How We Got Here: Super Bowl LIV


The Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers are set to meet in Super Bowl LIV in Miami in just under a week. Making the moves required to guide a team to a Super Bowl needs the course of the entire season, so we put together the events that led to the Chiefs and 49ers playing for the Lombardi Trophy.

Kansas City Star

Jan. 24, 2019: Chiefs hire Steve Spagnuolo as defensive coordinator, begin defensive overhaul

While the Chiefs defense did lead the league in sacks in 2018, they also allowed over 400 yards and 26 points per game. Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton was fired after the loss in the AFC Championship, and Kansas City brought in Spagnuolo as a result. He coached under Andy Reid for eight seasons in Philadelphia.

Eric Berry, Justin Houston, Steven Nelson, Allen Bailey, and Dee Ford all left; and Tyrann Mathieu, Frank Clark, and Juan Thornhill were added among others. After looking sluggish in getting off to a 6-4 start this season, the defense only allowed 11.5 points per game in finishing the regular season on a six-game winning streak. They tightened up after the first half of the divisional round, and held Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry to 69 yards in the AFC Championship.

Rick Scuteri/AP

Mar. 12, 2019: Chiefs trade Dee Ford to the 49ers for a 2020 second-round pick

The 49ers defense also needed to improve after an unimpressive 2018, finishing 28th in the league in points allowed, 24th in sacks, and last in turnovers; forcing seven all year. They addressed that early in the offseason by trading for Ford, whose neutral zone infraction had cost the Chiefs a Super Bowl birth.

Even though Ford was injured in the second half of the season, he still accounted for 6.5 sacks in eight games, and returned in the playoffs getting another sack against the Minnesota Vikings in the divisional round. His presence on the defensive front has been invaluable to a San Francisco defense that ranked sixth in both sacks and takeaways this season.

Mark LoMoglio/AP Photo

Apr. 25-26, 2019: Chiefs send three picks to Seahawks for Frank Clark, 49ers draft Nick Bosa second overall

After trading Ford to San Francisco, Kansas City wanted to go after another pass rusher. They were able to get Clark from Seattle for a 2019 first-round pick, 2020 second-rounder, and a swap of 2019 third-round picks. Clark made a huge impact on the Chiefs defense, finishing second on the team with eight sacks, forced three fumbles, and added on four more sacks in the team’s two playoff games.

Bosa was the highest rated prospect on many boards going into the NFL Draft, and after the Arizona Cardinals selected Kyler Murray, it was an easy selection for General Manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan to make. Bosa paid immediate dividends for the 49ers, finishing the regular season with nine sacks and adding three more in the playoffs. He is also front-runner for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Oct. 13, 2019: Titans bench Marcus Mariota for Ryan Tannehill

After taking out Mariota at halftime of an eventual 16-0 loss to the Denver Broncos, the Titans went 7-3 in their final ten games, including a 35-32 win over the Chiefs in the regular season, and were able to clinch a playoff spot in the final week of the season. Tennessee was able to upset both the New England Patriots and top-seeded Baltimore Ravens in the playoffs, but couldn’t get past the Chiefs in the AFC Championship,despite holding a 10-point lead midway through the second quarter.

Dec. 8, 2019: Chiefs hold off Patriots 23-16

The Chiefs got out to a 23-7 lead on New England midway through the third quarter, but with 12 minutes left in the game, the Patriots cut the deficit to seven points and were in the red zone at the two-minute warning. However, Bashaud Breeland deflected a Tom Brady pass on fourth down to clinch the win for Kansas City. That victory sent the Chiefs to 9-4 on the year, and ended up meaning a lot more after the events of Week 17.

Dec. 29, 2019: Dolphins defeat Patriots 27-24, 49ers defeat Seahawks 26-21

The Patriots had beaten their division rivals 43-0 in Week 2, while the 49ers lost their perfect record against the Seahawks in Week 10, falling 27-24. The results of both games were reversed in Week 17, and ended up having a huge impact on the playoff picture. The loss for New England, combined with a Kansas City win over the Los Angeles Chargers, meant both the Chiefs and Patriots finished at 12-4. However, the Chiefs head-to-head win over the Patriots gave them the second seed in the AFC, and with it, a first-round bye.

San Francisco was half a yard away from losing home field advantage throughout the playoffs, but Dre Greenlaw stopped Jacob Hollister before he crossed into the end zone, securing a division title and the top seed in the NFC.

Jeff Roberson/AP Photo

Jan. 12, 2020: Chiefs storm back from down 24-0 to beat Texans

Matters looked bleak for Kansas City after giving up two touchdowns in just under two minutes, which eventually led to a 24-point deficit in the divisional round against Houston. As a result, Patrick Mahomes never panicked, and threw a touchdown to Damien Williams with nine minutes left in the second quarter. After the Texans failed on a fourth-down conversion on their own 33-yard line, he threw three more to Travis Kelce before halftime and the Chiefs had a 28-24 lead at the break.

They didn’t let up in the second half either, as Williams rushed for two more touchdowns and Kansas City won 51-31, granting them a spot in the AFC Championship game en route to their first Super Bowl appearance since 1969.

Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports

Jan. 19, 2020: Mostert scores four times in 37-20 win over Packers

The 49ers were favored by eight points over the 13-win Green Bay Packers, but San Francisco got 13 wins of their own for a reason; their defense and rushing attack, led by Raheem Mostert, made quick work of Green Bay in jumping to a 27-0 halftime lead. Jimmy Garoppolo only threw eight passes during the game, but thanks to 220 yards on the ground from Mostert, that was all he needed.

The 49ers defense sacked Aaron Rodgers three times, and forced two interceptions as the team clinched their first Super Bowl appearance since 2013.

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