The San Francisco 49ers are back in the Super Bowl for the second time under head coach Kyle Shanahan after beating the Detroit Lions, 34-31, in the NFC title game. As good as the Niners have been this season, it’s taken perseverance, dedication and a little luck in these playoffs. They have played with fire in both postseason games, narrowly escaping the Packers and Lions. Now the 49ers have two weeks to clean up and close the holes of the previous two because leaving any opening for Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs will end badly.

Of course, San Francisco knows this as they found out a few years ago, losing Super Bowl LIV to Mahomes and the Chiefs after taking a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter. While both teams have changed, some of the core pieces are still in place from their last meeting on the NFL’s biggest stage. Both squads moved on from one of their key players in that game four years ago. Kansas City parted ways with Tyreek Hill, and Jimmy Garoppolo is no longer under center for San Francisco. And having Christian McCaffrey in the backfield is also a major addition for SF.

Despite being four years removed from that game, the Niners who were on the field in that first meeting remember how they had that game in the bag before it slipped away. So, that first-half performance against the Lions on Sunday won’t cut it against Mahomes and Andy Reid in Las Vegas.

San Francisco allowed the Packers to hang around in the divisional round, and if not for two big-time interceptions by Dre Greenlaw, the NFC Championship Game would’ve been played in Detroit. The Niners have gotten off to slow starts on offense and defense the past two weeks. This team has felt the wrath of Mahomes before and knows he’s never out of any game with four more years of experience under his belt.

However, this is likely the most welcomed scenario for the 49ers, as most teams don’t get this opportunity. They have the chance to right what went wrong in their last Super Bowl appearance against the same franchise, quarterback and head coach. It’s hard enough to get back, but to also return against the team you know you should’ve beaten is serendipity.

With that said, San Francisco cannot start this Super Bowl in sleepwalk mode. Detroit rushed for more than 130 yards in the first half against San Fran. If the Niners play like that against KC, that Reid-Mahomes combo may put them to bed early. Get behind the Chiefs, 24-7, and it’s most likely lights out. Brock Purdy will need to make plays, but the 49ers can’t fall into the same trap as Baltimore. Let McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel carry the offensive load with sprinkles of Purdy dust.

So long as the defense shows up and plays consistently throughout, the Niners should be in a position to win the game. There will come a time when Purdy needs to make a play, but after watching him do so when they had to have it against the Lions, there should be no doubt that he can answer the call. Getting out of the starting blocks has been San Francisco’s issue in the last two contests. Fixing that is the key to them bringing home Vince Lombardi’s trophy for a sixth time.


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