HENDERSON, Nev. -- Most lists of the key offensive characters ahead of Sunday's Super Bowl showdown between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers start with Patrick Mahomes, Brock Purdy, Christian McCaffrey, Travis Kelce, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle.
It takes a while until you get to Chiefs running back Isiah Pacheco. But the bulldozing running back possesses the potential to tip Sunday's contest on its head.
The 49ers' run defense suddenly became leaky in the postseason. Aaron Jones galloped all over it in the Divisional Round. The Lions mashed the NIners on the ground with David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs in the first half of the NFC Championship Game.
The 49ers ranked third against the rush during the 2023 regular season (allowed 89.7 rushing yards per game). In two postseason games, they've given up 159.0 rush YPG (136 yards to Green Bay, 182 to Detroit), the third-most rushing yards allowed over any two-game playoff span in 49ers history and the first time allowing 250-plus rushing yards over a span of two playoff wins, per NFL Research.
The 69.3 more rushing YPG allowed in the postseason than in the regular season by the Niners is the largest increase in NFL history by a team to reach the Super Bowl (minimum two games).
In steps Pacheco.
"I'm excited to face the Niners," the running back said. "They've got a good front, good defense, guys flying around. That's what it's all about. We love competing for moments like this."
The second-year back has been a sensation, leading the Chiefs with 935 rushing yards, seven rushing touchdowns and 1,179 scrimmage yards in 2023. For much of the campaign, the angry runner had kept the Chiefs' offense afloat when the passing game struggled to find consistentRead on nfl.com