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Chiefs confident they can stop 49ers' running game

Coach Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs held Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry to 69 rushing yards in the AFC Championship game. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Coach Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs held Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry to 69 rushing yards in the AFC Championship game. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 29 (UPI) -- The Kansas City Chiefs are confident they can handle the San Francisco 49ers' dynamic running game entering Super Bowl LIV after collecting "rent" from Tennessee Titans star Derrick Henry in the AFC Championship game.

Rent is a metaphorical payment for the effort players must put forth to have success against the Kansas City defense.

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"We were playing with swagger before [stopping Henry] and played with swagger after," Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark said. "We play with swagger when it's all said and done. ... [Henry] was just another player. He had to pay rent. Everybody has to pay rent."

San Francisco had a first-round bye as the top seed in the NFC, but mashed Minnesota Vikings defenders for 186 rushing yards and two scores in their first playoff game.

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They galloped over Green Bay Packers defenders for 285 yards and four touchdowns in the NFC Championship game. Tevin Coleman led the attack against Minnesota, running for 105 yards and two scores.

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Coleman dislocated his shoulder the next week, handing the load to Raheem Mostert, who then rumbled for 220 yards and four scores against the Packers. Mostert set a franchise postseason record and had the second-highest rushing total in NFL playoffs history.

"It's a combination of the guys up front, the skill guys buying into it, [49ers coach Kyle Shanahan] calling great plays and getting us into the right place," 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said. "It takes a whole team to run the ball, and we've been doing pretty good at it."

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Henry punished defenders in the second half of the regular season before carrying his dominance into the postseason. He published rushing totals of 182 yards and 195 yards before the Chiefs held the All-Pro to 69 yards in the AFC title game.

Part of the Chiefs' strategy in Super Bowl LIV could be to sell out in defending the 49ers' rushing attack, loading the area around the line of scrimmage with extra defenders and giving Garoppolo more control of the game as a passer.

The 49ers are 5-1 this season when they have had a running back run for at least 100 yards. Balance has been the key ingredient in the rushing recipe, as Mostert, Coleman and Matt Breida each had two 100-yard performances this season.

San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert had a franchise record 220 rushing yards against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game. Photo by Jon SooHoo/UPI


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The 49ers did not have a two-game stretch this season when the same running back ran for 100 yards in back-to-back contests.

Coleman's shoulder injury could hamper his workload if he suits up for the Super Bowl. Breida hasn't had more than eight carries in a game since a Nov. 11 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

Forcing the game into Garoppolo's hands could bode well for the Chiefs, as the 49ers are just 3-2 in games in which Garoppolo has 34 or more passing attempts this season. Despite the statistical correlations, Chiefs coach Andy Reid isn't going into the game underestimating Garoppolo.

Don't slight Garoppolo

"I wouldn't slight Jimmy because Jimmy can throw the ball if they need him to," Reid said. "Jimmy's percentages, the passer rating over the last couple of years here, it's up there, in really every situation.

"So as well as they run the football, and as well as they make you honor every gap, every zone on the field, you can't slight the pass game either."

Shanahan pointed toward Garoppolo's success on third downs in 2019. The 49ers had the fourth-best third-down conversion rate in the NFL this season. Garoppolo completed 69.2 percent of his passes on third down in 2019, the best in the NFL for quarterbacks with 50 or more pass attempts.

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"I'd also say one thing you can always look at quarterbacks regardless of how's it going is you can't run the ball if you don't do good on third down," Shanahan said. "Jimmy has been as good as anyone on third down this year. When we needed him to bring us back at the end of games he's done it."

The battle between the trenches of the offensive and defensive lines most likely will determine the outcome of Super Bowl LIV.

The 49ers maintaining a solid running game will keep Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes off of the field and control the clock. 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday that playing the entire 60 minutes is vital in limiting the Kansas City quarterback and winning the game.

"It's still a huge challenge," Chiefs defensive end Chris Jones said of stopping the 49ers' rushing attack. "They are so tricky and dynamic on offense. The run game is a huge problem. They scored like 30 points in the NFC Championship game while throwing the ball just eight times. That shows you how pivotal it is to stop this run game.

"We are just going to trust our game plan and try to execute as much as we can."

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Yolanda Adams performs at the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration in Miami on Thursday. Photo By Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo

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