NFC West author
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The San Francisco 49ers were playing in the NFC Championship for the third straight year – albeit at Levi's Stadium for the first time – and believed home-field advantage would help them get over the top and into the Super Bowl in Las Vegas to get to Vegas.
The Detroit Lions didn't get the memo and dominated the 49ers in the first half. It wasn't close; Detroit was on another level.
But fortunately for the 49ers, as they proved in the divisional round last week, these games last four quarters. And in the second half, San Francisco overcame a 17-point deficit by scoring 27 straight points to punch its ticket to the Super Bowl, a 34-31 victory Sunday in the NFC Championship Game.
With the win, the 49ers advance to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 2019 season. It will be San Francisco's eighth appearance in the title game, and if they win, it would be their sixth championship, tying them with the Steelers and Patriots for the most ever.
After an inconsistent first half, the 49ers got a strong performance from quarterback Brock Purdy, who went 20 of 31 for 267 yards and a touchdown. He also had 51 rushing yards on scrambles that kept the chains moving.
Purdy was 13 of 16 for 174 yards and a touchdown in the second half.
“We all knew what we had to do,” he said when asked what was said in the San Francisco locker room at halftime. “The season is at stake. So I think everyone performed and we played really good, complementary football from then on.”
San Francisco also benefited from a few fortuitous bounces in the second half, including a 51-yard reception from Brandon Aiyuk that bounced off Detroit cornerback Kindle Vildor's facemask before finding its way into the talented receiver's hands. That game-winning play led to Aiyuk's 6-yard catch two plays later, shrinking Detroit's lead to seven points midway through the third quarter.
Dave Helman breaks down the 49ers' win over the Lions
On the ensuing possession, safety Tashaun Gipson Jr. stripped the football from Detroit rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs and defensive tackle Arik Armstead recovered at the Detroit 24-yard line.
Four plays later, Christian McCaffrey ran from one yard out to tie the game with 24:04 left in the third quarter. McCaffrey finished the game with 90 rushing yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns.
The 49ers took the lead for good on a 33-yard field goal by Jake Moody with 9:52 to play and extended their lead to 10 on an Elijah Mitchell touchdown run with just over three minutes left. After Lions quarterback Jared Goff threw a 3-yard touchdown pass with 56 seconds left to cut the score to 34-31, Niners tight end George Kittle recovered an onside kick, ending the game.
Goff, a Bay Area product, completed 25 of 41 passes for 273 yards, with one touchdown and no interceptions. He is now 0-6 in his last six meetings against the 49ers.
Dave Helman and Carmen Vitali explain how Detroit blew a big lead
Detroit overcame San Francisco's typically stingy defense with 184 rushing yards. David Montgomery finished the game with 93 rushing yards, while Gibbs added 45 and Jameson Williams had a 42-yard reverse on the first drive.
“When you have two running backs like that, it’s thunder and lightning,” Gipson said. “Gibbs is just lightning fast and Montgomery is a damn good player. He obviously doesn't get enough credit. When you have two guys like that changing tempo, it’s definitely difficult.”
“But we have world-class guys like Fred [Warner], [Dre] Greenlaw and [Nick] Bosa. And when the game finally calmed down, we were able to play our football.”
After struggling to slow Detroit's explosive offense in the first half, the 49ers stopped the Lions twice on fourth down and held them to just seven points in the second half. Defensive coordinator Steve Wilks made halftime adjustments to slow Detroit offensive coordinator Ben Johnson's innovative plan.
As the No. 1 seed in the NFC, San Francisco once again demonstrated its resilience by winning a game in which it came from behind for the second straight year.
Brandon Aiyuk after the 49ers' momentous win over the Lions
San Francisco's frontline players like Deebo Samuel, Bosa, McCaffrey, Aiyuk and Kittle stepped up when the game mattered most in the second half. Samuel finished the game with eight receptions for 89 yards. Bosa totaled two sacks, four quarterback hits and three combined tackles. Linebacker Fred Warner led San Francisco with 13 combined tackles.
Now the Niners turn their attention to the Chiefs, who are headed to their fourth Super Bowl in five years and will try to win back-to-back NFL titles.
“They’re a heck of a team,” Niners coach Kyle Shanahan said. “They’ve got a hell of a coach, a hell of a quarterback, a hell of a defense. I haven't seen them as much this year because we don't have much crossover tape. But we already have one.” Pretty good idea of what it’s going to look like. They've been doing it for some time. Since we met her [the 2020 Super Bowl]it seems like they've been there ever since.
“We really tried to get back to that moment. We came close several times and this time we did it.”
Eric D. Williams has been covering the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.
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