SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

49ers score 27 unanswered points en rout to 34-31 NFC Championship win

Jan 28, 2024, 7:34 PM | Updated: 9:20 pm

Brandon Aiyuk #11 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates with Aaron Banks #65 after scoring a touchd...

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Who said the 49ers can’t win games from behind?

The San Francisco 49ers completed a miraculous turnaround Sunday against the Detroit Lions, putting up 27 unanswered points in the second half to win the NFC Championship game, 34-31. The Red & Gold seemed down and out in the first half. But after gaining some momentum, SF didn’t look back, now set for a showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVIII.

Here’s how the NFL playoff classic went down.

The 49ers started flat Sunday, allowing the Lions to score on the opening possession. Detroit did so using the run game, with running back David Montgomery spearing through the 49ers’ defense for first downs. Two plays later, wide receiver Jameson Williams got loose on a reverse endaround, breaking tackles on the way to a 42-yard score.

7-0 Lions in less than two minutes.

On the other end, the 49ers were able to get their offense moving early.

Quarterback Brock Purdy covered a couple first downs to WRs Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel. Then, RB Christian McCaffrey picked ups first down with his legs. Eventually, the 49ers are halted after CMC could not pick up the third and long, forcing a field-goal try from rookie kicker Jake Moody.

Attempting from 43 yards out, Moody missed the kick right, leaving SF with an empty possession.

Detroit made the most of the missed opportunity and capitalized, going 11 more plays to the endzone.

Once again, the Lions used the run game, this time with RB Jahmyr Gibbs. Then, QB Jared Goff used play action and screen passes to convert long yardage, working their way into the redzone. Montgomery finished off the drive after a nice Gibbs run, knifing in from one yard away.

14-0 to the visitors at the end of the first quarter.

The Red & Gold responded with a touchdown of their own next, marching downfield on eight plays. Purdy helped make it happen, hitting fullback Kyle Jusyzck on play-action for 23 yards. Then, McCaffrey had a big play, taking short route dow the left sideline. He made a few Lions defenders miss, bouncing off players for 28-yard-gain.

Two plays later, CMC finishes it off with a two-yard dash to paydirt to make it 14-7.

SF was able to get a stop on the next defensive possession, but didn’t take advantage. Instead, the 49ers’ offense ran five plays, culminating in a Purdy interception to linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez at the 8:37 mark of the second quarter.

Detroit took advantage off the turnover, finding the endzone in five plays. Goff converted 16 and 17-yard completions to WR Amon-Ra St. Brown and tight end Sam Laporta to get the drive going. Then, Gibbs made the play, taking a right HB crack toss past 49ers defenders, making a few eat grass on the way to a TD.

21-7, Lions.

SF want able to do anything else for the rest of the first half, going three and out next.

On the flip side, the Lions had a 17-play drive to seal the half. After allowing numerous third-and-long conversions, the 49ers eventually stoped them on 3rd and goal from the six-yard-line, forcing them to take the FG.

24-7 was the score at half-time.

The 49ers came out with the ball at half, establishing some momentum from the jump.

SF went on a nine-play drive, using a big play-action pass to Samuel for 28 yards to kickstart the drive. Purdy connected with Samuel and WR Jauan Jennings next, the latter being on a third down. Detroit stopped the 49ers after that, with Purdy sailing a pass to Jennings on third down.

They opted for the three points, with Moody converting this time to make it 24-10.

The Lions’ offense wasn’t going away though, coming out with the same rhythm as before. Goff hit LaPorta on play-action for a 16 yard gain to start the drive. The 49ers’ defense stepped up after that, stuffing a run play on 3rd-and-4 to force a fourth down. Dan Campbell’s Lions went for it, unable to connect with WR Josh Reynolds.

Turnover on downs.

With momentum in the balance, Purdy and Co. made it count.

First, the 49ers QB hit Samuel for a 17-yard screen pass. Next, Purdy took a shot deep, finding Aiyuk on the long ball off a Lions players’ helmet for a 51-yard catch. Now inside the 10, the 49ers had to capitalize and they did, hitting Aiyuk in a tight window for the six-yard score.

24-17 halfway through the third.

Now back in the game, the 49ers needed one more big play to take control again. And it came right away.

On the first play of the next series, Gibbs took a handoff up the gut and fumbled it. 49ers’ safety Tashaun Gipson punched the ball out, with defensive tackle Arik Armstead recovering the ball at the Lions’ 24-yard-line.

Two plays later, Purdy came up big, scrambling for a 21-yard pickup to put them in first and goal. McCaffrey finished off the drive two plays later.

24-24, tie game, near the end of the third.

Detroit was out of sync after that, going three and out on the next possession, with the quarter ending at 24 all.

The 49ers had a chance to take the lead for the first time all day, and they weren’t letting that go.

SF proceeded to go on a seven-minute drive, lasting 11 plays. It started with Purdy making a Houdini-like escape from pressure, hitting Jusyzck for a first down along the sideline. Then, CMC had two good runs to move the chains some more. Purdy opened up the offense next, hitting TE George Kittle for a 28-yard catch and run to put the 49ers in opposing territory.

The drive halted from there, with Purdy taking two sacks to back up the sticks. The 49ers settled for three points, with Moody converting from 33 yards to take the lead, 27-24.

Detroit responded with a steady drive at first, hitting Williams for a 22-yard completion to open the drive. Montgomery had a 16-yard run after that. The drive stalled out next, unable to convert third down and 10 after a seven-yard play. The Lions went for it, but Goff couldn’t connect with St. Brown, forcing the turnover on downs.

Now with the game in their control, all Purdy and Co. had to do was go down and score. And that they did.

The 49ers QB first hit Samuel on a PA bootleg for a first down. Then, he made a play with his legs, scrambling for another 21-yard dash into Lions’ territory. McCaffrey broke one to the right next, going through players for a 25-yard pickup.

Backup RB Elijah Mitchell punched it in for the final 49ers score, making it 34-24 with only a few minutes to go.

27 unanswered points, the largest comeback for the 49ers under Kyle Shanahan.

Detroit went on to score another TD before the end of the game, but it was too little too late.

The 49ers recovered the onside kick, running a few plays before taking a knee as the clock expired for the 34-31 victory.

SF heads to their second Super Bowl in five seasons, set for a rematch with the QB Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.

“It’s perfect. It’s perfect,” defensive end Nick Bosa said about the Super Bowl LVIII matchup.

This story is being updated…

Key dates for the San Francisco 49ers

  • Sunday, Feb. 11th – Super Bowl LVIII at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas
  • Tuesday, Feb. 20th – Teams can begin franchising players until Tuesday, March 5th
  • Tuesday, Feb. 27 – NFL Combine begins

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