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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

49ers heading to Super Bowl LVIII after rally for the ages, knocking off Lions 34-31 in NFC Championship Game

Jan 28, 2024 at 6:53 PM--

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1st 2nd 3rd 4th Tot
DET 14 10 0 7 31
SF 0 7 17 10 34

The San Francisco 49ers are heading to the eighth Super Bowl in franchise history, while taking a roller coaster ride to get there that won't be forgotten anytime soon.

The 49ers were thoroughly dominated by the Detroit Lions in the first half of Sunday's NFC Championship game and appeared to be nearly dead in the water after trailing 24-7 at halftime. But a furious second half rally that saw the 49ers score 17 points in eight minutes and 27 unanswered points overall propelled them to a 34-31 victory and one of the more memorable comebacks in recent memory.

Quarterback Brock Purdy was instrumental in the comeback, finishing with 267 yards on 20-of-31 passing with one touchdown and one interception, along with 51 yards rushing on four carries. Lions quarterback Jared Goff completed 25-of-41 yards in the loss for 273 yards with one touchdown and zero interceptions.

First Half

The Lions fielded the opening kickoff and made short work of the 49ers on the opening drive, scoring in less than two minutes on a four-play, 75-yard drive. After two runs from running back David Montgomery and a 14-yard completion to tight end Sam LaPorta, the Lions got the ball on a reverse to wide receiver Jameson Williams, who weaved through the 49ers defense to give the Lions a 7-0 lead.

The 49ers answered with a steady 12-play, 45-yard drive that moved the ball to the Lions' 30-yard line. But kicker Jake Moody missed wide right on a 48-yard field goal attempt at the end of the drive, leaving the Lions up 7-0 with just under eight minutes left in the first quarter. The Lions began at their own 38-yard line after the missed kick and cruised into the end zone on 11 plays, stretching their lead to 14-0 on a one-yard run from Montgomery.

The 49ers got the answer they needed on the following possession, which turned into an eight-play, 75-yard drive that featured a heavy dose of running back Christian McCaffrey. After a 23-yard completion from Purdy to fullback Kyle Juszczyk on the second play of the drive, McCaffrey touched the ball on five of the next six plays, including a dazzling 28-yard catch and run that set the 49ers up with a 1st-and-Goal at the 5-yad line. McCaffrey ran in two plays later from two yards out to cut the deficit to 14-7 early in the second quarter.

The bleeding temporarily stopped on the next drive for the 49ers' defense, who forced the first punt of the game after seven plays. But the Lions responded with the first turnover of the game when a pass from Purdy floated into the hands of linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez after pressure from defensive lineman Josh Paschal. The Lions turned the interception into a 21-7 lead when running back Jahmyr Gibbs capped a five-play, 46-yard drive with a touchdown run from 15 yards out.

After a three-and-out from the 49ers, the Lions took over with at their own 29-yard line with 4:59 remaining in the half. Things went from bad to worse for the 49ers' defense from there, as after forcing the Lions into a 3rd-and-12 near midfield, the 49ers gave up a 13-yard first down run on a handoff to Gibbs. Then after a sack for an eight-yard loss from defensive end Nick Bosa and a run from Gibbs for no gain, the 49ers gave up a first down on a 3rd-and-18 when Goff connected with wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown for 23 yards. Goff and St. Brown later connected for a nine-yard gain on a 3rd-and-7 to put the Lions in a 1st-and-Goal at the 7-yard line, but the 49ers held the Lions out of the end zone and forced them to settle for a 21-yard field goal from kicker Michael Badgley that stretched the lead to 24-7 with seven seconds remaining before halftime.

The 49ers downed the ball after fielding the ensuing kickoff, then headed to the locker room to assess the damage, which was significant. The Lions racked up a total of 280 yards in the first half with 148 yards on the ground, which was the most rushing yards the 49ers allowed in a half in seven seasons under head coach Kyle Shanahan. The Lions averaged seven yards per rush and six yards per play while totaling 18 first downs to eight for the 49ers, who totaled 131 yards in the half.

Second Half

The 49ers needed points on their first possession of the second half and got some in the form of a 43-yard field goal from Moody, which cut the Lions' lead to 24-10 after a nine-play, 50-yard drive. Then at the end of an eight play, 47-yard drive from the Lions, the 49ers came up with a stop they needed on defense by forcing a turnover on downs when the Lions went for it on a 4th-and-2 from the 49ers' 28-yard line.

Momentum continued to shift in the 49ers' favor from there due in large part to a remarkable catch by wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk. After a 17-yard catch and run by wide receiver Deebo Samuel to start the drive, Purdy launched a pass deep downfield towards Aiyuk and cornerback Kindle Vildor that bounced off Vildor's facemask and into the hands of a diving Aiyuk for a 51-yard gain.

A two-yard loss on a run from McCaffrey moved the 49ers back to the 6-yard line, then after an incomplete pass on second down, Purdy found Aiyuk again to cap the drive with a 6-yard score to cut the deficit to 24-17.

The 49ers' frenetic rally didn't let up from there, as on the very next play from scrimmage they got the ball back when safety Tashaun Gipson knocked the ball free from the arms of Gibbs for a fumble that was recovered at the Lions' 24-yard line by defensive lineman Arik Armstead. After a gritty 21-yard scramble from Purdy got the 49ers to the 4-yard line, a three-yard run from Samuel followed by a one-yard touchdown from McCaffrey tied the game at 24 with 3:02 left in the third quarter.

The Lions were forced to punt after a three-and-out on the next possession, then the 49ers took over on their own 20 after a 74-yard punt from Jack Fox. The 49ers marched to the Lions' 13-yard line in seven plays, but back-to-back sacks from the Lions forced the 49ers into a 3rd-and-19. After a seven-yard catch by Samuel, Moody gave the 49ers a 27-24 lead on a 33-yard field goal with 9:52 remaining in the game.

The Lions found some life on the next possession as a 22-yard catch from Jameson Williams and a 16-yard run from Montgomery moved the ball to the 49ers' 37-yard line. But after two incomplete passes and a 7-yard third down completion to St. Brown, the Lions faced a decision with a 4th-and-3 from the 30-yard line. Rather than go for a field goal, Lions head coach Dan Campbell decided to attempt one more pass, which fell incomplete and resulted in a turnover on downs to the 49ers with 7:32 on the clock.

As they did in the third quarter, the 49ers made Campbell pay for the decision to go for it on fourth down. The 49ers put together a seven-play, 70-yard drive from there, including a 21-yard scramble on Purdy on 3rd-and-4 to move to the Lions' 28-yard line and a 25-yard run from McCaffrey to move to the 3-yard line. Then the 49ers gave running back Elijah Mitchell his first carry of the night, and Mitchell delivered with a 3-yard touchdown run to stretch the lead to 34-24 with 3:02 remaining.

The Lions didn't go down without a fight, staging an 11-play, 75-yard drive that was capped with a 3-yard touchdown pass from Goff to Williams to cut the lead to 34-31 with 56 seconds remaining. But the 49ers recovered the ensuing onsides kick, and with just two timeouts remaining for the Lions, the 49ers were able to milk the clock and seal the victory.

The 49ers will head to Super Bowl LVIII at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, where they will face the the Kansas City Chiefs (6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT, CBS). The two teams faced off in Super Bowl LIV, with the Chiefs winning 31-20.

Game Notes: The 49ers now stand on top of the all-time list of playoff victories in league history with 38, one ahead of the New England Patriots... The 49ers moved to 40-28-1 all-time over the Lions with the win. They now have victories in 12 of their last 13 meetings against the Lions and 19 in the last 22... The 49ers were seven-point favorites heading into the game... The win gives the 49ers a record of 8-11 in NFC Championship games.

DET Team Stats SF
260 Passing Yards 258
182 Rushing Yards 155
442 Total Yards 413
6.66 Avg Yards per Pass 8.61
6.28 Avg Yards per Run 4.7
1 Fumbles Lost 0
0 Int Thrown 1
2 Sacks Allowed 2
00:27:48 Time of Pos 00:32:12
2 Penalties 3

Lions Player Stats
Passing Cmp/Att Yds TDs INTs
Jared Goff 25/41 273 1 0
Rushing Att Yds Avg TDs
David Montgomery 15 93 6.2 1
Jahmyr Gibbs 12 45 3.8 1
Jameson Williams 1 42 42 1
Amon-Ra St. Brown 1 2 2 0
Receiving Rec Tgt Yds TDs
Sam LaPorta 9 13 97 0
Amon-Ra St. Brown 7 11 87 0
Josh Reynolds 1 4 25 0
Jameson Williams 2 3 25 1
David Montgomery 2 2 20 0
Jahmyr Gibbs 3 6 11 0
Anthony Firkser 1 1 8 0
Fumbles Fum Lost
Jahmyr Gibbs 1 1
Kicking FG Att Lg XP
Mike Badgley 1 1 21 4
Punting No Avg I20 Lg
Jack Fox 2 44 1 74
Punt Returns Att Avg TDs Lg
Donovan Peoples-Jones 1 10 0 10
Defense T-A Sck INTs FF
Alex Anzalone 9-1 0 0 0
Jack Campbell 7-3 0 0 0
Kindle Vildor 6-2 0 0 0
Kerby Joseph 6-2 0 0 0
Malcolm Rodriguez 6-1 0 1 0
C.J. Gardner-Johnson 4-4 0 0 0
Tyson Alualu 4-2 0.5 0 0
Brian Branch 4-1 0 0 0
Ifeatu Melifonwu 3-1 0.5 0 0
Cameron Sutton 3-0 0 0 0
John Cominsky 2-2 0 0 0
Romeo Okwara 2-1 0 0 0
Joshua Paschal 2-1 0 0 0
Alim McNeill 2-1 1 0 0
Levi Onwuzurike 1-1 0 0 0

49ers Player Stats
Passing Cmp/Att Yds TDs INTs
Brock Purdy 20/31 267 1 1
Rushing Att Yds Avg TDs
Christian McCaffrey 20 90 4.5 2
Brock Purdy 5 48 9.6 0
Deebo Samuel 3 7 2.3 0
Elijah Mitchell 4 7 1.8 1
Kyle Juszczyk 1 3 3 0
Receiving Rec Tgt Yds TDs
Deebo Samuel 8 9 89 0
Brandon Aiyuk 3 8 68 1
Christian McCaffrey 4 5 42 0
Kyle Juszczyk 2 3 33 0
George Kittle 2 3 27 0
Jauan Jennings 1 2 8 0
Kicking FG Att Lg XP
Jake Moody 2 3 43 4
Punting No Avg I20 Lg
Mitch Wishnowsky 1 46 0 56
Defense T-A Sck INTs FF
Dre Greenlaw 7-4 0 0 0
Ambry Thomas 6-1 0 0 0
Tashaun Gipson 6-1 0 0 1
Deommodore Lenoir 5-3 0 0 0
Javon Hargrave 4-3 0 0 0
Chase Young 3-0 0 0 0
Nick Bosa 3-0 2 0 0
Arik Armstead 2-2 0 0 0
Logan Ryan 2-1 0 0 0
Randy Gregory 2-1 0 0 0
Javon Kinlaw 2-0 0 0 0
Fred Warner 13-4 0 0 0
Ji'Ayir Brown 10-5 0 0 0
Oren Burks 1-1 0 0 0
Charvarius Ward 1-0 0 0 0

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