NFL's first Super Bowl in Las Vegas has plenty of storylines
LAS VEGAS (AP) — The first Super Bowl in Las Vegas has everything the imaginary NFL scriptwriters could’ve wanted.
There’s Patrick Mahomes and the underdog Kansas City Chiefs (14-6) aiming to become the first repeat champions in 19 years and trying to solidify their claim to a dynasty with a third Super Bowl title in five years.
There’s Brock Purdy returning from a significant injury after rising from “Mr. Irrelevant” to now lead the San Francisco 49ers (14-5) to the brink of a record-tying sixth Super Bowl title that would etch his name alongside Pro Football Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Steve Young.
Of course, there’s the glitz and glamour of America’s showcase city and the irony of playing a Super Bowl in this gambling capital, an idea that used to be taboo for the NFL.
Did we mention Taylor Swift yet?
Make room for the Grammy-winning superstar to jet into town just in time to see her boyfriend, Travis Kelce, try to win another ring. Swift is expected to fly in for Sunday’s game at Allegiant Stadium from Japan after her concert on Saturday.
Kelce, the four-time All-Pro tight end, is focused on limiting the distractions despite fielding numerous questions this week about Swift and their relationship that has captivated millions and attracted a new audience of football fans.
“Show up every day thinking about the now and not too much the future,” Kelce said. “Obviously, you gotta prepare for what’s ahead but not harp on the past is the biggest thing ... I think we would never try and tie in what we did last year to this year. Every single year is really its own journey.”
For the Chiefs, nothing less than hoisting another Vince Lombardi trophy is acceptable so they have the most pressure.
“That expectation has become a demand at this point,” Kelce said. “I know the years that we haven’t won since we won our first one have felt like the biggest losses of my life. So it’s just having that mentality year in, year out, and putting the expectations on yourself, making sure that no one puts higher expectations on us more than us. We’re here to win this thing, baby. That’s for sure.”
Mahomes, the two-time NFL and Super Bowl MVP, is already drawing comparisons to Tom Brady, who won seven Super Bowl rings. Brady won three in his first four seasons as a starter. Mahomes is going for No. 3 in his sixth season.
Even if he wins, it’s too early to have the conversation.
“I’m not even close to halfway, so I haven’t put a lot of thought into it,” Mahomes said. “I mean, your goal is to be the best player that you can be. I know I’m blessed to be around a lot of great players. And so, right now, it’s doing whatever I can to beat a great 49ers team and try to get that third ring. And then if you ask me that question in 15 years, and I’ll see if I can get close to seven. But seven seems like a long ways away still.”
This is a rematch of the game the Chiefs won four years ago to give coach Andy Reid his first championship. Niners coach Kyle Shanahan has been close to winning twice before only to see his teams blow big leads.
He was Atlanta’s offensive coordinator when Brady and the Patriots rallied from a 28-3 second-half deficit to win the Super Bowl in 2017. His 49ers team led the Chiefs 20-10 entering the fourth quarter only to watch Mahomes rally Kansas City to a 31-20 win in Miami in 2020.
“Both of them are heartbreaking,” Shanahan said. “Those things last awhile. But it’s all about getting back there again, and that’s what I’m excited for.”
Shanahan’s dad, Mike, lost two Super Bowls as an offensive coordinator with Denver before going to San Francisco and winning one in 1995. He then won two more as the head coach of the Broncos.
“I remember seeing my dad after those Super Bowls when he was a coordinator in Denver when I was younger and how hard it was on him,” Shanahan said. “So I think anytime you get that close and you lose the last one, that’s definitely the hardest.”
Jimmy Garoppolo was the team’s quarterback last time around. Now, it’s Purdy, an AP NFL MVP finalist who overcame all the odds and continues to make critics look foolish.
Purdy isn’t concerned with proving doubters wrong. He has rare maturity for a 24-year-old that helps him play with confidence and maintain his composure.
“It comes down to how do I do my job really well for three hours against the Kansas City Chiefs’ defense,” Purdy said.
“That’s where my mindset’s at. I want to do everything I can to help my team win. I’m focusing on the plays. I’m focusing on what we’re trying to do for this week, not getting caught up in all the paparazzi and all that kind of stuff outside.”
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