SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Brock Purdy threw for 267 yards and a touchdown, and the San Francisco 49ers rallied from 17 points down at halftime to beat the Detroit Lions 34-31 on Sunday and reach the Super Bowl.
The 49ers (14-5) scored 17 points in eight minutes in the third quarter to tie the NFC championship game, then pulled away in the fourth quarter to win a rematch against Kansas City after losing to the Chiefs in the Super Bowl. Four years ago.
San Francisco completed its fourth comeback in history from 17 points or more behind in a conference title game thanks to some big plays by Purdy and bad mistakes by the Lions (14-6), including two missed fourth downs in basket beach. Detroit failed to reach the first Super Bowl in franchise history.
After being questioned about his ability to mount a comeback, Purdy did so twice in as many weeks. He engineered a game-winning fourth-quarter drive to beat Green Bay last week, then staged an even bigger comeback against the Lions.
Christian McCaffrey had two touchdown runs and little-used backup Elijah Mitchell scored on a 3-yard run to make it 34-24 with 3:02 left as the Niners got over the title game hump of conference after losing the last two seasons.
The Niners blew a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship Game against the Los Angeles Rams two years ago, then were forced to play much of last year’s loss in the game for the title in Philadelphia without a functioning quarterback after Purdy injured his elbow. The first drive and fourth player Josh Johnson left with a concussion early in the third quarter.
But San Francisco managed to make the long journey back to this point and is now in position to deliver the franchise its record sixth Super Bowl title and first since the 1994 season.
A magical season for the Lions which ended in a heartbreak. Detroit remains the only team to have played every season of the Super Bowl era without reaching the ultimate game. It looked like this might be the year to end that drought when Detroit won back-to-back playoff games after winning just one in the previous 56 seasons.
But the Lions couldn’t finish the job despite leading 24-7 at halftime.
San Francisco settled for a field goal on the first drive of the second half before the game completely turned around in four minutes.
Detroit coach Dan Campbell opted to go for it on fourth-and-2 from the San Francisco 28, but Josh Reynolds couldn’t corral a pass from Jared Goff, leading to a turnover on downs.
The Lions then appeared to have a potential interception when Purdy’s deep pass bit Kindle Vildor in the facemask, but the ball appeared and was caught for a spectacular 51-yard gain by Brandon Aiyuk. Purdy found Aiyuk three plays later for a 6-yard score.
Jahmyr Gibbs then fumbled on the next play from scrimmage, setting up a 1-yard run by McCaffrey to tie the game at 24.
It only got worse from there for the Lions, with Reynolds dropping another pass on third down, leading to a punt that Detroit had a chance to knock down at the 1 but was botched.
Purdy then led the Niners to a 33-yard field goal by Jake Moody and their first lead of the game.
Campbell turned around a chance to score a game-tying field goal on fourth-and-3 from the Niners 30 midway through the fourth quarter. Goff threw an incomplete pass and the Niners went for the insurance touchdown.
Goff added a TD pass to Jameson Williams with 56 seconds left, but the 49ers recovered the onside kick to seal the victory. Goff finished 25 of 41 for 273 yards and a touchdown.
San Francisco’s front seven had no answers in the first half for Detroit’s offensive line, which repeatedly opened big holes, giving the backs several yards before even first contact.
The Lions rushed for 148 yards in the first half, getting TD runs from Williams, David Montgomery and Gibbs.
Michael Badgley added a late basket to give Detroit a 24-7 halftime lead, tied for the second-highest score for a road team in the first half of a conference title game since the NFL-AFL merger.
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