The San Francisco 49ers have become regulars in the conference championship, punching their ticket for a third-straight season and for the fourth time in a span of five years. While reaching this stage of the playoffs is familiar territory, this postseason run feels a bit different for a number reasons. Sophomore quarterback Brock Purdy pushed past a season-ending injury and has an entire season as a starter under his belt. As the No. 1 seed, the 49ers got to spend the postseason at home, and the health of the team is in a good spot headed into the highest stakes game of the season thus far.
While it's hard to altogether do away with the memory of how the 2022 season ended, the 49ers aren't looking back on last season's NFC Championship Game that ended with Purdy going down in the first quarter and the team falling short in Philadelphia. The focus is on the opportunity at hand, a chance at Super Bowl LVIII.
"Last year was last year, this year is this year," running back Christian McCaffrey said. "I think we're exactly where we want to be, with a chance to win an NFC Championship at home. I don't think we're thinking about last year at all.
"Every year is unique in itself, you talk about last year, we went into Philly with full confidence, believing we were going to win that game and Brock goes down, lose our backup quarterback and didn't have much of a shot."
"Last year is last year, it was its own game," Purdy said. "It hasn't been anything that has bled into this year or this game. This is the 49ers against the Lions now. It's a new year, new approach in terms of playing against their defense and their scheme, not thinking about last year.
"I got hurt last year, and it sucked. That was part of the game. Going into this game, I'm healthy. I feel good, and for all of us, we're hungry. We want to get to the next game after."
"It's hard to say if (past experiences in the NFC Championship Game) is going to impact what goes down for three hours on Sunday," defensive lineman Nick Bosa said. "It's definitely good experience for us. We've been here a lot. It's really a new year every year, so we have to play well."
To advance to the next round, San Francisco will have to edge past the third-seeded Detroit Lions that boasted a top five scoring offense and top two rush defense led by veteran quarterback Jared Goff, who has recorded back-to-back 100-plus passer ratings in the postseason.
As the 49ers look to break the door open on Super Bowl LVIII, linebacker Fred Warner was quick to note the narrow margins that make or break a team at the conference championship level. It was no easy feat to get back to a 12-5 record and clinch the No. 1 seed. It's been five seasons since the last time the 49ers positioned themselves for this kind of playoff run.
"It's just one or two plays in the game that win or lose you the game at this point," Warner said. "It's the team that plays the best for three hours. Even this past Saturday, were we the best team that played for those three hours? We made one or two plays to make it happen.
"I don't know how this game is going to go on Sunday. We have to play our best football when our best is needed and whenever those one or two come, you have to make them."
Wide receiver Deebo Samuel (shoulder) returned to practice as a limited participant for the first time since suffering a shoulder injury in the NFC Divisional Round. He is the only 49ers player currently working through an injury headed into the NFC Championship on Sunday.