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Tight end matchup statistics to consider for Super Bowl 54

We take a look at the defensive statistics vs. TE for the Chiefs and 49ers in preparation for their Super Bowl matchup.

Jan 19, 2020; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (left) and tight end George Kittle (right) celebrate after defeating the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at Levi’s Stadium. Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

This Super Bowl has the two best tight ends in the league playing against each other, as George Kittle and Travis Kelce try to help their teams to a win in Miami. When trying to assess a team’s defense against tight ends, raw numbers aren’t always the best source due to the short supply of good tight ends who are a big part of their offense. If a team doesn’t face many top-tier tight ends, they’re matchup statistics can look good and the opposite bears out as well.

Football Outsiders has the Chiefs as 4th against tight end in DVOA and the 49ers as second. Those numbers don’t match the results for the Chiefs, as you’ll see below.

Tight End Stats Allowed Season/Last 6 games

(Season) Rank Pts/G REC YDS TD TAR YPT Catch %
(Season) Rank Pts/G REC YDS TD TAR YPT Catch %
49ers 8 10.7 80 686 7 116 5.91 69
Chiefs 27 14.4 107 1072 7 159 6.74 67.3
* * * * * * * * *
(Last 8/9) Rank Pts/G REC YDS TD TAR YPT Catch %
49ers 25 16.6 36 365 4 49 7.45 73.5
Chiefs 12 11.9 25 281 3 41 6.85 61

The Chiefs allowed the sixth-most DraftKings points to tight ends while the 49ers allowed the eighth-fewest. Over the last six games, that has turned upside down as the 49ers have allowed the eighth-most and the Chiefs the 12th-fewest.

Since we’re looking at two of the best tight ends in the game for Super Bowl 54, let’s look at how these defenses fared against good tight ends. For my subjective call on if a tight end was good or not, the tight end must have had some fantasy football value in 2019.

Good TEs vs. Chiefs

Week 2: Darren Waller — 6/7 rec, 63 yards, 0 TDs
Week 3: Mark Andrews — 3/7 rec, 15 yards, 0 TDs
Week 4: T.J. Hockenson — 3/3, 27 yards, 1 TD
Week 5: Jack Doyle — 3/3, 19, 0 TD
Week 5: Eric Ebron — 1/4, 8 yards, 0 TD
Week 8: Jimmy Graham — 3/5 , 20 yards, 0 TD
Week 9: Kyle Rudolph — 3/5, 21 yards, 1 TD
Week 11: Hunter Henry: 6/9, 69 yards, 0 TD
Week 13: Darren Waller — 7/9, 100 yards, 0 TD
Week 17: Hunter Henry — 5/6, 42 yards, 1 TD

The Chiefs did give up big a touchdown to Anthony Firkser in both of the games they played vs. him, but he didn’t fit my criteria. They’ve now given up a touchdown to a tight end in their last three games and six over their last ten games. When Tyrann Mathieu is tasked with stopping a tight end, things often go differently than if one of the Chiefs not so great in coverage linebackers has the job.

Good TEs vs. 49ers

Week 6: Gerald Everett — 2/5, 9 yards, 0 TD
Week 8: Greg Olsen — 2/2, 13 yards, 0 TD
Week 10: Jacob Hollister — 8/10, 62 yards, 1 TD
Week 12: Jimmy Graham — 1/2 , 7 yards, 0 TD
Week 13: Mark Andrews — 3/6, 50 yards, 1 TD
Week 14: Jared Cook — 2/2, 64 yards, 2 TDs (Cook was hurt and Josh Hill came in and also scored a TD)
Week 15: Austin Hooper — 3/6, 20 yards, 0 TD
Week 16: Tyler Higbee — 9/11, 104 yards, 0 TD
Week 17: Jacob Hollister — 4/8, 25 yards, 0 TD
Divisional Rd: Kyle Rudolph — 2/3, 4 yards, 0 TD
NFC Champ: Jimmy Graham — 4/5, 59 yards, 0 TD

Overall, both teams were up and down against good tight ends and nothing points to them being capable of shutting down either Kelce or Kittle. The only thing shutting Kittle down of late is a run-first approach that has him blocking constantly. But, they won’t leave him as blocker against the Chiefs unless their defense is holding Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense down.

Advantage

I don’t think either team can stop their opponent’s tight end, but a lot depends on game flow. We can count on Kelce getting targets no matter what, but Kittle will need his team to be trailing to see a good chunk of targets. I’ll give the edge to Kittle in the matchup though, as Kansas City can spend resources on outside receivers and if Kittle can get some easy catches over the middle, he will punish any defensive backs trying to tackle him.