The San Francisco 49ers are heading to Super Bowl LVIII after winning an absolute thriller in the NFC Championship Game, 34-31, on Sunday night.
The Niners will meet the Kansas City Chiefs, who defeated the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship Game, in Las Vegas at Allegiant Stadium on Feb. 11.
This game didn’t look like much after the first half, where the Lions completely dominated a 49ers team that looked like a shell of itself.
On the very first drive, quarterback Jared Goff executed a trick play Detroit as ran often, as he faked a handoff to his running back before flipping it to speedy wide receiver Jameson Williams. He made a few 49ers defenders miss and shook another tackle before running into the end zone from 42 yards out.
The Lions only needed four plays to get seven points on the board, setting the tone head coach Dan Campbell certainly wanted on the road.
San Fran would miss a field goal on their first drive, and Goff used that momentum to get another one on the board. This time, David Montgomery busted into the end zone from one yard out to quickly make it 14-0 in the first quarter.
The 49ers would respond, though, and who else but Christian McCaffrey scoring from two yards out to get on the board.
But momentum shifted back to Detroit again when Brock Purdy threw an interception in his own territory to set the Lions up perfectly for their third rushing touchdown of the half. It was rookie Jahmyr Gibbs maneuvering his way 15 yards across the goal line.
The Lions finished the first half with 148 rush yards as a team with all three of their touchdowns coming on the ground.
But the second half brought trouble to the team that was up 24-7 when they went to the locker room. A turnover on downs, a fluke deep ball completion and a fumble all led to San Fran scores that eventually tied this game.
Purdy found the rhythm head coach Kyle Shanahan wanted in the second half, even if it didn’t result in a touchdown. A field goal from Jake Moody that went through the uprights this time made it 24-10.
But the Lions wanted to keep things going on the ensuing drive when Campbell gave Goff the nod to go for it on fourth-and-2 from San Francisco’s 28 instead of kicking their own field goal.
The result? A dropped pass by Josh Reynolds that forced the turnover on downs.
Two plays later, with the 49ers now having the ball, Purdy took a shot to Brandon Aiyuk down the field, but the ball appeared to be overthrown just a bit. Lions defender Kindle Vildor was tracking the ball along with Aiyuk and looked to have the right angle as it was coming down.
But when Vildor put his hands out, it went right through and hit him in the helmet, popping the ball in the air. Aiyuk had the awareness to stick his hands out and make the catch, landing at the five-yard line.
A couple plays later, Aiyuk caught a bullet from Purdy for the touchdown to get the game within seven points, 24-17.
The San Fran crowd was raucous, as they felt their team finally clicking on all cylinders. And when Detroit took the field, more momentum shifted to the 49ers.
Gibbs and Goff weren’t on the same page on the very first play, as they almost ran into each other on a handoff. Tashaun Gipson Sr. got his hands in Gibbs’ arm and ripped the ball out of his hands, and San Fran recovered.
Four plays later, McCaffrey cracked into the end zone one more time, tying the game and sending the Levi’s Stadium crowd into a frenzy.
San Fran would finally take the lead with 9:52 left in the fourth quarter when Moody kicked a 33-yard field goal to make it 27-24. Yet, the Lions could’ve gone for a field goal again to match Moody on the ensuing drive, but Campbell refused to do so again.
The attempt was futile, as Goff was forced out of the pocket and threw the ball into empty space to turn it over again.
Like it did earlier in the half, the turnover led to 49ers points. The run game was used for this drive, as Purdy and McCaffrey rushed their way downfield. But it was Elijah Mitchell, subbing in for McCaffrey who was gassed, finding his way into the end zone to give his team a 10-point lead.
It was the score the 49ers needed because Goff ended up finding Jameson Williams on fourth-and-goal to keep the game alive.
Detroit needed to try an onside kick to give themselves a miracle chance to keep this game going. But
Purdy started slow but finished 20-of-31 for 267 yards with one touchdown pass, and Deebo Samuel was his top target with eight catches for 89 yards. Aiyuk also had 68 yards on three catches, while McCaffrey had 132 total yards from scrimmage (90 rushing, 42 receiving).
For the Lions, Goff was 25-for-41 for 273 yards with one touchdown pass, while Sam LaPorta led the way with 97 receiving yards on nine receptions. Amon-Ra St. Brown had seven catches for 87 yards.