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Isiah Pacheco

Pacheco faces run defense that's been slipping

Isiah Pacheco looks like an interesting piece of this year’s Super Bowl puzzle. He’s been on the upswing recently, while San Francisco’s run defense has been dipping.

Kansas City has been using Pacheco more of late. They lost to Las Vegas on Christmas, but since that time they’ve upped their game. They’ve been running the ball more, and more effectively, and it’s been with Pacheco leading the way. He ran for 130 yards against Cincinnati, and he’s run for 89, 97 and 68 yards in the three playoff games, with a touchdown in each. He’s averaged 20 carries for 96 yards in his last four games.

He'll run against an opponent that was strong against the run in the regular season (only two defenses allowed fewer rushing yards). But the 49ers allowed 234 rushing yards in a late-season game at Arizona, and they’ve allowed 136 and 182 rushing yards in their two playoff games.

In the postseason, San Francisco has allowed 5.6 yards per carry, a yard and a half more than during the regular season. That makes it seem like Pacheco could be headed for a solid game. His over-under prop is set at 66.5 rushing yards, and that seems a little low.

Pulling up the other Super Bowl teams from the 32-team era, I see only three defenses that have averaged more yards per carry in the playoffs. I would like to promise that this makes Pacheco a lock for 70-plus yards, but that’s not strongly supported by the numbers.

Of the other six defenses that have allowed at least 5 yards per carry in playoff games (heading into the Super Bowl), three didn’t allow much rushing production in the Super Bowl, while three continued to struggle.

The chart below shows the last 44 defenses to make it to the Super Bowl. They’re order by yards per carry in their playoff games heading in. The final two columns show their Super Bowl opponent, along with the rushing production in the game. Of the opposing offenses, 16 are tagged with black dots, and they all finished with good rushing numbers (14 finished with over 125 yards and TD run, while the other two finished with slightly fewer yards, but with multiple touchdowns). But as you can see by the chart, there is essentially no correlation between yards per carry in the postseason and production in that final game – the better and lesser games by the offenses are scattered almost randomly.

But past numbers aside, I think Pacheco will be getting plenty of touches, giving him a good chance of beating his over-unders. With KC being the more experienced team and seemingly rounding into form in these last few games, I think it’s going to be the winner on Sunday.

RUN DEFENSES ENTERING SUPER BOWLS
YearDefenseAttYdsAvgTDOppResult
2018LA Rams43982.32• N.E.32-154-1
2008Pittsburgh36882.42Ari.12-33-0
2016Pittsburgh491202.42G.B.13-50-0
2005Seattle37952.60• Pitt.33-181-2
2018New England22602.72LAR18-62-0
2021LA Rams521623.13Cin.20-79-0
2019San Francisco26833.21• K.C.29-129-2
2017New England481663.51• Phil.27-164-1
2010Green Bay592093.53• Pitt.23-126-1
2003New England511823.62Car.16-92-1
2015Denver361293.62Car.27-118-1
2009Indianapolis481733.60N.O.18-51-0
2006Indianapolis612203.61Chi.19-111-0
2007NY Giants692513.62N.E.16-45-1
2011New England712603.71NYG28-114-1
2016New England431593.71Atl.18-104-1
2013Denver341293.81• Sea.29-135-1
2012Baltimore993853.90• S.F.29-182-2
2020Tampa Bay642574.02K.C.17-107-0
2004New England522094.01Phil.17-45-0
2019Kansas City441794.12• S.F.22-141-1
2008Arizona572324.12Pitt.26-58-1
2003Carolina672734.12• N.E.35-127-1
2017Philadelphia381564.10N.E.22-113-1
2004Philadelphia471964.22N.E.28-112-1
2002Tampa Bay341424.21Oak.11-19-0
2007New England441844.20NYG26-91-0
2006Chicago431834.32• Ind.42-191-1
2005Pittsburgh552394.33Sea.25-137-0
2014Seattle602674.50N.E.21-57-0
2022Philadelphia441994.52• K.C.26-158-1
2023Kansas City733394.62S.F.?-?-?
2014New England472194.71• Sea.29-162-1
2012San Francisco391854.71Balt.35-93-0
2002Oakland542584.82• T.B.42-150-1
2015Carolina281384.91Den.28-90-1
2013Seattle542695.02Den.14-27-0
2011NY Giants723615.00N.E.19-83-0
2009New Orleans512665.25Ind.19-99-1
2016Atlanta382005.30• N.E.25-104-2
2023San Francisco573185.63K.C.?-?-?
2021Cincinnati653825.91LAR23-43-0
2022Kansas City362156.02• Phil.32-115-3
2020Kansas City402416.01• T.B.33-145-1

—Ian Allan

Fantasy Index