Super Bowl 2020: A casual fan's guide to Super Bowl LIV if you don't know Patrick Mahomes from Patrick Stewart
Everything you need to know to talk about Super Bowl LIV at a party
If you're a huge football fan, I don't have to tell you that the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers are about to battle in Super Bowl LIV for the right to call themselves champions. But what if you aren't really that into the NFL? Even if that's the case, you're probably at a Super Bowl party. Why wouldn't you be? Everybody is. Perhaps you're a huge football fan and already know everything there is to know about the game and the teams and the players involved. But perhaps you're not. Perhaps you're at a Super Bowl party because it's the social thing to do. Maybe you don't know all that much about anything related to the Super Bowl.
In this case, we've got you covered. This is the third-annual casual fan's guide to the Super Bowl.
Who's playing in Super Bowl LIV? And why is it called Super Bowl LIV?
First and foremost, it's important to knowin the NFL's title game. Representing the AFC, we have the Kansas City Chiefs. by 1 point as of this writing. That means betting experts generally think this is going to be an incredibly close game, but that the Chiefs are the slightly better team at the moment.
Representing the NFC, meanwhile, are the San Francisco 49ers. The teams have the same color scheme (shade of red, shade of gold, and white), but you'll probably be able to tell them apart by the logos on the sides of their helmets. The 49ers' helmet, helpfully, is gold and features an interlocking white-lettered "SF" inside a red circle, while the Chiefs' helmet is red, with a white arrowhead featuring the letters "KC" inside of it. The Niners will be wearing, while the Chiefs will wear red jerseys and white pants.
It's called Super Bowl LIV because it's the 54th Super Bowl, and 54 in Roman numbers is LIV. The NFL has been using Roman numerals for every Super Bowl (except Super Bowl 50) since Super Bowl V (five). According to the NFL's media guide, "The Roman numerals were adopted to clarify any confusion that may occur because the NFL Championship Game -- the Super Bowl -- is played in the year following a chronologically recorded season. Numerals I through IV were added later for the first four Super Bowls."
What time is the Super Bowl? Where is it?
The Super Bowl starts at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020. The game Miami Dolphins, Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL. It's an outdoor stadium in south Florida, so there's always the of a torrential downpour for an hour or so before it suddenly gets beautiful out again.in the home stadium of the
(Note: The NFL rotates the location of the Super Bowl every year because it generally wants to provide a neutral site so no team has home-field advantage. That has worked every year, as no team has ever played a Super Bowl in its home stadium.)
And how long is it going to last?
As our Cody Benjamin noted a couple years back, the average Super Bowl broadcast over the past 20 years or so has been about three-and-a-half hours. It's pretty long. That includes a halftime show that generally lasts 20-30 minutes, but more on that later.
Who's performing at halftime?
Jennifer Lopez! Yep, Jenny from the block is. And she'll be joined by Shakira.
J.Lo gave a sneak peek of her performance earlier this week on Tik-Tok.
2 WEEK COUNTDOWN until the Super Bowl so I’m giving you another peak!!!!!! Take on the challenge and dance with me! 💫🏈#JLoSuperBowlChallenge nfl♬ original sound - jlo
Who are the quarterbacks of the Chiefs and 49ers?
It's always a good bet that the quarterbacks will play a big role in the Super Bowl. A quarterbackof the game, after all. A quarterback has won 29 of the previous 53 Super Bowl MVP trophies, and 12 of the 19 since 2000.
The quarterback of the Chiefs is Patrick Mahomes. He's listed as the odds-on . Mahomes (No. 15) was drafted in 2017 but spent a year as the backup to former Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith. In his first year as the starter, Mahomes threw for over 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns, and was named the league's MVP. He is widely considered the best quarterback in the league, and in just his second season there is already talk about him being the most talented quarterback in NFL history.
Mahomes has the widest array of throws in the league, up to and including no-look throws, throws with his off hand, throws across his body while moving backwards, and 50 or even 60-plus yard throws off his back foot that he does so easily that it barely looks like he's trying. Mahomes is an incredible athlete capable of making plays with his legs, whether simply extending the play to give his receivers time to get open, or actually taking off downfield as he did last week on one of thein playoff history. If there is one player in this game capable of deciding the result by himself, Mahomes is that player.
The quarterback of the 49ers is Jimmy Garoppolo. If you thought it was possible to have just one Super Bowl that was in no way connected to the New England Patriots, think again. Garoppolo (No. 10) was a second-round draft pick of New England and served as Tom Brady's backup for several seasons before being traded to the 49ers for a second-round pick toward the tail end of the 2017 season. He won his first five starts in San Francisco and was off to a strong start in the 2018 season, but he tore his ACL in Week 3 against ... the Chiefs. He sat out the remainder of the season and did not get back on the field until the 2019 preseason.
Garoppolo is a good but not great quarterback whom the 49ers clearly view as a complement to their dynamic running game, in contrast to Mahomes, around whom the entire Chiefs offense is based. Garoppolo has not been asked to do all that much during the Niners' run to the Super Bowl. He only threw eight passes last week against the Green Bay Packers, and went more than an hour and a half of real time between his sixth and seventh attempts. That's how dominant the team's ground game was. It's likely the team will need far more out of him in order to keep up with the Chiefs. If he's up to the task, this should be an incredible game; if he's not, things could get ugly.
Are there any other notable players I should be prepared to talk about?
Let's start with the Chiefs:
- Tight end Travis Kelce. Kelce (No. 87) is generally considered one of the two best tight ends in the NFL, and that's actually been the case for a while. He was considered the next-best guy behind Rob Gronkowski for the past few years. He has made the Pro Bowl in five consecutive seasons, and has also caught at least 80 passes for at least 1,000 yards in each of the past four. Those four seasons are already the most 80-1,000 seasons for any tight end in the history of the league.
- Wide receiver Tyreek Hill. Arguably the fastest player in the NFL, Hill (No. 10) is the in the league right now. He and Mahomes connect on more deep passes than any other quarterback-receiver combination in football, and Reid utilizes Hill in a variety of ways in order to get the ball in his hands in open space. Once he hits the jets, it's over for the defense. Hill is also a wildly controversial figure due to disturbing allegations regarding his off-field behavior. Hill previously pleaded guilty to domestic assault and battery charges in 2015 stemming from a December 2014 incident where he punched and choked his then-pregnant girlfriend, Crystal Espinal. He was given a three-year probation sentence and the Chiefs later selected him in the fifth round of the 2016 draft. This offseason, an audio tape of Hill's conversation with Espinal about his treatment of their three-year-old son resulted in a . Charges were not filed because it could not be proven who had abused the couple's child. Despite it being heavily-rumored, Hill faced no punishment from the league stemming from the allegations.
- Running back Damien Williams. Expected to open the season as the Chiefs' unquestioned lead back, Williams (No. 26) instead split work with former Eagles and Bills running back LeSean McCoy. Williams missed several weeks due to injury during the season and even seemingly fell out of the rotation at one point, but he has almost completely taken over the backfield in recent weeks. Williams is an excellent pass-catcher, which makes him a good fit in the Mahomes-led offense. The Chiefs do not run very often, but they are efficient when they do so.
- Defensive linemen Chris Jones and Frank Clark. Jones (No. 95) is probably the best player on the Kansas City defense. An interior defensive lineman who excels against both the run and the pass, he has a knack for making big plays. He missed Kansas City's divisional round victory with an injury, but returned on a limited basis last week. He should be full-strength for the Super Bowl. Clark (No. 55) was the Chiefs' big offseason acquisition, as they sent their first-round pick to the Seahawks as part of a deal for him. Like Hill, he was arrested while in college on domestic violence charges.
- Defensive back Tyrann Mathieu. Known as the Honey Badger, Mathieu (No. 32) is one of the best and most versatile defensive backs in the league. He is listed and plays most of his snaps as a safety, but you'll also see him line up as a cornerback or linebacker on occasion. He's comparatively small for a safety, but he is a big, strong hitter, and he's excellent in coverage as well.
And what about the 49ers?
- Tight end George Kittle. Also arguably the best tight end in the NFL, Kittle (No. 85) is a dynamic receiver and one of the NFL's best blockers. He is the 49ers' best pass-catcher and a key to their run game. He's also nearly impossible to tackle in the open field due to his combination of size, speed, strength, and overall athleticism.
- Running backs Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, and Matt Breida, and fullback Kyle Juszczyk. Mostert (No. 31) was the breakout star of the NFC title game, rushing for 220 yards and four touchdowns against the Packers. A former undrafted free agent who was cut seven times before catching on as a special-teams player in San Francisco, he has emerged as the team's lead back. Coleman (No. 26) was signed as a free-agent this offseason and has previous experience with Shanahan from his days in Atlanta. He began the year as the team's lead back before giving way to Mostert and Breida (No. 22) due to injuries, but re-emerged with a dominant performance in the divisional round. He suffered a shoulder injury last week against Green Bay and his availability for the Super Bowl is up in the air. Breida has at times looked like San Francisco's best back, but has fallen behind Mostert and Coleman in the rotation recently.
- Wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Deebo Samuel. Sanders (No. 17) was acquired from the Denver Broncos prior to the trade deadline. He played extremely well this season despite tearing his Achilles last year, and his biggest strengths are his route-running and dependable hands. Samuel (No. 19) was the 49ers' second-round pick in the 2019 draft. He began the season as a part-time player before emerging over the second half of the year. He is extraordinarily dynamic with the ball in his hands, and the 49ers try to manufacture touches for him in a variety of ways. If they run any kind of trick play, expect Samuel to be involved.
- Defensive linemen Dee Ford, Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, and Solomon Thomas. These guys form arguably the best defensive line in the league. Ford (No. 55) is a former Chief, and he was traded between these teams last offseason. Bosa (No. 97) is the probable Defensive Rookie of the Year and a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. Like Armstead (No. 91), Buckner (No. 99), and Thomas (No. 94), he is a former first-round draft pick of the Niners.
- Cornerback Richard Sherman. The longtime Seahawks cornerback and probable future Hall of Famer is noticeable on the field for his long dreadlocks, his No. 25 jersey, and the fact that most quarterbacks would prefer to throw at anybody but him. Sherman tore his Achilles two years ago and had a down season during his first year in San Francisco, but he was back at the top of his game this season and was named a First Team All-Pro. He's a former Super Bowl champ and one of the smartest players in the league, and he is more than willing to engage in some trash talk -- good-natured or otherwise.
There are obviously more notable players, but this is list a good start.
Who are the coaches of the Chiefs and 49ers?
The head coach of the Chiefs is Andy Reid. This is hisas a head coach, as he took the Philadelphia Eagles to Super Bowl XXXIX back in 2005. He's been a head coach for 21 seasons and has posted a winning record in 18 of them, making the playoffs 15 times overall. Those 15 playoff appearances are fourth-most for any coach in league history, behind only Don Shula, Bill Belichick, and Tom Landry. Reid has not posted a losing regular-season record since 2012, his final year in Philadelphia. Reid is also the NFL's all-time winningest coach (207 regular-season wins) among coaches who have never won a Super Bowl, and seventh-winningest coach overall.
Reid's teams have suffered some crushing playoff defeats in the past, but he is also widely considered one of the best coaches in modern history. Specifically, he has been an incredibly innovative offensive coach, pushing schemes forward by always staying ahead of the curve and implementing ideas from college and even high school before any other coaches catch on. There's a reason why he has one of the most extensive coaching trees in the league, and why his offensive coordinators and quarterbacks coaches routinely go on to get head coaching jobs elsewhere. (Eagles coach Doug Pederson and Bears coach Matt Nagy being the two most recent examples.)
The marriage of Reid's schemes and knack for getting players into wide-open space with Mahomes' otherworldly abilities has resulted in the Chiefs having the league's most explosive offense. They scored more than 1,000 points over the past two seasons, and their 164 plays that gained 20-plus yards are the most in the league during that time. Their 36 touchdowns of 20-plus yards are most in the league as well.
The head coach of the 49ers is Kyle Shanahan. He is the son of former Super Bowl champion coach Mike Shanahan (get ready to see a ton of shots of Mike looking down from a luxury box and smiling like a proud dad), and like Reid, he is considered one of the brightest and most creative offensive minds in all of football.
Shanahan was the offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons in 2015 and 2016, and he coordinated them to the highest-scoring offense in the league and a Super Bowl berth in the latter season, after which he was named the NFL Assistant Coach of the Year. He was then hired by the 49ers. There is almost zero doubt that you will hear a lot about the Falcons' Super Bowl loss to the Patriots during this game, because Shanahan came under heavy criticism for overly-aggressive play-calling that contributed to the team blowing a 28-3 lead.
Like his father, Shanahan designs his offense around a zone-based running scheme and a heavy use of play-action passing. For more on the 49ers' dynamic run game, you can read our extended feature, which comes out Friday.
The Chiefs and 49ers also each have several well-known assistant coaches.
The Chiefs' offensive coordinator is Eric Bieniemy. A former NFL running back, Bieniemy played his final season in the league with the 1999 Eagles -- Reid's first year in Philadelphia. He began his coaching career as the running backs coach at his alma mater, the University of Colorado, where he stayed for two years before moving onto UCLA and then making the jump to the NFL as the Minnesota Vikings' running backs coach. Bieniemy held that role from 2006 to 2010, then went back to Colorado as the team's offensive coordinator for two seasons before Reid hired him to be the Chiefs' running backs coach in 2013. He held that role until 2017, when he was promoted to offensive coordinator to replace the departed Matt Nagy. Bieniemy was a candidate for several head coach openings this offseason, and the fact that he did not get hired is widely seen as the latest in a string of examples of the league's issues when it comes to hiring minorities.
Kansas City's defensive coordinator is Steve Spagnuolo. He's most notable as the defensive coordinator of the 2007 New York Giants team that upset the the 18-0 New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. Spagnuolo coached under Reid in Philadelphia from 1999 to 2006.
The Chiefs' special teams coach is Dave Toub. Toub has been coaching special teams in the NFL since 2001, and he is arguably the best special teams coach in NFL history. (He was the longtime special teams coordinator for the Chicago Bears when they had Devin Hester.) His teams routinely rank among the best in the league on special teams, and that was true this year as well. However, the Chiefs have made several notable miscues on special teams during their playoff run, with a blocked punt, a fumbled punt return, and a fourth-down conversion allowed on a fake punt.
The 49ers' defensive coordinator is Robert Saleh. He came to San Francisco along with Shanahan, having previously been the linebackers coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars under Gus Bradley. He and Bradley both previously coached under Pete Carroll with the Seattle Seahawks, so Saleh's defensive philosophy is similar to that of Carroll, though he has made some modifications. Like the Legion of Boom-era Seahawks, the Niners play a lot of zone coverage, but they use far more diverse coverages than the Seahawks, who almost exclusively played Cover 3. Saleh, like Bieniemy, was a candidate for head coaching jobs this offseason, but ended up not getting hired. Niners corner Richard Sherman was particularly outspoken about the Browns hiring former Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski over Saleh, which happened shortly after the 49ers shut down the Vikings' offense in a playoff game.
There's also 49ers offensive assistant Katie Sowers. She will make history as the first female NFL coach to appear in a Super Bowl, and also the first openly gay coach to do so. (Sowers came out as a lesbian prior to the 2017 season, making her the first openly LGBTQ coach in the NFL.) Sowers played for the West Michigan Mayhem and the Kansas City Titans of the Women's Football Alliance before retiring in 2016 due to a hip injury. She then became the second woman ever to coach with an NFL team, first interning and then serving as a training camp assistant with the Falcons while Shanahan was their offensive coordinator. Shanahan brought her with him to San Francisco as a seasonal assistant in 2017, and she was promoted to offensive assistant this season.
What's an interesting talking point to bring up with fans of each team?
- Chiefs fans: It's finally our time! This is Kansas City's first Super Bowl appearance in 50 years.
- 49ers fans: We're back on top! The 49ers are one of the most storied franchises in league history. They are looking for their sixth Super Bowl title, and first since 1995.
Before I start watching, are there any important rules I should know about?
Sure! It's difficult to know which rules will be important and why before the game actually starts, but it's a pretty safe bet that you'll hear at least something about some or all of these:
- Pass interference. (This rule is exactly what it sounds like. It's when one player interfere's with another's ability to catch a pass.) There's a better than even chance you will hear about this in connection with instant replay at least once. After the controversy at the end of last year's NFC title game, the NFL where coaches can challenge pass interference calls (or lack thereof). It's been ... controversial, to say the least. When pass interference is committed by the defense, the offense gets a first down at the spot of the foul. When it's committed by the offense, they lose 10 yards and have to replay the down. Illegal contact is a less serious version of pass interference because it generally occurs before the ball is thrown and interferes with a player's ability to run his route, not catch the ball. It's a five-yard penalty that also results in a first down.
- False start and offside. These are pre-snap calls that result in five-yard penalties for the offense (false start) and defense (offside). A false start requires that the play be blown dead immediately, but there are several version of offside penalties, one of which does not require that the play be blown dead and instead results in a free play for the offense.
- Holding, illegal block in the back, illegal blind side block, and illegal hands to the face. Each of these penalties is exactly what is sounds like. It's illegal for players to grab hold of each other's jerseys and impede the opposition's ability to make a play. Offensive holding is a 10-yard penalty that necessitates a replay of the down, while defensive holding is a five-yard penalty that results in a first down for the offense. An illegal block in the back will most often be called during a kick or punt return, and it's a 10-yard penalty from the spot of the foul. An illegal blind side block occurs when a play is facing backwards toward his own end zone and forcefully blocks a defensive player. Illegal hands to the face penalties are usually called either on offensive or defensive linemen when they are trying to either block or get off a block, or on a cornerback trying to jam a wide receiver at the line of scrimmage. When called against the offense, it results in a 10-yard penalty and replay of the down, and when called against the defense, it's a five-yard penalty and automatic first down for the offense.
- Roughing the passer. Again, this penalty is exactly what it sounds like. It's when a defensive player engages in a rough or dangerous play against the quarterback. Hitting him too low or too high or too late or too hard or in too strange a way can and usually will result in this penalty being called. Enforcement of the penalty is extremely inconsistent across the league. It's a 15-yard penalty and results in an automatic first down.
- Targeting. When a player lowers his helmet and hits another player in the head or neck area, he gets flagged for targeting. This can happen with an offensive player or a defensive player, though it's worth noting that only one offensive player was flagged for it all season. This is also a 15-yard penalty.
When will people start caring about next year's Super Bowl?
Literally the exact second this game ends. Get ready.
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