49ers storm back in second half to stun Lions, reach Super Bowl

January 28, 2024 – 7:08 PM PST

San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey (23) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Detroit Lions during the first half of the NFC Championship football game at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey (23) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Detroit Lions during the first half of the NFC Championship football game at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Christian McCaffrey rushed for 90 yards and two touchdowns, including the tying score during the San Francisco 49ers’ comeback from a 17-point halftime deficit, as they defeated the Detroit Lions 34-31 for the NFC Championship on Sunday in Santa Clara, Calif.

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The result sends San Francisco, the conference’s top seed, to Las Vegas for Super Bowl LVIII on Feb. 11 against Kansas City, which won earlier Sunday 17-10 at Baltimore. It will be a rematch of Super Bowl LIV, which the Chiefs won 31-20.

The 49ers scored on their first five possessions of the second half, taking the lead for good when Jake Moody drilled a 33-yard field goal with 9:52 left to make it 27-24.

After Detroit eschewed a 48-yard field goal and failed on a fourth-and-3 gamble from the San Francisco 30, the 49ers clinched the win with Elijah Mitchell’s 3-yard touchdown run with 3:02 left.

Jared Goff fired a 3-yard scoring strike to Jameson Williams with 56 seconds remaining, but a penalty on the onside kick sealed the outcome.

Brock Purdy completed 20 of 31 passes for 267 yards with a touchdown and an interception for San Francisco. Goff was 25 of 41 for 273 yards with a score for the Lions, who were aiming to make their first Super Bowl.

The 49ers’ Brandon Aiyuk corralled an improbable 51-yard reception in the third quarter after Purdy’s deep pass bounced off a Detroit defender’s facemask. Aiyuk caught a 6-yard touchdown two plays later to cut the margin to 24-17.

Jahmyr Gibbs fumbled on Detroit’s next play from scrimmage, and San Francisco tied the game on McCaffrey’s 1-yard plunge.

Detroit wasted little time putting its stamp on the first half. The Lions led 7-0 less than two minutes into the game on a 42-yard touchdown run by Williams. Then they made the score 14-0 on a 1-yard run by David Montgomery at the 2:34 mark of the first quarter.

McCaffrey put San Francisco on the board with a 2-yard scoring jaunt 71 seconds into the second quarter. However, the Lions responded with Gibbs’ 15-yard touchdown burst with 5:54 left in the half, five plays after Purdy tossed an ugly interception over the middle to Malcolm Rodriguez.

Detroit capped a near-flawless half with its fourth score in five possessions, a 21-yard field goal by Michael Badgley with seven seconds remaining that gave it a 24-7 lead at the break. That capped a 17-play, 68-yard drive.

–Field Level Media

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