The 49ers are showing off comeback ability on their drive to the Super Bowl

Mon, Jan 29, 2024
NFL News (AP)

The 49ers are showing off comeback ability on their drive to the Super Bowl

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) - The San Francisco 49ers have turned into the comeback kids this postseason.

The only team that didn't pull off a second-half rally in the regular season has done it in back-to-back weeks in the playoffs, capped by one of the biggest comebacks in conference championship game history.

The Niners (14-5) became the fourth team ever to overcome a deficit of least 17 points in a conference title game, beating the Detroit Lions 34-31 in the NFC championship game Sunday to silence the doubters who questioned whether they could stage that kind of rally.

"I've never felt like we didn't have a team who could come back or win a game like that," coach Kyle Shanahan said. "Just had to do it when it mattered the most."

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That sets them up to face Kansas City in the Super Bowl on Feb. 11 in Las Vegas, a rematch of the title game San Francisco lost to the Chiefs four years ago.

The journey back wasn't easy. A week after needing a fourth-quarter drive to beat Green Bay, the Niners faced a much bigger hole against the Lions when they fell behind 24-7.

Brock Purdy threw an interception and was shaky early. Jake Moody missed a field goal on the opening drive. And the defense got repeatedly gashed by Detroit's running game.

"It was embarrassing," defensive end Nick Bosa said. "Kind of felt helpless, and we didn't want to go down as failures. We know our defense is way too good to play like that."

San Francisco turned it around in the second half, scoring on five straight possessions and holding Detroit off the scoreboard until the final minute of the half.

"That's back-to-back weeks with wins that we weren't supposed to have, apparently," receiver Brandon Aiyuk said. "Just two gutsy wins. Two wins that just show you the type of team that we have, the mindset, the will and the heart that everybody had."


Purdy's scrambling. Purdy showed off his playmaking ability by extending plays in the pocket for completions downfield and even some rare runs. Purdy had a pair of 21-yard rushes on touchdown drives in the second half and a 10-yarder for a first down on a field goal drive. Purdy joined Lamar Jackson as the only QBs with multiple runs of at least 20 yards in a playoff game in the past 10 seasons.

"I thought it was the difference between winning and losing," Shanahan said. "He made some big plays with his legs, getting out of the pocket, moving the chains on some first downs, some explosives."


Run defense. San Francisco struggled to stop the run for a second straight week, allowing 182 yards rushing and three TDs against Detroit. The Niners were repeatedly pushed off the ball in the first half, when they allowed 148 yards to fall in the big hole. The 318 yards rushing allowed the past two games by San Francisco are the most ever in the divisional round and conference title game for a team that made the Super Bowl.


Aiyuk. The second-team All-Pro delivered the play of the game for San Francisco when he caught a 51-yard pass in the third quarter that deflected off the face mask of cornerback Kindle Vindor. Aiyuk caught a 6-yard TD pass to cap that drive and also broke up a potential interception in the first half.


DE Chase Young. The big midseason acquisition has struggled in the run game the past two games as he has had to take a bigger role on run downs following a season-ending knee injury to Clelin Ferrell. Teams have frequently run at Young with much success, leading San Francisco to move DT Arik Armstead out to end for stretches in the second half.


TE George Kittle (toe) and CB Ambry Thomas (ankle) are day to day.


8 - The Niners became the eighth team to reach the Super Bowl after overcoming second-half deficits in both the divisional round and the conference title game. Four of the previous seven won the Super Bowl. The last team to do it was Baltimore in the 2012 season on the way to beating the Niners for the title.


The 49ers will be playing in their eighth Super Bowl, tied for the second most ever. San Francisco is 5-2 in its previous trips and can tie Pittsburgh and New England for the most titles ever with a win against Kansas City.



JOSH DUBOW Josh is an NFL writer who covers Raiders and 49ers twitter mailto "
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