Santa Clara – It was a story book ending to a spectacular season, the Forty-Niners have punched their ticket to Super Bowl in Las Vegas and will take on the Kansas City Chiefs. The 49ers comeback 34-31 victory over the Detroit Lions in the second half was nothing short of the team’s incredible defense. Tashaun Gipson’s forced fumble and Elijah Mitchell’s touchdown sealed their victory and crowned them the 2023 NFC Champions.
“Our guys didn’t want this to be the last day,” said San Francisco’s head coach Kyle Shanahan. “We had to really fight for it to make that happen, but we pulled it off. Couldn’t be more proud of the group.”
The resilience of this team is unfathomable, the 49ers rallied back from being down 17 points late in the third when Moody kicked a 43-yard field goal to start the third quarter. Then Brock Purdy found Brandon Aiyuk for a 6-yard touchdown. On the next drive, Tashaun Gipson forced Jared Goff to fumble, and Arik Armstead recovered the ball. That setup McCaffrey’s 1-yard touchdown to tie the game 24-24.
McCaffrey registered 20 carries for a team-high 90 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground to go along with 4 receptions for 42 yards. Today’s game marked the 6th playoff game of McCaffrey’s career. He became the 3rd player in NFL history to register 50-or-more yds. from scrimmage and 1-or-more TDs in each of their first 6 career playoff games. McCaffrey has scored 1-or-more touchdowns in each of his 5 playoff games as a member of the 49ers, which is the most consecutive playoff games in franchise history.
What a comeback for San Francisco in the second half. Jake Moody’s second field goal for 33-yards gave the 49ers a 27-24 lead for the first time in today’s game. Then Mitchell’s 3-yard touchdown with 3:02 on the clock was the score they needed to win. The Lions final attempt was Jameson Williams 3-yard touchdown pass from Goff at the 2-minute mark, that made it a 34-31 game. San Francisco controlled it from there and the celebration began.
The 49ers advanced to the Super Bowl for the eighth time in franchise history and the first time since the 2019 season. San Francisco has won 38 playoff games, the most in NFL history. The17-point deficit marked the team’s largest comeback victory in an NFC Championship Game since they overcame a 17-point deficit against the Atlanta Falcons in the 2012 season at Atlanta (1/20/13 – NFC-C). The 49ers also became the first team in NFL history to be down 17-or-more points at halftime of a Championship Game and come back to win the game.
Detroit came in and stunned a sellout crowd for the NFC Championship game. On their opening drive Williamson rushed for a 42-yard touchdown. That drive took 1:42 on 4 plays and 75 yards. On the next play, David Montgomery rushed into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown to make it a quick 14-0 game. Unable to stop their running game, the 49ers struggled early on both sides of the ball and Moody missed a 48-yard field goal attempt.
McCaffrey rushed for a 2-yard touchdown to get San Francisco back in this game. The 49ers made their first crucial stop, Nick Bosa sacked Goff, and threw him down like a rag doll. Then Dre Greenlaw’s defensive hit forced Detroit to punt for the first time today. To add to the 49er’s woes, Purdy’s intended pass for Brandon Aiyuk was intercepted by a wide-open John Cominsky. That led to Jahmyr Gibbs 15-yard touchdown to extend the Lions lead to 21-7 in the second quarter.
Bosa recorded his second sack on Goff but that wasn’t enough to stop Detroit’s passing and running game which seemed to confuse San Francisco’s top-rated defense. At the two-minute mark the Lions controlled the ball with three timeouts remaining. Michael Badgley kicked a 21-yard field goal to make it a 24-7 game to end the half.
Fred Warner registered a team-high and playoff career-high 13 tackles on the evening, giving him 84 tackles in his playoff career. Warner’s 84 tackles in the playoffs are the most in franchise history. Bosa registered 3 tackles and 2.0 sacks of Lions QB Jared Goff, giving him 10.0 sacks in his playoff career, which is the most sacks by a member of the 49ers in the playoffs in franchise history. Bosa’s 2.0 sacks of Goff marked the 3rd time in his career that he has recorded 2.0-or-more sacks in a playoff game.
“When it was tied? I honestly just block out everything that’s going on offensively, and just try and keep everybody even keel,” Bosa said. “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.”
Purdy also came out of the second half more aggressive than how he played earlier on. He completed 20 of his 31 passing attempts for 267 yards, one touchdown and one interception in the first half. His passing touchdown marked the 5th of his playoff career. With the win today, Purdy, who registered 2 playoff wins as a rookie, became the 4th QB in NFL history to win at least 4 playoff games in his first two career seasons.
“I thought it was the difference between winning and losing,” said Shanahan on Purdy’s scrambling. “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.”
“Yeah, I mean, obviously my job is to distribute the ball to guys that are open,” said Purdy. “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.”
UP NEXT: The 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs will face off at Allegiant Stadium for Super Bowl LVIII February 11, 2024, at 3;30pm PST.
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