The San Francisco 49ers stood firm to withstand first-half dominance from the Detroit Lions and to achieve a breathtaking comeback that booked their place in Superbowl LVIII.

First Half:

The Detroit Lions opened the lead very early into the first quarter, showcasing some clever attacking plans from the offence. 

The ball was snapped to Jared Goff before he faked handing it off to running back David Montgomery.

Montgomery, accompanied by a formidable wall of five offensive teammates, charged into a group of defensive players, effectively isolating and immobilising them.

On the same play, Goff capitalised as he handed the ball to Jameson Williams, who ran a jet sweep route.

Williams used his blistering pace to run through the central areas of the pitch whilst dancing in and out of defenders, eluding their attempted tackles.

Despite nearly stumbling around the 10-yard line, the wide receiver displayed remarkable balance to stay on his feet and carry the ball into the endzone to record the game's inaugural touchdown.

Kyle Shanahan's team sought a swift response to get them back on level terms, as quarterback Brock Purdy built momentum by orchestrating short passes to dynamic receivers Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel.

But, the 49ers could not score six points from the drive and had to settle for a 48-yard field-goal attempt.

The 2023 third-round pick kicker, Jake Moody, missed the kick and saw the San Francisco offence leave the field with zero points.

Detroit notched the game's second touchdown towards the end of the first quarter.

Leveraging the strengths of both running backs, they forced their way down the field and eventually breached into the endzone.

They deployed their 2023 second-round pick, Jahmyr Gibbs, and utilised his electric speed to attack routes designed to exploit the outer edges of the defence.

 

SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 28: Jahmyr Gibbs #26 of the Detroit Lions rushes during the NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on January 28, 2024 in Santa Clara, California. The 49ers defeated the Lions 34-31. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 28: Jahmyr Gibbs #26 of the Detroit Lions rushes during the NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on January 28, 2024 in Santa Clara, California. The 49ers defeated the Lions 34-31. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, Montgomery assumed a receiving back role and strategically bulldozed through the central areas.

49ers running back Christian McCaffrey performed a crucial role as a dangerous weapon in their offensive arsenal and helped his side record their first touchdown.

He charged his way through the Lions' defence, primarily targeting the gut, to reach crucial first downs.

He added six points to the scoreboard with a mighty leap into the end zone. 

The Lion extended their lead further with another touchdown with just six minutes left on the clock.

Goff tossed the ball to Gibbs, who utilised his beautiful footwork to weave in and out of the San Francisco defenders before putting his side 21-7 up.

Michael Badgley sealed the first half with a field goal from 21 yards to give the Lions a 24-7 lead at half-time, maintaining his perfect post-season field goal conversion rate.

Second Half:

The 49ers' first drive of the half resorted to a field goal from Moody to chip away at the deficit with three points. 

The kicker has a post-season field goal conversion rate of just 60%, the second lowest in the 2023 playoffs.

However, one critical turning point of the game came from the Lions receiver Marvin Jones Jr, as he dropped a simple pass from Goff on a fourth down and two yards, which forced a turnover on downs.

In the regular campaign, Jones jr only dropped two balls from 10 targets; he would have been very disappointed to have dropped that simple pass.

With the momentum shifting, quarterback Brock Purdy took the reins on a determined mission for revenge, leading his teammates down the field to claw his side back into the matchup.

'Mr irrelevant' launched a deep ball downfield that ironically bounced off Kindle Vildor's face mask and landed in the hands of  Aiyuk.

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 28: Brandon Aiyuk #11 of the San Francisco 49ers catches a pass that was tipped by Kindle Vildor #29 of the Detroit Lions during the third quarter in the NFC Championship Game at Levi's Stadium on January 28, 2024 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 28: Brandon Aiyuk #11 of the San Francisco 49ers catches a pass that was tipped by Kindle Vildor #29 of the Detroit Lions during the third quarter in the NFC Championship Game at Levi's Stadium on January 28, 2024 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The 49ers soon had a third down and goal on the seven-yard line before Purdy once again showcased his superb connection with Aiyuk, as he found him in the end zone for a crucial touchdown.

Soon after, Purdy capitalised upon a fumble recovery, unleashing an impressive rush for a substantial gain before handing the reins to McCaffrey, who finished the job and brought the Niners level.

This took the former Carolina Panther to  14 rushing touchdowns for the campaign, the second-highest tally from a running back this season (behind the Miami Dolphins' Rasheem Mostert).

Detroit's 36-year-old veteran defensive lineman Tyson Alualu recorded his first full sack in three seasons as he took down Purdy in the fourth quarter.

With the 49ers now 27-24 up, Detroit's head coach Dan Campbell opted to roll the dice on a fourth down again, despite the first time being unsuccessful.

This backfired as Goff's pass was incomplete with just three yards to make.

Following impactful rushes from McCaffrey and Purdy, Elijah Mitchell entered the fray, utilising brute force to bulldoze through the middle of the field to complete a short touchdown.

This propelled the Red and Gold into the driving seat with a commanding 10-point lead.

Despite the relentless blitzes from the 49ers' defence in the dying minutes of the game, Jameson Williams leapt like a salmon to secure Goff's pass in the end zone, notching his second touchdown of the game, making the score 34-31 in favour of San Francisco.

The Niners will meet the Kansas City Chiefs in Superbowl LVIII.

Purdy had a brilliant game in Red and Gold as he led his side to the NFC conference title.

He rushed for 48 yards, passed for 267 yards and finished the fixture with a pass completion of 64.5%.

Meanwhile, his teammate McCaffery rushed for 90 yards and 42 receiving yards.

Conversely, the Lions' Montgomery rushed for 93 yards, and his teammate Gibbs recorded 45.

Quarterback Goff racked up 273 passing yards with a completion rate of 61%. However, he didn't tally any scrambles.

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About the author
Freddie Kilbey
Second-year sports journalism student at Solent University.