The Super Bowl always had to come down to Chiefs vs. 49ers

The maxim that defense wins championships has stood the test of time in the National Football League, and both of this season’s Super Bowl combatants — the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers — have truly excellent defensive units.

But you’d be forgiven for not immediately thinking of defense as the next two weeks tumble by and the greatest game of all ticks too slowly towards us, because it’s going to be hard to shift some images from our collective minds. Those pictures might be worth not just a thousand words, but a similar number of on-field points.

The Chiefs and 49ers offenses resembled unstoppable steamrollers on Sunday, with a pair of championship game triumphs that quickly started to feel inevitable and proved to be exactly that.

They are different beasts, these two teams, with different philosophies, pacing, risk levels and ways of going about their business. Yet they have one major facet in common: after five months of football, nobody has figured out an effective way of ceasing their relentless drives.

With Kansas City, the usual terminology to describe offensive NFL play simply doesn’t apply. Their possessions aren’t drives, so much as sprints. They don’t march up the field, they charge up it, slicing their way through, around, over or so many other ways past any defense that thought it had a plan but realized it wasn’t nearly enough.

Patrick Mahomes is a transcendent talent capable of shifting accepted realities, but his otherworldly magic would count for far less if not for the beautifully crafted way in which the Chiefs core arranges itself to spread the defense impossibly thin.

Mahomes’ fleet feet and mischievous mind enable strikes so quick and devastating that they can change a game in an instant. The Tennessee Titans were outstanding towards the end of the season and through the first two weeks of the playoffs, then rode that confidence into an early 10-point lead in the AFC title tilt.

Yet Mahomes and the Chiefs worked them out. They scored 28 consecutive points and befuddled every one of the Titans’ enterprising attempts to stifle them. Ten yards for four downs just isn’t sufficient when faced with this kind of output. Make it 20 and it might be a fair fight. Turns out Tyreek Hill wasn’t being cocky last week when he said the Chiefs couldn’t be stopped — he was just telling the truth. And then there is Mahomes, the ultimate X factor.

“Patrick Mahomes can do everything on the football field; he’s got all of it,” FS1’s Nick Wright said on First Things First. “There’s no weaknesses in his game, he’s got every trait you would want from a QB. He’s clearly the best player in football. He’s already one of the greatest players we’ve ever seen.”

Don’t expect people to start saying the same about Jimmy Garoppolo, just because San Francisco isn’t built that way. For the 49ers, there is no celebrity quarterback, nor indeed a star running back or a famed receiver. In fact, don’t expect anything in particular, because the 49ers’ secret is in being able to be whatever it needs to be on offense.

The Green Bay Packers had no answer to them, hard as they tried. On this occasion it was Raheem Mostert, with the kind of career day that anyone would love to boast about, racking up a remarkable 220 yards and four touchdowns.

The 49ers offense is electrifying in its own unique way. You don’t want to take your eyes away from it, because of its unpredictability. They have a multitude of ways to hurt you, and they will pick the best one that fits that precise moment in time.

On Sunday, it was due to Mostert, running so hard, with so much space cleared for him, that Garoppolo threw the ball just eight times. Sometimes that’s not the case, as the quarterback had games of 424 and 349 yards this season, each with four TDs. Sometimes tight end George Kittle dominates. Sometimes it’s someone else, or a collection of someones.

Forget about the 49ers being a defensive-based team. They are an everything team.

“It is a copout to say it’s a combination of 49ers domination with a lackluster performance from the Packers,” Danny Kanell said on First Things First. “It was just sheer domination from the 49ers. That was a complete annihilation on both sides.”

There is a lot of history involved in this year’s Super Bowl matchup and most of it is old enough to be unfathomable to the main participants. Not only was Mahomes not born the last time the Chiefs reached a Super Bowl, neither was his father.

The 49ers have the chance to join the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers with six franchise Super Bowl wins, but their most recent came a quarter of a century ago, and the game looked a lot different back then.

While we love history, more relevant to this game is what is happening right now.

Football is more geared to offense than ever before and moves at a frenetic pace and with extraordinary athleticism. Defense still wins championships, if only because stopping the best offenses feels so impossible.