By Alicia Garcia
It’s not quite accurate to call this year’s Super Bowl a rematch of the San Francisco-Kansas City Super Bowl in 2020 when the 49ers have so many new key additions. Fresh faces at quarterback, running back and wide receiver practically make the game tape from 2020 irrelevant.
The 49ers will be running with eight starting players who saw the Chiefs in the Super Bowl four years ago, but since then they have gained nine new players on offense, seven on defense and three on special teams.
“There are quite a few of the same guys, and they played at a very high level then. I think they’re even better now,” said Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid about his Super Bowl LVIII rival. “McCaffrey would be new. I’d say he’s a pretty big ingredient.”
A pretty big ingredient indeed. Christian McCaffrey has dominated the rushing game this season with a total of 1,459 yards and 21 touchdowns. McCaffrey scored a touchdown for 17 straight games, tying the NFL record with Lenny Moore for most consecutive games with a touchdown.
Second-year quarterback Brock Purdy threw for 4,280 yards, the most in 49ers franchise history.
“I don’t know if you can slow those guys down,” Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said. “I keep saying it over and over, they got so many weapons, you can’t just concentrate on one of them because the other guys will hurt you.”
What Spagnuolo can’t see when he studies games on video are the intangibles Purdy brings to the 49ers.
“I think the thing that stands out the most about Brock for us as his teammates is just the pure humility that he plays with, that he comes to work with every single day,” linebacker Fred Warner said. “I’m so happy he’s on our team, and he’s the reason why we have a chance to win a Super Bowl.”
After wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk was drafted in the first round three months after the 2020 Super Bowl. He and Purdy forged a strong relationship off the field that translates to the field.
“We’re just dudes, we’re boys, and just love talking about life and keeping things simple, and we get along real well,” Purdy said. “You wanna do your career with him, like, he’s that kind of guy.”
Defensive end Nick Bosa has been a dominant player on the defense for years, and on the other side, he has been reunited with his former Ohio State teammate Chase Young, bringing their college chemistry to the 49ers.
“I think it’s been great when you look at Chase Young, a guy that had a relationship with Bosa in college,” defensive coordinator Steve Wilks said. “I think it really allowed Bosa to sort of free up a little bit, having another guy on that side.”
The influx of new talent helped the 49ers reach Super Bowl LVIII. Now Deebo Samuel said he hopes the roster doesn’t add too many new faces.
“Teams change year in and year out, but hopefully we’re able to keep all our guys, man,” Samuel said. “This team right here is unbelievable, for real.”
Alicia Garcia is a sports media graduate student at Medill. You can follow her on X @alicia_simontv.