Kyle Shanahan said 49ers mindset shifted at halftime: ‘We’re not going out like this’

Jan 29, 2024, 12:30 PM | Updated: 1:29 pm

Brock Purdy #13 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates with Head coach Kyle Shanahan after defeating...

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Down 24-7 at halftime, the San Francisco 49ers had their backs against the wall once more in the NFC Championship. This time, however, they responded, with Kyle Shanahan as proud as ever of his football team.

The 49ers coach went into the locker room at half and didn’t say much, only focused on playing to the 49ers’ standards. That had not been the case through the first 30 minutes Sunday, thoroughly out-classed by the Detroit Lions. But despite being down three scores, the 49ers didn’t waver, optimistic that if they got back to their ways, they could pull it out.

“You had no other choice,” Shanahan said postgame Sunday. “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.”

For the first time in two weeks, San Francisco entered the second halftime down on the scoreboard, unable to stop the visitors from putting points on the board. On the other end, the offense couldn’t get going, putting up a mere seven points in both weeks.  

The 49ers have looked like a shell of themselves since the start of the postseason. But, all good teams find a way to win, with Shanahan and the players channeling their frustrations for a massive second-half comeback.

“I think we were just pissed off. I think guys were extremely pissed,” Shanahan stated. “That first half wasn’t [about] 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.”

The players know that as well, feeling embarrassed by the way they played at halftime. But to Shanahan’s point: It wasn’t because they were down double digits, it was the way they were down. 

The NFC Championship game marked the second week the 49ers’ run defense was shafted, carved up by Lions’ running backs David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs. Detroit finished the first half with 142 rushing yards, while SF had only 38. The Lions had 145 air yards, the 49ers had 93 at the half.

The Kyle Shanahan 49ers weren’t playing to their potential, and that’s all that needed to change after the intermission.

“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,” quarterback Brock Purdy explained. “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.”

And as Kyle Shanahan knows, a 17-point lead isn’t a death note in the postseason.

The former Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator was a part of the 2017 Super Bowl collapse to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. The Falcons held a 21-3 lead at the half, allowing Brady and Co. to put up 31 points in the second half and overtime to lose the contest. 

That heartbreaker helped the 49ers coach stay calm this time around, focused on one drive at a time to overcome the 17-point deficit.

“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,” Shanahan said. “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.”

But the head coach can only do so much; It comes down to the players to execute in the biggest moments. And that the 49ers did, feeling the urgency to reach the mountaintop this season, with Kyle Shanahan as proud as ever.

“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,” the coach added.

“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.”

Key dates for Kyle Shanahan and 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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