The matchup is set. And what a great matchup it is.
The 49ers will face the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV in Miami on Sunday, Feb. 2, and all eyes will be on Chiefs star quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
On the other side, nobody seems quite sure where to look. That’s because the 49ers’ winning formula this season has been that there is no winning formula.
The 49ers have gotten it done this season with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo throwing the ball around the field. They’ve won games with Garoppolo doing nothing more than handing it off, as was the case Sunday in the 49ers’ 37-20 victory over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game.
And the 49ers certainly have gotten it done repeatedly with their defense.
We look ahead two weeks to some of the big matchups that could determine which team places the Lombardi Trophy in a glass case:
DE Nick Bosa vs. QB Patrick Mahomes
You want star power? This is your matchup.
Mahomes won the NFL MVP in 2018 in his first season as the starter. And there was no fall-off this season, other than an injury that kept him out of two games.
Mahomes is a big-play guy with a big arm. He likes to let plays develop down the field. On Sunday in Kansas City’s 35-24 victory over the Tennessee Titans, Mahomes held onto the ball in order to make things happen. Pro Football Focus held him responsible for two sacks, a hit and five hurries. He also threw for 294 yards and three touchdowns, so his mindset generally pays off.
San Francisco rookie defensive end Nick Bosa is an exceptional talent who always seems to be breathing down the necks of quarterbacks. After registering nine sacks in the regular season, Bosa dropped the quarterback three times in his first two postseason games.
If Bosa can bring down Mahomes whenever he gets him in his sights, the 49ers’ defense should have a good day.
NB K’Waun Williams vs. WR Tyreek Hill
There might not be a better nickel back in the NFL than K’Waun Williams. There might not be a more speedy, explosive playmaker in the NFL than Tyreek Hill.
Williams is the 49ers’ most underrated player. But he is as good as it gets with his combination of man and zone coverage skills, blitzing off the slot and tackling. For a guy who is listed at only 5-foot-9, 185 pounds, Williams is a powerful, steady tackler.
Hill works out of the slot for a sizable portion of games, so Williams will see plenty of him on Super Bowl Sunday. Hill caught 58 passes for 860 yards and seven touchdowns in 12 games. He is a big play waiting to happen, and it will be Williams’ job to prevent it.
LG Laken Tomlinson vs. DT Chris Jones
The 49ers’ offensive line took center stage against the Packers, opening the holes through which Raheem Mostert blasted. Mostert rushed for 220 yards and four touchdowns.
It is doubtful the 49ers will have anything approaching their margin of 42 run plays and nine passes. Left guard Laken Tomlinson will have the huge responsibility of going up against Kansas City defensive tackle Chris Jones, who is equally adept at stopping the run and getting after the quarterback.
Tomlinson, acquired in a trade just before the start of the 2017 regular season, has played very well in the 49ers’ system with his blend of strength, athleticism and smarts. Jones is a load, and he did not appear at all slowed by a calf injury that kept him out of the divisional round. Jones had one quarterback hit and four hurries against the Titans, according to PFF.
DE Dee Ford vs. RT Mitchell Schwartz
Kansas City selected Dee Ford in the first round of the 2014 draft. Ford made it to the AFC Championship Game with the Chiefs last season. He came to the 49ers in an offseason trade for a second-round draft pick.
Ford is looking forward to this one. He will be matched, mostly, against second-team All-Pro right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, who had a phenomenal year in pass protection. On 782 pass-blocking snaps, Schwartz did not allow a sack, according to PFF.
Ford made it through the past two games healthy and should be as strong as he’s been all season for the Super Bowl. His ability to hit the edge will be key -- not only for the possibility of sacking Mahomes, but also allowing defensive tackles DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead enough room inside to operate.
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SS Jaquiski Tartt vs. TE Travis Kelce
Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce is his team’s version of George Kittle ... except Kelce has been doing it longer and he posted better raw receiving stats this season.
Kelce was a second-team All-Pro selection behind Kittle. Kelce had 97 receptions for 1,229 yards and five touchdowns. The responsibility for covering Kelce will not just fall onto one person on the 49ers’ defense. But strong safety Jaquiski Tartt better be ready to hold up his end of the bargain.
Tartt is the 49ers’ eighth run defender in the box. He also has the coverage skills to match up on tight ends. Tartt was beaten on Sunday for a 42-yard pass play from Packers tight end Jimmy Graham. Those are the kinds of big plays the 49ers must avoid against an explosive Kansas City offense.
Tartt was in his second game back from missing more than a month with fractured ribs. His all-around play in Miami is vital to the 49ers’ success.
Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (5:30 p.m. Monday and Wednesday; 8:00 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 6:00 p.m. Friday)