The Chiefs and 49ers take each other on in Super Bowl LIV, pitting one good and one not as good defense vs. running backs against each other. Both teams have had success offensively through their running backs, but go about gaining that success in different ways.
It’s common knowledge that the 49ers have defended running back play much better than the Chiefs this season, but we have seen Kansas City turn up their run defense of late, notably against the rushing King Derrick Henry in the AFC Championship game.
Below, we’ll take you through some of the matchup statistics relevant to the Super Bowl running backs:
Defensive Line — Run stopping DVOA
Offensive Line — Run blocking DVOA
Overall DVOA against the run
The 49ers are better at blocking for their running backs and stopping opponent’s running backs with their offensive and defensive lines, according to Football Outsiders’ analytics. That also jibes with the raw stats we see.
When you break down the analytics over the season, including the two playoff games, the Chiefs have gotten progressively better against the run and the pass while 49ers have gotten better against the run and worse against the pass. It pushes them closer together at this exact point in time, more so than the season stats show.
Running Back Stats Allowed Season/Last 6 games
|(Last 6)||Rank||DKP/G||ATT||YDS||TD||YPC||REC||YDS||TD||TAR||YPT||Catch %|
Through 18 full games, there is no comparison between these two teams as far as DraftKings points allowed, but that number gets much closer when you look at the last six games. In that time, the Chiefs have given up three rushing touchdowns to the 49ers five, with a receiving touchdown making it six. The 49ers still have played extremely well against running backs, but the Chiefs have proven they can slow running backs down — which they hadn’t been able to do earlier in the season.
The 49ers have been especially good at defending running backs in the passing game. They’ve given up one receiving touchdown to a running back and that came last week to Aaron Jones. They’ve allowed the second-fewest yards and yards per target to running backs through the air and rank first in DVOA against receiving backs.
The Chiefs, on the other hand, rank 20th in DVOA against receiving backs and gave up the most yards and fourth-most receptions to running backs on the season. Getting leads, of course, helps your defense face more pass attempts as teams try to gain ground, but the 49ers also had plenty of leads and their linebackers shut down opposing backs.
The Chiefs may have gotten better against the run, but overall, the 49ers stack up well against Damien Williams, who gets a lot of his production through the air.
Notable running back performances against each defense:
Week 3: Mark Ingram — 16 att, 103 yards, 3 TDs — 4 rec, 32 yards
Week 4: Kerryon Johnson — 26 att, 125 — 2 rec, 32 yards
Week 5: Marlon Mack — 29 att, 132 yards. 0 TD — 3 rec, 16 yards
Week 6: Carlos Hyde — 26 att, 116 yards, 1 TD — 1 rec, 14 yards
Week 6: Duke Johnson — 5 att, 54 yards, 0 TD — 2 rec, 20 yards, 1 TD
Week 8: Aaron Jones — 13 att, 67 yards, 0 TD — 7 rec, 159 yards, 2 TDs
Week 9: Derrick Henry — 23 att, 188 yards, 2 TDs
Week 10: Austin Ekeler — 5 att, 24 yards, 0 TD — 8 rec, 109 yards, 0 TD
Week 13: Josh Jacobs — 17 att, 104 yards, 0 TD
Week 17: Melvin Gordon — 14 att, 46 yards, 1 TD — 6 rec, 76 yards, 0 TD
The Chiefs had two games where they didn’t allow running backs to total 100 yards or score a touchdown and three games where they didn’t allow opposing running backs to total 100 yards, all coming after Week 14. They had nine games where they didn’t allow a touchdown to a running back, but in four games they allowed 11 running back touchdowns, all before Week 11.
Week 8: Christian McCaffrey — 14 att, 117 yards, 1 TD — 4 rec, 38 yards, 0 TD
Week 9: Kenyan Drake — 15 att, 110 yards, 1 TD — 6 rec, 13 yards, 0 TD
Week 10: Chris Carson — 25 att, 89 yards, 1 TD — 3 rec, 12 yards, 0 TD
Week 16: Todd Gurley — 15 att, 48 yards, 2 TDs
NFC Champ: Aaron Jones — 12 att, 56 yards, 1 TD — 5 rec, 27 yards, 1 TD
The 49ers had six games where they didn’t allow running backs to total 100 yards or score a touchdown and 10 games where they didn’t allow a running back touchdown.
The 49ers have the clear advantage at running back, but the Chiefs have been improving.