The last three Super Bowls have been dominated by the presence of one man and one franchise. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have been a nearly insurmountable hurdle to any team's championship aspirations for the majority of the 2000's. These last three years have largely just been icing on the cake for one of the game's all-time great quarterbacks, his hoodie-enthusiast mastermind coach, and a franchise that has grown accustom to playing professional football in February.
This year was different though. The usually ineffable Brady appeared more human, and the entire offense sputtered throughout the season. Bill Belichick led the Patriots defense to new heights in order to push them firmly into Super Bowl contention, but it wasn't enough to offset a down year for the typically high-powered offense.
Now, we're looking at the first Super Bowl since Peyton Manning's final championship run to feature a player under center for the AFC who doesn't sport the number 12.
Luckily for fans, that shouldn't dampen the quality of the game one bit this season. Super Bowl LIV has it all. A coach desperately searching for his first taste of glory, a young hotshot quarterback, blistering defenses, and an underdog team nobody saw coming this year.
Tom Brady's shadow may still loom large over the NFL, both in his absence and impending free agency, but the spotlight will solely be on the amazing squads fielded by the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers come this Sunday.
5. The Kansas City Chiefs’ Road To The Super Bowl
After an all too narrow defeat in last year's AFC Championship game, there were high hopes for the Kansas City Chiefs this season.
A tumultuous offseason dampened those expectations however. Tyreek Hill's trouble-laden offseason, to put it lightly, threw the entire offense in doubt when it looked like he could be suspended by the NFL. The defensive line was retooled as former pro bowlers Justin Houston and Dee Ford were replaced by the Seattle Seahawks' Frank Clark and New Orleans Saints' Alex Okafor.
The anchor of the Chiefs' secondary, Eric Berry, was also released after an injury-plagued season, leaving the newly added Tyrann Mathieu as the team's premier pass-blocker.
It just seemed like a team that was previously so close to having it all figured out now had more questions than answers heading into the 2019-2020 season.
A four game win streak to open the season helped put some of those doubts to rest, but it wasn't until the second half of the season that the new look defense really started to catch fire. They won their six final regular season games, and held opposing teams to single digits in three of those wins.
The Kansas City Chiefs had a full head of steam heading into the playoffs, but would quickly need all the momentum they could get to help propel them past a stiff challenge from the Houston Texans in the divisional round. The Texans crushed the Chiefs defense with 21 first quarter points on their way to a 24-0 lead. It took a herculean effort by Patrick Mahomes to not only pull the team out of an immense deficit, but actually give them the lead heading into the second half. From there, the defense stiffened, only allowing a single touchdown and PAT in the entire second half to cinch a 51-31 win.
It was more of the same in the conference championship, as the Tennessee Titans ran out to a 10-0 lead before the Chiefs quickly answered back. This time, the Chiefs wrested back control of the game by the end of the first quarter before pulling away for the 35-24 win.
Now, they're back in the Super Bowl for the first time since 1970, and looking to use their high octane offense and typically stiff defense to pick up the Lombardi Trophy on February 2nd.