Chiefs, 49ers rematch set for Super Bowl LVIII

Niners quarterback Brock Purdy celebrates with the George Halas NFC Championship Trophy after the comeback win over Detroit. // Photo by Kelley L. Cox, USA Today Sports

For four NFL teams, championship weekend has a way of upending expectations. It proved no different in 2023. 

In one of the AFC’s premier quarterback battles, the Baltimore Ravens, helmed by MVP front-runner Lamar Jackson, faced off against the Kansas City Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes. 

After the Ravens offense stalled out on their opening drive, Kansas City drove down the field and scored on their first possession. Mahomes placed the ball perfectly for tight end Travis Kelce to make the incredible touchdown catch in the end zone. 

The Ravens had magic of their own. Ducking under a Chiefs defender and escaping a collapsing pocket, Jackson launched a deep shot to rookie receiver Zay Flowers for the score to put the game at 7-7. The Chiefs took the lead back on a two-yard touchdown run from Pacheco. Interestingly, the Chiefs’ offense grinded out yards through a strong running game and Mahomes dicing teams up behind protection. He did exactly that, completing 11 straight passes without a single misfire. 

The other part of the Chiefs’ formula for winning is their relentless defense, giving Mahomes the ball back after edge rusher Charles Omenihu forced a strip sack on Jackson. Still, Baltimore’s defensive line stonewalled Pacheco on a fourth-down attempt. From then on, the game turned into a defensive battle. While Jackson caught one of his tipped passes and ran for the first down, the Ravens’ offense still looked off. Conversely, their defense kept them in the game even though Kansas City took a 10-point lead into half. 

Baltimore’s defense shut out the Chiefs offense. However, their own offense looked listless. Flowers had a huge 54 yard catch to set up a scoring opportunity for Baltimore, but the young receiver fumbled in the end zone. Jackson also looked off throughout the second half as the Chiefs defense buckled down — they forced Jackson into a misguided throw to triple coverage that essentially sealed the game in KC’s favor. 

Although Baltimore added a field goal late, Kansas City ran out the clock to clinch the 17-10 win and their second consecutive trip to the Super Bowl. 

In the NFC, the conference’s #1 seed in the San Francisco 49ers welcomed the Detroit Lions to their home stadium in a narrative-filled game. The last pick in the 2022 NFL draft, Niners second-year quarterback Brock Purdy was looking to make history as the first final pick in NFL history to start in the Super Bowl. 

Detroit got off to a roaring 14-0 lead in the first quarter behind a bruising run game. Second-year reciever Jameson Williams and running back David Montgomery both ran for touchdowns. A touchdown run by star Niners running back Christian McCaffrey gave San Francisco some breathing room, but former Jacket and Detroit rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs answered with a 15-yard end zone scamper through multiple missed tackles. Lions kicker Michael Badgley tacked on a 21-yard field goal to make the score 24-7 going into halftime. 

Immediately after half, Purdy found reciever Deebo Samuel over the middle for a big 26-yard gain to put the Niners in Lions territory. Wide receiver Jauan Jennings salvaged a Purdy throwaway with a great catch before Niners rookie kicker Jake Moody made a 43-yard field goal. 

From then on, Detroit collapsed. Lions head coach Dan Campbell tried a fourth-down conversion, but Goff could not connect with receiver Josh Reynolds. Purdy then hit a critical deep shot to Aiyuk to set the Niners up at Detroit’s four-yard line. Aiyuk got past the Lions secondary and scored to make it a one-possession game at 24-17. A Gibbs fumble gave the Niners the ball at the Detroit 25-yard line, where a clutch Purdy scramble and McCaffrey end zone plunge tied the game up at 24 apiece. In 12 minutes of game time, the Niners erased a 17-point deficit and made sure the Detroit offense felt it on the next drive. 

San Francisco forced a three-and-out before Purdy found tight end George Kittle to pick up 28-yards and extended the drive into field-goal range with another scramble. Moody buried the field goal to give the Niners a 27-24 lead with nine minutes remaining. A big Williams catch for 22-yards and Montgomery run for another 16 set Detroit up on the Niners’ 30-yard line and facing another fourth down conversion. 

Yet again, Campbell passed up the field goal. Goff’s pass to star receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown fell short along with  Detroit’s hopes. Purdy tormented the Lions defense on the ground with his scrambles before Niners running back Elijah Mitchell plunged in for the final score. Despite a late Goff touchdown drive, San Franscisco completed the 34-31 comeback to advance to the Super Bowl. 

Super Bowl LVIII is now confirmed as a 2019 rematch of Chiefs-Niners. History is on the line — the Chiefs could win consecutive Super Bowls while San Francisco could snap a 28-year long championship drought and clinch the franchise’s sixth ring.