One man is, at 28, somehow on a path to GOAT status; the other was so irrelevant when he came into the NFL, he was literally nicknamed Mr Irrelevant.
But Patrick Mahomes and Brock Purdy go head-to-head in Monday’s (from 10:30am AEDT) Super Bowl LVIII, leading their Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers respectively.
For Mahomes, it’s an opportunity to turn what at times looked like a lost season into more proof of his status as the game’s best player – not just quarterback – and a third Super Bowl title, in four attempts across the last five seasons.
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With his receivers seemingly working against him at times, Mahomes led the Chiefs back from a pedestrian 8-5 record into the playoffs and three consecutive wins, the latter two his first post-season wins on the road (outside of the Super Bowl) for his career, against the AFC’s top two teams Buffalo and Baltimore.
It came with an NBA-like transition to a much smaller post-season rotation, with Mahomes focusing in on his few reliable offensive teammates – young wide receiver Rashee Rice, bulldozing running back Isiah Pacheco and legendary tight end Travis Kelce, who has declined slightly in his age-34 season while dealing with the enormous spotlight of his relationship with global pop megastar Taylor Swift.
But for once Mahomes can also rely on his defence, which has been transformed through brilliant drafting and the tactical genius of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.
Spagnuolo’s masterful gameplanning will be critical against the game’s best offensive mind, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, and arguably the game’s best suite of offensive weapons.
The Niners find themselves back in the Super Bowl for the second time in five years, after Shanahan led them to a tough defeat following the 2019 season, which came against Mahomes’ Chiefs. It was his second Super Bowl loss after Atlanta’s infamous loss to New England, where Shanahan’s decisions not to run the clock down contributed to the Falcons giving up a 28-3 lead.
While his game management remains a question, his planning during the week and offensive strategies are unmatched, helped by a ridiculous group of talent including all-world running back Christian McCaffrey, physical freak receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, plus star tight end George Kittle.
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They’re led by Purdy, who came out of Iowa State University with minimal expectation as the final pick in the 2022 Draft. But, thrown into action late in the 2022 season due to the 49ers’ suite of quarterback injuries, he proved a wise selection who was able to manipulate the QB-friendly Shanahan offence to perfection, with the running ability long-time starter Jimmy Garoppolo never had.
Putting together a statistically spectacular 2023 season, Purdy’s detractors have pointed to his lack of strong physical traits and how he finds himself in the most favourable situation imaginable; his boosters point back at the stats and his tremendous win-loss record.
Purdy has not been at his best throughout the playoffs, with the exception of the fourth quarters against both Green Bay and Detroit, where he engineered critical drives to ensure the NFC’s No.1 seed would earn their shot at their first Super Bowl title in 29 years.
The Niners’ typically strong defence has worked in combination with this unstoppable attack to give the perennial contenders and long-time NFL powerhouse a chance to lift the Lombardi Trophy once more.
Super Bowl 58 gets underway at 10:30AM AEDT, and you can follow every moment live below.