49ers: Super Bowl 54 matchup will be defined by speed on both sides

49ers, Super Bowl 54 (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
49ers, Super Bowl 54 (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

Super Bowl 54 will be a matchup between two teams, the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs, whose success revolves around speed.

The San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs are arguably the two fastest teams in the NFL. And in many ways, this year’s Super Bowl 54 matchup is representative of the current era of the league.

The NFL has evolved and teams like the 49ers and the Chiefs are at the forefront.

For the past few years, NFL franchises have shifted to a roster-building approach that emphasizes versatility, athleticism, and most importantly speed. Players that could fill multiple roles are crucial to a team’s success and so too is the ability to outrun your opponent.

And when looking at the teams across the NFL this season, no two organizations better encompass this shift in mindset than the 49ers and Chiefs.

San Francisco’s entire offense is built around the premise of getting guys in open space so that they could use their speed to make plays. Kyle Shanahan has constructed an offensive scheme like no other in the league, and it’s clearly paid dividends.

Meanwhile, the 49ers’ defense is full of freak athletes who use their hybrid speed to make splash plays both behind the line of scrimmage and in coverage.

The linebacker duo of Kwon Alexander and Fred Warner is perhaps the best two-man unit in the league and it’s no coincidence that they’re also two of the fastest at their position.

Alexander and Warner’s sideline-to-sideline speed allows them to chase down running backs breaking to the outside, shoot through gaps quicker than opposing offensive linemen could fill them, and keep up with even some of the most dynamic offensive players.

And in the 49ers’ zone-heavy defense, they aren’t only matched up with opposing running backs and tight ends. Sometimes they’re tasked with running stride for stride with receivers.

But this Sunday, that’s going to be a tall task.

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The Chiefs’ offense plays host to some of the fastest, most explosive athletes in the entire league. We’re talking Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, and Sammy Watkins. Throw in Demarcus Robinson, Travis Kelce, and Damien Williams and you have an incredibly dangerous skill position group.

We all know about Hill’s breathtaking swiftness. Watkins has been burning defenses for years with his downfield ability. And Hardman had burst on to the scene this year and proven to be a perfect complement to Hill and his playmaking.

Kelce needs no introduction either.

It will be difficult for the 49ers to keep up with the Chiefs, but if any defense is able to do it, it’s theirs.

One of the keys in this game will be the 49ers’ ability to limit the Chiefs passing attack. Of course, a lot of that will come down to the dominant Niners pass rush, but the play of their secondary will remain critical.

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Richard Sherman may have lost a step, but the veteran cornerback has bounced back in a huge way this year to have a fantastic season. And Emmanuel Moseley and K’Waun Williams have both come out of nowhere to have career years — especially the former.

But really, the play of the 49ers’ safeties could determine the outcome of this game. Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt mustn’t allow the likes of Hill, Hardman, Watkins, or Robinson to get behind the secondary and break big gains.

This game is expected to be tight and one or two plays could determine the final outcome. Keep the offense in front of you and limit the big play as much as possible. Of course, that’s much easier said than done.

Super Bowl 54 will be defined by a new era of football. It will be defined by a changing of the guards, so to speak, in the NFL.

Next. Super Bowl 54: The 49ers offense continues to be overlooked. dark

The Super Bowl will be defined by speed.