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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

What Kyle Shanahan, Brock Purdy, other 49ers said after 34-31 NFC Championship Game win vs. Lions

Jan 28, 2024 at 10:45 PM--

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San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, quarterback Brock Purdy, and others spoke with reporters after Sunday's 34-31 win over the Detroit Lions in the NFC Championship Game. Here is everything they had to say.

Transcripts provided by the San Francisco 49ers Communications staff.

Head Coach Kyle Shanahan

Opening statement:

"Injuries from the game. LB Dre Greenlaw had a stinger and he returned. WR Jauan Jennings cleared concussion protocol. CB Ambry Thomas had an ankle."

Was it just to maintain at focus at halftime when nothing was going right for you guys?

"You had no other choice. It was nice we were starting out with the ball in the third, so it gave us some hope in that way. Also it being a 17-point game was encouraging. It looked like it should have been worse. Definitely how it felt. That is how the numbers looked. But we were only down 17, which that's not too much. But you got to start playing a lot better in order for that not to be too much. Came out in the third quarter, we finished with a field goal. I definitely thought that wasn't enough, but then I think our D stopped them on a fourth down the next time, they we got a touchdown. The next drive I want to say was the turnover. Just like that, it was three drives. I think by the end of the third it was a tied game. All right, first quarter again, but it's the fourth, let's start."

What happened on WR Brandon Aiyuk's long catch?

"I mean, they had a safety sitting in the middle of the field. [QB] Brock [Purdy] did an awesome job recognizing it. We had Deebo on a crossing route. That safety cut it. Brock made the right read and just launched it. The corner did an awesome job staying on top. The safety cuts, that means there's no one in the middle, but the corner was aware of it, so he stayed on top. I was worried for it to be a pick when it's like that. Brock makes the right read, but he launches it. BA did a hell after job going up for it, so it wasn't going to be a pick. Then he came down with the catch, which was huge. I was never able to see if he was down or not. They said he was. Great we punched it in later."

What did that play do for you guys?

"Anytime you get a big, explosive one like that, it makes it a lot easier. We felt we could go on drives, we just had to get it going. I think we had four in the first half. I want to say we scored on two of them, had a pick on one, then punted on the other. Credit to their defense. They mix things up, they play really hard. We thought if we could get it going, make it a game on both sides, it would be a matter of time before we could score some points.The way their offense was going, their defense was doing a couple things to get us off the field. Once BA made that play, kind of unlocked it with such an explosive. Kind of unlocked the whole team. Right after getting that turnover I believe Gipson forced, that was huge. Right after that, you could feel the whole momentum with our players, the stadium, on the sideline kind of flip. Felt it was on after that."

What did they do so hard in the first half to stop the run?

"We knew they were a good running team going in. It only takes a couple guys. We had a couple eight-man fronts. Definitely two that I saw we got one guy out of a gap. When that happens, you get to that middle third player, that's 15 at the best. They had a real good call on the reverse. That was probably the best look they got us in. We had a couple missed tackles, a couple guys out of gaps. It's hard to win like that. But the guys tightened it up there in the second half and got it done."

What adjustments did you want to make heading into the second half?

"We just come up with eight plays to go over with the offense on how we're going to start it out and go with them. The defense goes. They all meet and break up. They talk about all their stuff from positions. Then we just pulled them up before. Guys, it's only 17 points. Been a lot of football games where you're down 17 points or starting with the ball. That's plenty of time to come back, plenty of points to come back. Regardless of any of that stuff, we're not going out like this. We got to be a lot more aggressive here in the second half in everything we do, offensively, defensively, special teams. I thought we switched up a little bit more, tightened up on some things with some pressure, some man coverage. The guys didn't want today to be the last day. We put ourselves in a hole, but they played like it in the second half and we were able to get the ball to bounce the right way and made up for what we did in the first half."

Brock scrambling, how big of an impact was that for you guys?

"I thought it was the difference between winning and losing. He made some big plays with his legs, getting out of the pocket, moving the chains on some first downs, some explosives. He competed his ass off today. Wasn't easy for any of us. He kept grinding, was unbelievable there in the second half."

You heard about how Kyle Shanahan always teams don't come back, Brock Purdy can't come back. Does that strike you now, that's over in your mind?

"I mean, that's up to you guys to decide. I never thought that when it started. I mean, coached a long time. Guys play a long time. Get some of those circumstances. I've never felt like we didn't have a team who could come back or win a game like that. Just had to do it today when it mattered the most."

What are your initial impressions, going to be going to the Super Bowl, playing the team that beat you there four years ago?

"Haven't had a lot of time to think about that. I didn't watch any of their game. Wasn't sure who won until someone told me right before we went out. But, I mean, they're a hell of a team. Got a hell of a coach, hell of a quarterback, hell of a defense. Haven't gotten to see them much this year because we haven't had a lot of crossover tape. We already have a pretty good idea how it's going to look. They've been doing it a while. Since we met them in '19, seems like they've been there every year since. We have been trying really hard to get back to this moment. We have been close a number of times. This time we got it done. Spend these two weeks to prepare and make sure it's a hell of a game."

What was your message after the game to the team?

"Not a very good one. I was exhausted (smiling). Took everyone so long to get in. Then it was really hard to talk because everyone had their families and kids in there. I struggle to talk when I can't use all the words I want to use. My message, I was just so proud of the guys. These last two weeks, we've had some talented teams, we do have a talented team right now, but just the character and the grit of the guys there. I mean, you could see it on their faces at halftime. I could see it on them all week. Our guys got a lot of love for each other. Every year when the season's over, it's always a new team the next year regardless of how many people return. Our guys didn't want this to be the last day. We had to really fight for it to make that happen, but we pulled it off. Couldn't be more proud of the group."

Brock isn't known for his legs. Any element to surprise how productive he was with that?

"I think Brock has been scrambling and making plays ever since we got him in. All you got to do is go back to the first game versus Miami. Brock makes a lot of plays with his legs. Did it in college, too. Makes a lot of off-schedules. I thought it looked like how Brock looks every time he plays."

Was Christian okay at the end of the game there?

"Yeah, he said he got a little bit of a stinger when he went down there. That's what his words were. He had to come out for a play. I know Elijah went in there and scored. At the end I knew Christian was good to go back."

How big was is it a swing in momentum when you were able to stop them on that fourth and two?

"It was huge. Both of them. To make it a three-score game, for us to be able to hold it to two scores, especially the way the game was going. I felt like we kind of blew it when we started out with the ball and didn't get a touchdown, got three points. For us to hold them there, not to get any points. You stop them on fourth down, really look at that almost the same as a turnover. That was huge by us today. I mean, you live and die with that stuff. It would have been really hard to deal with it if they moved the chains on that fourth and two also, so that's why everything comes down to certain plays. What happens in those plays you got to live with."

The play to WR Brandon Aiyuk is how you practice?

"That definitely is the read. When the middle third safety cuts the high cross, that's where the ball is supposed to go. Last time he did that was versus Arizona at home. I think it was week five or something. Did it again. They cut, threw it to BA, but the corner was on top. BA went up, made a hell of a catch. That's almost exactly what happened today, too. When they cut, usually the middle is open. The corner was disciplined, stayed on top. Couldn't run by him. Brock read the defense, gave BA a shot, BA made it right."

Were you shocked given the situation that he decided to go for it instead of opting for the field goals?

"Not really. I think that's how they've done it most of the year. I think that's one of the reasons why they were here. I mean, you win a lot of games making some of those decisions. You make some decisions and you lose 'em. I don't think it always comes down to that. There's lots of plays that happen in the game. That's a decision we all have to make. Doesn't surprise me because he's made a lot of those decisions throughout the year that have won a lot of games for them also."

What was the sense you got from your players? Calm even when you were down 17?

"I think we were just pissed off. I think guys were extremely pissed. That first half wasn't we were down by 17, it was the way we were down. They were kind of having their way in the run game. We weren't getting much in our game run either. We don't want to go out like that. We dug ourselves in a big hole. Wasn't just talking about how to win this game. I was talking about how to start playing right. We got too much respect for our team. That would have been a real rough way to end it if we couldn't have played better with our group. I was so proud of the guys. They didn't really care about anything but finding a way to win. You could see it on their faces, you could see it at halftime, you could see it in the third quarter, you could see it all the way to the end of the game."

What are your thoughts on a Super Bowl rematch?

"None. I'm excited that we're going there. Happy for the Chiefs, too. Going to have a lot of fun tonight probably with my family and everything. Come in a little bit slow motion tomorrow, figure out all the Super Bowl tickets, all the traveling and stuff. That takes a lot of time for the players and their families. Coaches will start getting to go on Kansas City while they do all that. Probably give the guys a couple days off, then we'll get to our game plan and practice by Wednesday or Thursday."

LB Fred Warner has been good all year. Extraordinary game tonight. What are your thoughts?

"Fred played to me like an NFL defensive MVP. He's played at that level to me. He does every year. There's always a group of guys who deserve it. But Fred is always one of those guys.You hope when you have players like that, they do it in these type of games. Fred did. That's one of the reasons we're still playing."

Why do you anticipate being in slow motion tomorrow morning?

"Because you guys won't let me get out of here (smiling). No, I know guys are going to have some fun tonight. We do have two weeks. We're going to have a meeting with all the ticket guys and stuff. We'll put it off a little bit longer. Lots of families in there and stuff. Let guys sleep in a little bit for treatment, but we'll still get our work done."

49ers QB Brock Purdy

You made a number of plays scrambling. Most we've seen. Does that kind of define who you are as a player?

"Yeah, I mean, obviously my job is to distribute the ball to guys that are open. Then if something is not there, especially in this kind of game, you've got to find a way. I feel like throughout my life I've scrambled and stuff here and there. Since I've been here, I feel like I haven't done it a whole lot. Obviously tonight, I was just trying to keep the chains moving, keep the ball moving forward, then obviously give our team some momentum and some juice. I had to do it so I did it, yeah."

What was your view of the WR Brandon Aiyuk catch and how it all unfolded? What did that do for you guys?

"Yeah, I mean, obviously to have an explosive play like that was huge in that moment. We needed it to get down the field pretty quick. We were still down I think two touchdowns. In that moment it was, all right, here is a shot, an opportunity for B.A. It was a single-high, safety didn't get back or anything, he sort of stayed flat-footed. Our offense in that play, you can expect your receiver to get on top and trust him. The corner did a good job with actually staying on top, then tipped it up. B.A. did a great job with tracking the ball all the way and making a huge play for us, man. He's a baller. That was clutch on his part."

When you were down by so much at halftime, what was your message to the team?

"No one was rah-rah. No one was freaking out. It's football. There's a lot of experienced guys on this team, veterans that have been in crazy situations. Everyone was, all right, we've just got to do our job straight up. Offense has to move the ball. We've got to put up points, convert on third downs. Defense get some stops for us. That was really about it. There wasn't much said. [Head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] said a couple things. Fred said a couple things. We kept it simple. Went out. We all knew what we had to do. Season is on the line, down 17. I think everybody stepped up. We played good, complementary team football from there."

Could have been obviously an interception to B.A. Do you consider the fine line of did Purdy threw a horrible pass, Purdy threw the pass that changed the game?

"In that moment I'm looking at it like we need a play. I'm not going to be stupid and just throw the ball up. B.A. is one on one. I'm going to take that opp. Especially in this kind of game, we needed that kind of play. Yeah, so people can say what they want. I was giving my guy a shot and it worked out."

Last week, this week, you seem to do well with your backs against the wall. What does that say about the resiliency?

"It's just the character, man. The love, the brotherhood, it's real. It's the NFL. I guess you could say it's a business, but guys care about each other in this locker room, what we've been through. We've got a core group of guys that have been here for the last couple years. The standard and culture that they've built, the guys that Kyle and [general manager] John [Lynch] brings in, everyone fits that mold. It showed tonight in a huge moment. If you're down 17, you've got to care about each other, love each other to get a comeback going. I think we showed that tonight. I'm really proud of this group."

What happened on the interception?

"Yeah, stepped up, wasn't the look that we really thought we were going to get. I went to try to rip one to Deebo over the middle. From what I can remember, there was a hand that hit my ball, the ball got tipped and floated up to the linebacker."

Talk about celebrating with your teammates when the clock hit zero?

"It's huge. Obviously just the feeling of redemption, coming back. It's huge, man. For all of us, what we went through last year, this whole year has been crazy. You go through highs, you go through lows, even in this game the season is on the line, you're down 17, then to see the clock hit zero and you're up, it's special to all of us. Obviously we have one more, job's not finished. I can't tell you guys how proud I am of the team to fight."

Did you feel the momentum start to shift when they went for it on fourth and two and didn't make it? Can you talk about the feel in the stadium?

"You could definitely feel it. Everybody knew we were all trying to get back into it. So when the defense got a stop like that, obviously the stadium erupted. Then everyone on offense, when we were jogging out there, all right, it's our time, this is the momentum we've been looking for. Our team created that as a whole. As an offense, we've got to do our part and pick up the defense after they just got that stop. We all felt it."

The way your season ended last year, what's it like to be able to come out and perform like you did in an NFC Championship Game?

"Yeah, I mean, honestly this was just like the next game up. You look back a year ago, got hurt, which sucks. You go through the whole rehab process, all of it. It's been a long year, but at the same time it's been pretty quick. For me, I just try to enjoy every single day, enjoy these guys, enjoy the wins, enjoy honestly the lows that come with it. You've got to learn from that kind of stuff. Obviously to pull a comeback like that in the NFC Championship and play, it's special for me. Like I said, we've still got one more to go. To have a performance like that like we did as a team, was huge. We're always going to remember that."

Thoughts on the Chiefs, facing Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes?

"What a challenge. You've got Mahomes, what he does, their team, they're special. They're winners. They've proven that over however many years he's been there. For us to go back and play them is going to be sweet, going to be special for all of us. I wasn't here obviously in '19. You could just tell the guys that have been here, like, anybody, it would be special for them to play these guys. I'm excited to be a part of it."

On the throw to Aiyuk, there was a flag there, did you immediately know that's a catch or was there some confusion on your part?

"Yeah, I saw the flag go up for sure. Then I heard the whole stadium erupt. I see B.A. curled up around the ball. Oh, my gosh, he caught that. After that, we're all jogging down. I'm like, dang. We're all trying to figure out if he scored or not, got touched. When I saw him catch that, I was like that's insane. At the end of the day, like I said, I was just trying to give him an opp, man. Huge play, one on one, we need a play, explosive. Here is one of our best receivers to go down and make a clutch play for us."

How did your personal journey over the last couple of years get you ready for this game but the second half in particular?

"Yeah, honestly I think it's a testament to God and where he's taken me in life. I've never been the biggest, fastest, strongest, any of that. I feel like I've always had to sort of fight for what I get, work for what I get. But God's always given me an opportunity, whether that was in high school, college, then obviously in the NFL. Getting drafted last, people overlook you, that kind of stuff. All you need is an opportunity and watch and see what he does. I put my faith and trust in Him. He's gotten me to where I'm at. When I'm down 17 at half, all right, God, you've taken me here, win or lose I'm going to glorify you. That's my peace, that is the joy, the steadfastness. That is where I get it from. That is the honest truth. I leaned into that. Sure enough, we were able to come back."

49ers WR Brandon Aiyuk

What was going through your head on that catch, and were you surprised at all that you caught it?

"I was surprised. I felt the look before, pre-snap, that I had a chance to get the ball, but they were just on top. I don't even know."

Do you have a sense of how big that catch was in terms of maybe a spark or something that ignited your sideline after that play?

"We definitely felt the momentum. We came out after halftime and got [San Francisco 49ers WR] Deebo [Samuel] going with back-to-back plays and the third play really got the momentum going. It got the fire ignited a little bit. We felt the energy, and then to finish off at seven points, we were just happy with that because we knew what we could do and where we could take it."

You're probably aware of the 'can't come back' stigma, and that 'Kyle Shanahan teams don't come back when they're down.' What do you feel about that right now?

"That's back-to-back weeks with wins that we weren't supposed to have apparently. Just two gutsy wins: two wins that just show you the type of team that we have, the mindset, the will and the heart that everybody had."

49ers DT Arik Armstead

You've overcome adversity before, but you overcame that much more adversity to go out and make the Super Bowl. How surreal is that?

"Super. Our team is special though. We have character and resiliency. I would never count us out and we showed that today."

Was there a play that stuck out in your mind? To score 27 unanswered points is pretty big, but what was the shift for you guys?

"There was a huge momentum shift: getting those turnovers, the forced fumble, scooping that, guys on offense making huge plays, [WR Brandon] Aiyuk's huge play. That shifted the energy."

Did you feel Levi's Stadium shake? It felt like an earthquake up in the press box a couple different times.

"I never experienced it like that. It was an amazing atmosphere to be a part of."

49ers DL Nick Bosa

At half time you were down 17. Obviously, the team hadn't played well. What were you thinking?

"Whew. I was just trying to galvanize the group and there was so much football left. We could score really quick on offense. We just needed to get off the field so we could get our offense rolling."

How do you try to galvanize the group in that moment?

"Just try and tell everybody, 'Do your job.' That's all we need to do. You're one of 11, and in that first half there were breakdowns, one guy each time. Obviously, it's hard for me to know exactly what's going on, but you've just got to do your job and this defense is as talented as it gets. So, that was it."

You scored 17 points to tie the game. Did it feel that quick? Once you get there, how good do you feel about your chances at that point?

"When it was tied? I honestly just block out everything that's going on offensively, and just try and keep everybody even keel. I think my guy [former San Francisco 49ers CB Richard Sherman] Shirm taught me that. You can't get too high when our offense is doing great, because you know you've got to go out there and do your job."

Is there a lot of pressure when you enter the playoffs and you're playing at home? Do you feel that pressure that you pretty much have to get through or like you said, it's an embarrassment?

"Who wouldn't say it's an embarrassment to lose? It's just an embarrassment as a defense of how they were just going right down the field, but in playoff football there's not one moment where I feel comfortable out there. Even back in '19, [San Francisco 49ers Head Coach] Kyle [Shanahan] showed some of that a couple weeks ago and we were killing 'em, and I knew [former Green Bay Packers/current New York Jets QB] Aaron Rogers was on the other side, so there was no, 'Oh, we got this.' It was four quarters, we've got to end it.

49ers Tashaun Gipson Sr.

What was it like watching San Francisco 49ers QB Brock Purdy, especially scrambling?

"I mean, Purdy, honestly, when you've got a guy like Purdy, my fate never wavered, and I've been saying it all year. You've got a guy like that who can control the game, who knows where to go, when to go with the ball, man, I'm happy he's on my team, I tell y'all that. I never worry. When Purdy needs to put up points that's when he's at his best. He came out, he showed that again, time and time again. Now, we've just got one more game. One more game to cement all of our legacies. It's just a blessing."

Detroit Lions RB Jahmyr Gibbs got you on that touchdown run. What were you thinking when you forced the fumble?

"Honestly, at that point I was just so happy I didn't think about it, but now that you're asking me that, yeah, we won for one. So, absolutely. Like I said, a heck of a player. He's going to have a great career, especially the way that they use him. Tough dynamic running back. It's tough to tackle him in open space. Obviously, he got the best of me, but when you go run a tape, I'm two for one. Now, y'all go back and watch that, but shout out to those guys. They played a heck of a game."

You had a rugged AFC Championship game loss to the New England Patriots; did you have any flashbacks or like here we go--?

"I just sat there, and I looked, and it just was like, this will be my third time in 12 years getting this close. I'd be lying to you if I said doubt didn't creep in. I'm human. Just being that close three times, it was unsettling. So, I'm just so thankful that we were able to come back, kind of slow down and play our brand of football and we were able to get a win."

49ers FB Kyle Juszczyk

How did you celebrate?

"For me, I couldn't even celebrate. I just needed to be locked in. Even when that clock hit zero, I felt like I was still so locked in. Finally, to get some hugs from my teammates and get some screams out of me, it really set in what we just did. What an incredible game we had, and we accomplished what we wanted to accomplish. We're back in the Super Bowl and now we have one more goal to go. We have to win this game."

You talk a lot about how hard it is to get back. Could you have imagined how hard it was just for the last two weeks to get back on top?

"No. No. You never realize how hard this stuff is, even when you've been through it. When you go through it again, it's always such a shock. This league is so hard, these teams are so good. It doesn't matter what type of team you have, it's going to be a struggle at some point. You're going to have to battle. We have an extremely talented team, but we showed that this team can also fight even when they have their backs against the wall. I'm so happy with the way that we finished."

Another week where [QB] Brock [Purdy] rises to the occasion from behind. What can you say about him?

"He's an incredible quarterback, man. He's a Super Bowl quarterback and I intend on him leading us to a win in two weeks."

49ers TE George Kittle

Would you say this is the biggest comeback you guys have had?

"I think so. That's the cool thing about football. You know if you keep trying and your team comes together, make a couple stops on defense, hit field goals when you need to hit field goals, and then your offense starts to execute and your guys make big plays. I've been saying all year we have a very talented football team. You know there's been times where we weren't firing on all cylinders but for us to be able to bunker down and start to fire on all cylinders, that's what you see, an explosive offense, a very talented defense that flies around and hits people. It causes turnovers and then our special teams make plays when they need to."

San Francisco 49ers TE George Kittle, with the history that you guys have of losing twice in the NFC Championship game and to be down in this game, what does it take to remain focused and still believe that you can win?

"We have a vet group, we have a very good foundation of players that [San Francisco 49ers HC] Kyle [Shannahan] and [GM San Francisco 49ers] John [Lynch] brought in here since the start. You have a lot of high character guys and you know this team doesn't really give up. You turn on the tape from last year's NFC Championship game and we were without a quarterback for two and a half quarters and didn't give up. It wasn't very pretty, hard to win that game but guys were flying around, hitting people, trying their best and putting good stuff on tape. That's what you get all year round with this team when you have a vet team who really want to win and aren't going to give up. This is our one opportunity. The halftime speech was not really a rah rah speech that is going to get it done for you guys, just figure out a way to get it done and that's what we did."

The last Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs, there's a video of you vowing to get back there. What does it mean to you, not only to get back there now, but to have another shot at the Chiefs?

"Nothing really. That was 2019, a little while ago. They were a very different football team. A lot of the same great football players. They've got DT Chris Jones, TE Travis Kelce, QB Patrick Mahomes and Head Coach Andy Reid. They're still really good. They've got their core guys as well. I'll worry about the game plan when the time comes. I'm very happy for this team, this franchise to get back and get this opportunity. Losing the NFC Championship Game two more times is not very fun. That stings. You put in an extra two weeks and then you lose. And then you move on to the next one and you just say, 'Well, what am I going to do differently this year? How am I going to work harder? How am I going to turn my body differently? What's my mindset going to be?' There's going to be a lot of questions. For us to be able to extend this out a little bit and not have to think about those things and just think about how are we going to get everybody healthy as we can be for the next game. And what's our game plan going to be? Just to be able to be in that opportunity with this group of guys is very fun."

49ers RB Christian McCaffrey

What was the mood like when you were down 17 at halftime?

"I think everybody was pretty focused. We knew we didn't start the way we wanted to, but that's why football is four quarters. We knew we had the guys that if we were gonna do it, we got the guys that can make it happen. I'm just so proud to be a part of this group. We showed a lot of resilience this week, and last week. I'm just pumped up."

What can you say about [San Francisco 49ers QB] Brock Purdy and the way he was able to engineer that comeback in the second half?

"Man, I don't have enough good things to say about Brock. All he's done since he's been here is play at an elite level. Everything starts with him. We're lucky he's our quarterback. He takes a lot of heat for absolutely no reason. All he has done has been a great leader, and been a great player. I'm so proud of him and pumped up that I get another one with him this year."

Was there a specific moment when you thought 'This really is going to happen'?

"It's so hard when it's live and you're in it because the only thing you're focused on is the next play. You don't really feel a lot of the emotions that maybe people in the stands do because you're just locked into doing your assignment. I think that's why we orchestrated a pretty good comeback because everybody was focused on doing right longer. That's something we say all the time, 'do right longer.' I thought we showed that tonight."

49ers WR Deebo Samuel

How hyped are you when 49ers QB Brock Purdy scrambles for a huge gain?

"It is just amazing because I don't think very many people know how fast and elusive Brock is until he starts running. I think that I messed up one of his touchdowns trying to get a lead block and he ran into me and bounced off. I feel like if I would have made that block he would have scored."

Can you talk about the thought process after being down so much at the half? Was there any concern at that point?

"I don't think there was any concern. We just knew what we had to go out and do in the second half and that was to score points. The defense had to get off the field. Starting the third quarter off with three points, Gip (Tashaun Gipson) made a big play with a fumble, then we go down to score and then it was just a chain of events."

What made that win so emotional for you?

"This is my fifth year and I have been to one Super Bowl and that was my rookie year. These past few years we fell short at the NFC Championship. What a coincidence last year we lose (49ers QB) Brock (Purdy). The year before that we just lose the game and we are down 17 at the half and it is just like whatever it takes for us to get this win, and we went out there and did it."

49ers LB Fred Warner

What did you say to your teammates in the locker room at halftime?

"I told the team that there was no more time for pep talks. Offense had the ball up first. They had to go score. Defensively, we had to get a stop and if we didn't, we're not going to Vegas."

Where do you think the momentum shifted in the game?

"The offense just kept doing what they do. [San Francisco 49ers QB] Brock [Purdy] showed everyone who he is and he's the reason we have an opportunity to win this ring. Then defensively, that big play by [San Francisco 49ers S] Tashaun [Gipson Sr.] to knock the ball loose and to have [San Francisco 49ers DL] Arik [Armstead] fall on it, that was everything right there."

Do you think you silenced the San Francisco 49ers QB Brock Purdy haters this week?

"No, they're all going to have something to say, but he's a heck of a game manager."

49ers DL Chase Young

What did you do at halftime to turn the game around?

"When we were down, it brought us together. We just talked about what we needed to do. We just took care of business."

What can you say about San Francisco 49ers QB Brock Purdy?

"I hope they get off his back. Being the last pick of the draft, leading his team to the Super Bowl in year two. Leading in every quarterback category. How can you hate on the guy?"

What's the feeling for you as far as coming over here this season and now you're going to the Super Bowl? That's the goal, but how does it feel?

"I'm blessed. I'm blessed with the opportunity. I don't take it for granted at all. I'm glad I can help this team get here."

Lions Head Coach Dan Campbell

Opening Statement:

"Give those guys a lot of credit. We knew they wouldn't go away, and they made the plays today. [San Francisco 49ers head coach] Coach Shanahan is a hell of a coach. That's a team that, they've done it, they lived it, and they made the plays. So, credit to them. I'm really proud of all of these guys, I am. And it's hard when you lose that way, it's hard. You feel like you get your heart ripped out. But I'm proud of that group, and I'll go anywhere with that group. And you wish you could keep it all together, but that's not the reality. So, we did some really good things, but today we didn't do enough. And it's tough."

You had two fourth-down decisions that were critical in the second half. Neither one was converted. Particularly the second one, why not take a field goal there and maybe stem the bleeding a little bit?

"I just felt really good about us converting and getting our momentum and not letting them play long ball. They were bleeding the clock out. That's what they do. And I wanted to get the upper hand back. And it's easy hindsight, and I get it. I get that. But I don't regret those decisions. And that's hard. It's hard because we didn't come through. It wasn't able to work out, but I don't, I don't. And I understand the scrutiny I'll get. That's part of the gig, man. But just didn't work out."

How do you process this? What happened in the second half, some of the self-inflicted mistakes, that didn't seem to come up much of the year for you?

"It's been very uncharacteristic of us. We've always been able to get our momentum back. And it's hard to say. I honestly, right now, I can't put my finger on that. That's not like us. We had plays to be made that we just didn't make; we normally do. Some of the things, third quarter, we came out. I thought we did a really good job defensively, man. Held them to three. And then got the ball back, moved it. But we just couldn't quite make those plays. So third quarter, you know, we've been there before. And so fourth quarter, you feel like we're going to get it back, and we just couldn't quite get over the hump. And that hasn't been us all year, and it showed up today at the worst time."

You did a lot of good things in the first half of this game. You got this far. I don't know if a lot of people picked you to come to the NFC title game. Disappointing end, but what did you learn from this experience? I am sure you hoped to get back here, expected to get back here, but what did you learn from the experience of making it this far to this game?

"I think one of the things you always tell everybody who has never been here, particularly the young players, is you don't know which play is going to make the difference, which one. You say that every game, but when you get in there with a heavyweight like San Fran, man, it is the difference. And sometimes you can only say so much, you've got to live it, unfortunately. You've got to get your heart ripped out, which we did. And it's a lesson learned. And I told those guys, this may have been our only shot. Do I think that? No. Do I believe that? No. But I know how hard it is to get here. I'm well aware, and it's going to be twice as hard to get back to this point next year than it was this year. That's the reality. And if we don't have the same hunger and the same work, which is a whole other thing, once we get to the offseason, then we have no shot of getting back here. I don't care how much better we get or what we're at or what we draft -- it's irrelevant. It's going to be tough. But in our division, it's going to be loaded back up and you're not hiding from anybody anymore. Everybody's going to want a piece of you, which is fine. Which is fine. But so it's hard. You want to make the most of every opportunity. And we had an opportunity, and we just couldn't close it out. It does, it stings. It stings."

To go from that high of the 24-7 halftime lead to how it ended, what is your locker room like right now? I'm sure you weren't celebrating at halftime but you were obviously feeling very good. The level of crushing, I guess, for your players?

"Yeah, it's tough. It's tough. I mean, nobody's happy. They're very disappointed. It's disappointing. And I think I said it pretty vividly. It's like getting your heart ripped out. It's hard. It's hard. We didn't come in at halftime -- we weren't doing back flips like, all right, we've got this thing won. They know better. We talked about it. We knew they would make a run in the second half. We talked about it. We knew we would have to weather the storm in the second half. So when they started to make a push, we weren't surprised. We just couldn't counter back. And we've always been able to counter back. We just couldn't quite do it in this one."

What is the message both in the moment and big picture to a player like Kindle, who is on the wrong side of a play like that on the San Francisco 49ers QB Brandon Aiyuk catch?

"What we talked about, man, you fight every play, man, and you make him earn everything they get. He was in face, and he competed, and it didn't work out. And you know what, that's life of a cornerback. It's the life of a quarterback as well. Those two positions, and, listen, it happens, and you go back for the next play. And long term, you know what, that won't be the next time that happens, unfortunately. It's every corner gets put on an island at different times. And so you just keep going. You just keep fighting. That's what I want. That's what I'm looking for. What I don't want is a player who is scared and doesn't get up there and challenge. But a guy who will go up there mix it up and ain't afraid of who he's lined up over. Give up a play, give up a play. Nobody feels good about it. Certainly a player doesn't, but I know they're fighting."

You mentioned it a little bit in your opening comments, there's a lot of emotions at the end of a game but particularly at the end of a season. Could you expand a little more on just knowing that the locker room, your coaching staff might look quite a bit different for I guess the challenge of the finality of that?

"It's hard. I'm a firm believer in everything's got to be right. And everybody just thinks that it's just talent or it's just coachability. And the more talent you get and just the better coaches, the more well known, you're just automatically going to be good. And that's not the truth at all. It's not. Does it help? Yes, it helps, as long as they're compatible, and there's a chemistry and teamwork and unselfishness, and you leave the egos at home. And that's hard. It's hard to do that. So you set it up. Now -- it's just going to look different and it's got to be right. It's got to be right again, potentially some of the players, some of the coaches. And we've got to start over and we've got to find the right mix, the right balance. And it's got to be right because otherwise -- I'm just a firm believer, you don't have a chance if it's not. You'll become average, quickly."

It's probably too early in the moment right after a game like this, but at what point do you think, if at all, you'll be able to appreciate what you guys accomplished this season, getting here, the amount of success you had leading up to tonight?

"That's tough. And I have said that word a lot tonight. And I hate it. I should not -- you're asking me right now, and I feel like we're no different than anybody else. And unless you're the Super Bowl winner, that's what this feels like. It's hard. We did accomplish a lot, but there is just -- you know, there's a piece of me that I just feel like we're, you know, a little bit like everybody else who didn't make it and everybody else who lost. Unless you're San Francisco -- who won the other one, I don't even know -- KC, then you've got a pretty bad taste in your mouth. And it's what's great about this sport, what's about the game. It's what's great about the tournament. And it's also what crushes you."

Coming out at halftime, you get the Aiyuk catch and the fumble. Is that like a double gut punch you could never see coming?

"No. I mean, look, we knew they were going to make a play. You'd like to believe that it's not going to be that, but we knew they were going to make some plays. It was just a matter of time -- and I don't care how good you're playing, you know -- Aiyuk is a good player, and [San Francisco 49ers QB Brock] Purdy does a good job of giving those guys a chance to make plays. [San Francisco 49ers TE George] Kittle's a good player. [San Francisco 49ers WR[ Deebo [Samuel's] a good player. At some point you knew something was going to happen. You have to be able to answer back and contain it. And we weren't able to do that."

You mentioned the heavyweights like San Francisco, you referred to them that way. Do you think in the second half the fact that they have been there before, they played their before and your team as a team, even though you had some guys that have been there before, as a team had not, did that start to come into play especially when things started swirling around and going against you?

"You know, it's hard to -- I can't dispute that, but it's hard for me to believe that because we've been in big games all year. I know it's not the NFC Championship game but we've been in two critical playoff games. We've been in plenty of prime-time games, big-time opponents, where we've been able to -- we're always able to get the momentum back. And we just couldn't do it today. And so I don't want to believe that. But at the same token it's there and we just didn't make those plays."

Lions QB Jared Goff

A lot of times this year you guys have been able to battle back through adversity, but some of the drops, not being able to get some conversions, was that just a little bit uncharacteristic of you guys at a most inopportune time in the second half?

"I've been battle tested all year, and that game wasn't too big. It wasn't like they were superior through every play. We hang with those teams. We feel like we should have won the game, obviously. But, yeah, no, I don't think it was anything we've done all year up to this point, being able to not do what we want to do on offense in the second half and obviously lose the game for a variety of reasons. Yeah, you tip your hat to San Francisco, and they played well in the second half."

What do you feel like changed for you guys in the second half specifically? What did you feel like changed?

"Momentum changed pretty quickly. They scored. We didn't convert the fourth down. They scored again. We turned the ball over. That little sequence right there makes it tough. But we were still in the lead, I believe, at that point. And I had plenty of opportunities to still win it there at the end and just came up short. I struggle finding the words to totally encapsulate how or why, but I do know I'm proud of this team and proud of these guys and proud to be a part of it. No quarter, half play defines any of us. And unfortunately they were better than us today."

On that same thread, Josh Reynolds has meant so much to your career. He's been so reliable for this team for years. He had two tough ones today that killed drives. Do you have to say anything to him to express continued appreciation for him?

"Josh is a stud. I got no -- no. He made a mistake. We had plenty of mistakes out there. I missed throws. I took sacks. He made a mistake, and it happens. He's an absolute stud."

What were the emotions for you after the game in such a journey with this team, and obviously you're back at home, to have this chance. You've been to the Super Bowl. You understand how hard it is to get here. To have the chance slip away, what was running through your head after the game?

"I think running through my head this whole postseason and certainly this week was how rare these opportunities are. I've been so fortunate to have two of them. But a lot of guys go long careers without being in these spots. So I was very aware of how hard it is and didn't take it for granted. Now with that said, that sucks. What are my emotions? I don't know, it sucks, and pretty devastated. There's a state of shock a little bit. I just, again, am proud to be a part of this team, and it's hard to juggle those two emotions of being proud of what we've done this year and dealing with the heartache of the loss."

Dan is going to catch a lot of heat for the fourth down decisions. I know how you guys feel about when he keeps the ball in your hand. How much do you think those changed the momentum of the game?

"I loved them. We've got to convert."

And specifically on the first one, was that throw-off? Was that a drop? How do you view the fourth and two?

"Which one?"

Josh Reynolds, the pass to Josh.

"We didn't connect. I'll throw a better ball next time."

The emotions are so high right now, and I think we appreciate the devastation even though we can't fully grasp it, but you go into an offseason, you'll have to do it all over again. It's the nature of the business, you have to restart. What is your process?

"I don't know. I'll give you a better answer later in the week. I have no idea."

You have some of the young guys this season, from LaPorta to Gibbs to J-Mo, some of the young guys. How much do you look forward to them having this experience -- I know it's tough right now -- but what they can take from a season like this, take from these type of games, those guys in the future, this young nucleus going forward?

"Those guys are extremely valuable to our team and played well all year. And these experiences are great for everybody. They're great for me as an eight-year vet. So certainly will be great for young guys. Yeah, those two guys have been instrumental for us."

Two things, first the exchange before the Gibbs fumble looked a little off. What happened on that exchange?

"Yeah, it was just a little off."

And then second, I asked Dan this, but it's too soon I'm sure in the moment to do it, but how long do you think it will take you to appreciate all you accomplished this season, the wins, the success, everything up to this point?

"I don't know. And I probably could give you a better answer later in the week. But I don't know. It's hard. Like I mentioned, you're juggling a handful of emotions, and knowing that getting this far is an accomplishment, but losing this game is devastating. And it doesn't feel good. And you walk off the field, you see them celebrating and knowing the plays to be had out there for us that weren't made and you think that should be us celebrating this win. It's hard. I don't know how to best answer that. But it is hard to juggle both of them. And like I said earlier, at the beginning of this, I think they're a great team and so are we. And they beat us today, but we've got a lot of great pieces in there and expect to continue to be playing winning football for quite some time."

As solid as the first half was, couldn't ask for much more, do you think if you could get one more in the third quarter you might have them?

"Yeah, I think that little swing that we talked about, if one of those things goes the other way, yeah, it would have been a different game. Now, again, they're a damn good team and they were going to fight back regardless. But, yeah, we didn't make enough plays in that second half to capitalize on the lead we had got in the first half."

I think some people like to look at the fourth-down decisions as analytics. Fans maybe look at it as trying to stem momentum. As a player, how do you factor --

"Love it."

What's it like playing for a coach that always wants to --

"Love it. Keep us out there. Love it. We should convert."

What's it mean overall to a team when a coach does that all year long?

"Yeah, he believes in us. He believes in us. And I don't know what the numbers are, but we had a lot of big-time conversions this year that changed games. And I don't know what we were today. I don't know -- I know we had the two we didn't convert. I don't know if we had any others we did. But it can change a game if you convert them, and we didn't. And that's part of the reason why we lost."

Lions LB Alex Anzalone

How will you recap the run that you guys have been on?

"We obviously accomplished a lot. We did a lot of things that have never been done here before. If you look at the stats, the wins, the home playoff games and to win the division, I think it's one of the best Detroit Lions team they've had in a long, long time. That's credit to the guys, credit to the coaches and to the front office for building the team. It's tough when you come short of the goal. Only one team gets to hold that trophy at the end of the year. That's the brutal truth of our game. It was really disappointing but at the same time, we definitely accomplished a lot."

Explain how they had so much success in the second half?

"We weren't playing complimentary football. Usually when one side of the ball struggles, the other side picks each other up. We weren't able to do that today. It seemed like that in the second half, and by the time we got back into it, it was just too late."

Can you put in to words the disappointment of this one because of the stakes that were on the line?

"No. You put a lot of work into it all year long and put your body through a lot. The team will never be the same. I know we accomplished a lot this year, but our ultimate goal is the Super Bowl. We were within reaching distance and it's nothing worse than almost making it. These are the losses that you'll remember forever."

Lions T Taylor Decker

What are you feeling and have you ever felt like this?

"No, this was my first opportunity to be in a game like this and that's what you work for. We are very fortunate to play these big games. To know you earned your way to have this opportunity then fall short, that hurts. The thing that hurts most is there are guys that you have been maybe playing with for years that you are never going to get to play with again. My heart goes out to my guys."

Is there any solace from what you guys built this year and what could come next year at this moment, or is just too painful?

"Ultimately one team is going to go home happy at the end of this season. It's just hard to climb up that mountain and to know it's probably going to be even harder next year to get back to this point. But that's why you play the game though."

When you guys came in here at halftime, how confident were you it was going to be you guys going to Vegas?

"We definitely had the momentum, but we knew San Francisco's the type of team that's not going to go away. They are very much a physical and confident team. We knew we were going to get their best shot and we were able to throw a couple of haymakers early but they came right back at us. They made the plays when they needed to and we missed some opportunities where we could have made plays. So, credit to them."

Lions DL Alim McNeill

You guys came so far this season, getting close to the Super Bowl. What did you learn about yourselves, especially in this game? It's a tough loss, but you have to learn something from this loss, right?

"I learned that we were really a good team. We knew that coming into this game. I also learned that we have to finish in certain situations."

Detroit Lions Head Coach Dan Campbell thinks it's going to be twice as hard to get back to this game next year. Do you agree with that? If so, why do you think it'll be twice as hard to get back?

"People will be gunning for us. We weren't a fluke. We want to have this continued success, but people will give us their best. They'll give us their best every week. It's going to be that much harder for us because people know how we're going to attack them, so they have to do it back."

Lions RB David Montgomery

David, how much was this locker room something you'll take away in your career? As you look back on it, obviously there's a long way ahead for you in your career, but how special of a group was this, this year?

"This is the best locker room I've ever been a part of. It sucks that it won't be the same, but yes this is the best group I've been a part of."

Detroit Lions Head Coach Dan Campbell just told reporters, 'listen the scrutiny is what I have to deal with.' The decisions he says he's going to live with, that's how he coaches. When your coach says that and says it publicly, how much do you support the way that he has made those calls all season long and made them in this game too?

"Yeah, like I say every time I get asked that question - Dan is the best coach in the league. Every call that he makes we trust him. We are behind him. Every call that he's made has been the right call."

Terrible for it to end this way. But getting something out of it, what was built this season to next year?

"I think what we built was hope. I don't think people look at us anymore like they circled us on the schedule just to serve us because that isn't going to be like that anymore."

Lions C Frank Ragnow

The offensive line seemed to control things really well in the first half. What happened in the second half?

Yes, we were. We felt like we were in a rhythm and we were really rolling. It's frustrating. We weren't able to keep it going."

It's so difficult to end what was a spectacular season this way.

Yes it is, but at the end of the day, if you're not winning at all, it's a failure in my book."

Is there any solace in what you built this season and what may come next year after this?

I think the pain from this game is definitely something that we can use. Hopefully we can capture that and use it as motivation to understand that we really let it go."

Lions WR Josh Reynolds

You guys certainly made your living going for the fourth downs all season long with a live by the sword, die by the sword kind of mentality. Is it tougher when it's in this type of game with the stakes that were at hand?

"No. They called it because they fully expected us to get it, so did we. But you know, [it comes down to the] execution."

To build on this, what does that mean to you and your guys?

"It's big. But losing – we were going for it all. We came up a little short and it's just another game sometimes."

Josh, what changed from the first half to the second half? In the first half, it seemed like you guys were kind of moving the ball at will with two touchdowns to open this thing up.

"Just a lack of execution. Dropped balls. We didn't execute."

Lions RT Penei Sewell

When you think back to where this franchise has been and where it can go, does this take away from all the massive success you guys have had this year?

"That don't matter."

How do you break down what happened in that third quarter after the big halftime lead?

"We didn't score enough points."

The decision to go for it on fourth down. I know that's something people are going to talk about, but that's how you guys have gotten here. What faltered? What helped you guys not score the points?

"We've just got to execute on that fourth down."

Does this make you guys hungry?


Lions WR Amon-Ra St. Brown

You guys dominated in the first half. What really shifted in the second half?

"I don't know. A few third downs we wish that we could have converted. We went for it on fourth down a few times, I wish we would have had those. They played well on defense that second half. We were still moving the ball quite a bit, a turnover and whatnot. We both had one turnover so it was tough."

Does it make it harder to not be able to pinpoint a turning point?

"Yes. It is a game of inches. You can look back at the film and point at so many different plays after the fact, but when you are in the game, you are just out there playing. It's tough, wish we could have finished the game on the winning side, but that didn't happen."

After what you guys have been through this year, does it make you guys that much hungrier to come back next year?

"I think so. I think that feeling that we all had walking off of that field- I don't think anyone of us want to feel that again if we can. I think the feeling that we have is enough to motivate us for next year. We had a good year as a whole but it is all for nothing if you don't win the whole thing. Everyone's goal to start the year is to win the Super Bowl and if you don't, you kind of fail the season. Whether you lose here in the NFC Championship or don't make the playoffs, it is all the same. We will be ready."

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