By Rory Carroll
LAS VEGAS, Feb 9 (Reuters) – As the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers prepare to do battle in the Super Bowl on Sunday, here are five people who may well have a big say in the outcome of the National Football League championship game:
PATRICK MAHOMES, CHIEFS QUARTERBACK
A creative passer who excels in off-schedule throws and scrambles, Mahomes is aiming for his third title and to cement the Chiefs as an NFL dynasty.
After what was by his standards a sub-par season, the 28-year-old found his groove in the playoffs, leading the Chiefs to impressive road victories against the Buffalo Bills and Baltimore Ravens.
A third Lombardi trophy would put him one closer to Tom Brady’s record seven Super Bowls and further his case as one of the greatest to ever play the position.
BROCK PURDY, 49ERS QUARTERBACK
Purdy was selected last in the 2022 NFL Draft, earning the dubious title of “Mr. Irrelevant,” the fresh-faced 24-year-old has been utterly essential in guiding the high-powered San Francisco offense this season.
His critics doubted his ability to dig his team out of a hole and he proved them wrong in the playoffs, engineering a game-winning drive against the Green Bay Packers and erasing a 17-point halftime deficit against the Detroit Lions.
Purdy can take his place in 49ers folklore if he can overcome a solid Chiefs defense and win the storied franchise its elusive sixth Lombardi trophy.
TRAVIS KELCE, CHIEFS TIGHT END
Kelce has been getting more attention for his personal life – he is dating pop megastar Taylor Swift after all – than for his football but he is still arguably the best tight end in the league and a match-up nightmare.
He tends to rise to the occasion and his size and sure hands could give the 49ers defense, which has struggled at times in the playoffs, fits.
CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY, 49ERS RUNNING BACK
McCaffrey has been the best player on a loaded 49ers roster this season and the relentless running back will look to wear out the Chiefs defense over the course of the game.
To limit McCaffrey’s touches, the Chiefs will look for an early lead that forces the Niners to play catch-up by throwing the ball. But the 49ers practically unstoppable when the MVP finalist is on his game.
TAYLOR SWIFT, POP SUPERSTAR
The Super Bowl takes on a whole new dimension with the addition of Swift, who struck up a relationship with Kelce during the season, introducing the league to her millions of fans.
Swift’s presence at Chiefs games this year has boosted already massive TV ratings and will surely do the same again on Sunday.
Kelce told reporters that Swift, who won her fourth Album of the Year award at the Grammys on Sunday, is rewriting the history books and that he would “have to hold up my end of the bargain and come home (with) some hardware, too.”
Although not yet confirmed, Swift is expected to fly to Las Vegas after her show in Tokyo on Saturday.
(Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Ken Ferris; Rory.Carroll@thomsonreuters.com Follow me on Twitter https://twitter.com/rorydcarroll; 503-830-8017; ; (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2024. Click For Restrictions – https://agency.reuters.com/en/copyright.html)
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