The San Francisco 49ers scored 27 straight points in the second half to erase a 17-point deficit and claim a 34-31 victory over the Detroit Lions in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday.
The Niners entered the record books by overcoming the largest halftime deficit in an NFL conference title matchup. Their victory sets up a Super Bowl rematch with the Kansas City Chiefs, who beat the Baltimore Ravens for the AFC title. Patrick Mahomes won his first ring by defeating San Francisco in Super Bowl LIV in February 2020.
Four San Francisco players topped 1,000 scrimmage yards in the regular season, and the team’s biggest stars once again came up clutch. Christian McCaffrey amassed 132 scrimmage yards (90 rushing) and two touchdowns against Detroit, while Deebo Samuel caught eight passes for 89 yards.
Brandon Aiyuk made arguably the game’s biggest play, hauling in a 51-yard pass after the ball bounced off a Lions defender’s helmet late in the third quarter. Aiyuk scored a touchdown minutes later to help his team storm back.
“Before the game, a ladybug landed on my shoe. And you all know what that means,” Aiyuk told Fox Sports when asked about his spectacular catch. “That’s all I can say. Other than that, I don’t know.”
The Lions scored early with a 42-yard touchdown run from Jameson Williams on the club’s first offensive drive. Detroit dominated the trenches early on, with David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs each scoring a TD. Dan Campbell’s outfit finished the night with 182 rushing yards (6.3 per carry) and three scores.
Despite going into halftime with a 24-7 lead, the Lions couldn’t keep their momentum and were outscored 17-0 in the third quarter. Detroit’s three offensive possessions in the third frame resulted in a turnover on downs, lost fumble, and punt.
Detroit went for it on a fourth-and-2 at San Francisco’s 28-yard line midway through the third quarter while leading 24-10, but Josh Reynolds couldn’t hold on to a pass from Jared Goff. The Niners got the ball back and changed the game, with Aiyuk pulling off his miraculous deep reception two minutes later.
Campbell addressed his fourth-down calls postgame, explaining he felt good about his team at the moment.
“I don’t regret those decisions,” he said. “It’s hard because we didn’t come through. … I understand the scrutiny I’ll get. It’s part of the gig.”
Brock Purdy once again helped the 49ers come from behind in the playoffs. After leading a clutch fourth-quarter drive in the divisional round against the Green Bay Packers, Purdy completed 20 of 31 passes versus the Lions for 267 yards and one touchdown against one interception. He also made an impact on the ground, rushing for 51 yards.
By reaching Super Bowl LVIII with Purdy under center, San Francisco becomes the first club to reach the big game with five different starting quarterbacks: Joe Montana, Steve Young, Colin Kaepernick, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Purdy.
The defeat marks a heartbreaking end to Detroit’s Cinderella story. The Lions won their first-ever NFC North title in the 2023 regular season and were trying to advance to their first Super Bowl in franchise history.
Coming off a strong season, Goff tossed 273 yards and one touchdown on 25-of-41 passing versus the 49ers. Detroit outgained San Francisco in total yards (442-413) and first downs (28-23) but was only 1-for-3 on fourth-down attempts. Reynolds also had a second costly drop on a third-down attempt with his team trailing late.
Super Bowl LVIII takes place Feb. 11 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.