The San Francisco 49ers welcomed in the Detroit Lions for what was just the second postseason meeting between these two teams in the Super Bowl era. Despite falling in a 14-0 hole early, the 49ers battled their way back to a victory, regaining the lead in the second half. With their 34-31 win over the Lions, San Francisco has punched its ticket to its second Super Bowl in five seasons.
Here are the five takeaways from the NFC Championship Game:
Running back Christian McCaffrey Gets SF on the Board First
McCaffrey would not be denied on San Francisco's second offensive series, capping off the 49ers eight-play, 75-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown run to cut the early deficit to just one score with 13:49 left in the first half. McCaffrey was a huge contributor on that drive, with five touches for 43 scrimmage yards. With the touchdown, McCaffrey became the third player in NFL history to score a touchdown and have 50-or-more yards from scrimmage in each of his first six playoff games.
Defensive lineman Nick Bosa Breaks Through for Two Sacks
After recording no sacks in the NFC Divisional Round, the 49ers veteran defensive lineman got home on Lions quarterback Jared Goff for a loss of five yards on Detroit's third offensive possession. That created a third-and-long situation for the Lions that they could not convert, forcing them to punt for the first time. Later in the second quarter, Bosa created more havoc for the Lions QB1, taking Goff down in the final two minutes of the half for a loss of eight yards. Bosa's sack was part of a larger effort by the 49ers defense to hold Detroit to a field goal before entering halftime.
Special Teams Bounce Back
A special teams error was a factor in Sunday afternoon's matchup. Rookie kicker Jake Moody missed a 48-yard attempt on the 49ers first offensive series, going wide right on the kick. He went on to make his second field goal attempt from 43 yards out to open up the second half and make it 24-10 with 11 minutes left in third quarter. Moody also scored the go-ahead field goal in the fourth quarter to give the 49ers the 27-24 advantage with seven minutes to go.
Injuries of the Game
Linebacker Dre Greenlaw suffered a stinger during the Lions third offensive series after bringing down Detroit tight end Sam LaPorta on a nine-yard gain. He sat out for the rest of the series and returned to action the next time the defense took the field.
Wide receiver Jauan Jennings was evaluated for a head injury after a collision during quarterback Brock Purdy's interception. He was cleared in the same quarter and rejoined the offense before the close of the first half.
Defensive Stops in the Second Half Lead to Second Chance Points
The 49ers defense came alive in the third quarter, forcing the first of their big stops on a fourth down attempt by Detroit at San Francisco's 28 yard line. Goff missed Lions wide receiver Josh Reynolds on a pass attempt, and Detroit turned it over on downs. San Francisco didn't waste any time taking advantage of their extra possession traveling 72 yards in five plays and punching in a touchdown. Fifty-one of those yards came on a can't-believe-unless-you-see-it play by wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk. Aiyuk had a pass broken up by a Lions defender and made a diving catch on the loose ball. Three plays later, he caught a six-yard pass in the back of the end zone from Purdy to pull the team within a score.
On the next Lions offensive possession, safety Tashaun Gipson Sr. made a hard hit of Lions running back Jahmyr Gibbs, forcing a fumble that was recovered by defensive lineman Arik Armstead. San Francisco regained possession on the 24 yard line and turned that into points as well. McCaffrey sliced through the Lions defense for the one-yard score to tie the game.
Following a second turnover on downs in the fourth quarter, Purdy led another touchdown scoring drive, scrambling for 21 yards for a big third down conversion. This time it was running back Elijah Mitchell to punch in to extend the lead to ten points. The Lions scored on a Jameson Williams run with less than a minute to go, but a failed onside kick attempt solidified the 49ers victory.