SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- What's going to be talked about when the 49ers head to Miami next week to prepare for Super Bowl LIV? We have the top-10 storylines entering Super Bowl week right here as the 49ers prepare to play the Kansas City Chiefs.
1. DEE FORD'S REDEMPTION
The 49ers defensive end figures to be a popular guy in Miami. He'll be peppered with questions about how much he thinks about his offsides penalty in last year's AFC Championship game that negated a game-ending interception against the Patriots, who advanced to the Super Bowl after winning in overtime.
The Chiefs remade their defense in the offseason and traded Ford to San Francisco for a 2020 second-round draft pick and traded for former Seahawk Frank Clark. Even if Ford downplays the story line, you can be sure Ford won't be lacking for motivation against his former team.
More pertinent to the Super Bowl is Ford's impact on the 49ers' pass rush. They had just five sacks in their last five regular-season games, while Ford was largely absent because of a hamstring injury. The team had nine sacks in two games with Ford back in the lineup against the Vikings and Packers. His speed off the edge will be needed to clear room for San Francisco's talented defensive tackles, Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner.
"Now you're getting those guys on islands, and it just creates a lot of one-on-ones for those guys," defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said of Ford's impact.
According to NFL Media, the 49ers pressured opposing quarterbacks on 22.7% of dropbacks with Ford out of the lineup during the regular season. With Ford back in the playoffs, that number spiked to 32% against Minnesota and Green Bay, including 48% (17 of 35) in the divisional round.
2. SHERMAN VS. THE WORLD
Richard Sherman is a self-motivator. He's used perceived slights against him and the 49ers defense all season, and don't expect that to stop in Miami. For instance, the Chiefs are betting favorites (they're currently favored by 1.5 points) despite having a worse regular season record (12-4) while playing in a lesser division.
Sherman also found his name in headlines the night of the NFC title game when Darrelle Revis called him out on Twitter saying Sherman was scared to play man-to-man coverage after Packers star Davante Adams beat him on a deep pass in the fourth quarter.