, KC’s defense isn’t a slouch either. They played hard when we played them. Whenever Chris Jones, Tyrann Mathieu, and Tanoh Kpassagnon dial it up and play well, they set the tone for their defense. And K.C. has TOO many playmakers. Tyreek Hill is probably the fastest cat I’ve ever seen on a football field EVER.

Therefore, I’m gonna day K.C. And the key to this game will be if San Fran’s D can contain and lock down Pat and all the receivers. Vice versa: Can KC’s O-line keep San Fran’s front four in check.

My Pick

It’s hard not to believe San Francisco’s defense will dominate and the ground game will keep the Chiefs’ air attack in limbo on the sidelines.

However, if Kansas City gets up early, the 49ers may not be able to rally.

Bottom line: defense usually finds a way to shut down offense. Even though I’d like to see the Chiefs win, I think San Francisco will prevail. 49ers 21, Chiefs 17.

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio was the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press from 1999-2001 and has currently served in the same capacity since 2008. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also been honored twice by the North Carolina Press Association.

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