49ers overcome 17-point deficit to beat Lions, meet Chiefs in Super Bowl

Christian McCaffrey flexes his arms to celebrate a touchdown.
The 49ers’ Christian McCaffrey, right, celebrates his touchdown against the Lions.
(Godofredo A. Vasquez / Associated Press)

Brock Purdy and the San Francisco 49ers finally got their chance.

A year after their Super Bowl dreams died because of an elbow injury suffered by their then-rookie quarterback in the NFC championship game, the star-studded 49ers entered the season on a mission to return to the Super Bowl.

They achieved their goal Sunday, overcoming a 17-point halftime deficit to defeat the Detroit Lions 34-31 in the NFC championship game in front of 71,824 at Levi’s Stadium.

“You look back a year ago, got hurt, which sucks,” Purdy said, adding, “Obviously, to pull a comeback like that in the NFC championship ... it’s special for me.”


Purdy passed for a touchdown and scrambled several times for long gains, running back Christian McCaffrey rushed for two touchdowns, and the defense forced a fumble and incomplete passes on several key fourth-down plays as the 49ers advanced to the Super Bowl for the eighth time.

The Ravens tried to rally from a 10-point deficit, but their fumble at the one-yard line and interception in the end zone helped the Chiefs return to the Super Bowl.

Jan. 28, 2024

The 49ers will play the defending Super Bowl-champion Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVIII on Feb. 11 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

It is a rematch from the 2019-20 season, when the Chiefs defeated the 49ers in Super Bowl LIV in Miami.

“Since we met them in ’19, seems like they’ve been there every year since,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “We have been trying really hard to get back to this moment. We’ve been close a number of times. This time we got it done.”

The five-time Super Bowl champion 49ers are seeking their first title since 1995, when they defeated the Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX.

In his seven seasons as coach of the 49ers, Shanahan’s teams had developed a reputation for not playing well from behind. But just as they did in a divisional-round victory over the Green Bay Packers, the 49ers came back to win.


Here’s everything you need to know about the 2024 Super Bowl, including start time, location, TV channel, streaming options and the halftime show.

Feb. 1, 2024

The loss ended a dream season for the Lions, coach Dan Campbell and quarterback Jared Goff, who appeared to have the Lions on their way to their first Super Bowl appearance.

But Shanahan and the 49ers — defeated by the Rams and the Philadelphia Eagles in the last two conference championship games — were not going to lose a third in a row.

“I had plenty of opportunities to still win it there at the end and just came up short,” Goff said after completing 25 of 41 passes for 273 yards and a touchdown. “I struggle finding the words to totally encapsulate how or why, but I do know I‘m proud of this team and proud of these guys and proud to be a part of it.”

By overcoming the 17-point deficit, the 49ers tied the championship game record they set in 2012-13 season, when they came back to defeat the Atlanta Falcons.

They did it after giving up Jameson Williams’ 42-yard touchdown run on a reverse and touchdown runs by David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs as the Lions built a 24-7 halftime lead.

Brock Purdy runs against the Detroit Lions.
The running of 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy was a big part of their comeback win over the Lions in the NFC championship game.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

But the 49ers did not panic.

“No one was rah-rah,” said Purdy, who passed for 267 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 51 yards. “No one was freakin out. ... There really wasn’t much said.”

Linebacker Fred Warner delivered a message that was straight to the point.

“I told the team that there was no more time for pep talks,” Warner said. “Offense had the ball first, they had to go score. Defensively, we had to get a stop and if we didn’t, we’re not going to Vegas.”

The 49ers cut the lead with a field goal, and they seized the momentum after always aggressive Campbell opted to go for it on fourth and two at the 49ers’ 28-yard line rather than try a field goal. Goff’s pass to Josh Reynolds fell incomplete.

Two plays later, Purdy threw a deep pass to receiver Brandon Aiyuk. The ball bounced off defensive back Kindle Vildor and into the hands of the diving Aiyuk for a 51-yard gain.

“It kind of unlocked the whole team,” Shanahan said of the long play, which set up Purdy’s six-yard touchdown pass to Aiyuk and pulled the 49ers within seven points.

“One of the coolest catches I’ve ever seen,” said McCaffrey, who rushed for 90 yards and two touchdowns in 20 carries and caught four passes for 42 yards.

Brandon Aiyuk reaches over Kindle Vildor to catch a pass.
The 49ers’ Brandon Aiyuk catches a 51-yard pass after it deflected off Lions cornerback Kindle Vildor.
(Godofredo A. Vasquez / Associated Press)

Aiyuk said he was not able to recount the specifics of the long play until he saw a replay on his phone in the locker room.

“It was lit,” he said.

On the Lions’ first play after the touchdown, the 49ers forced Gibbs to fumble. A Purdy scramble set up McCaffrey’s one-yard touchdown to tie the score. The 49ers took the lead early in the fourth quarter with a field goal.

When Goff’s fourth-down pass at the 49ers’ 30-yard line fell incomplete, the 49ers appeared to have the game in hand.

Elijah Mitchell’s short touchdown run extended the 49ers’ lead to 10 points, but Goff’s short touchdown pass to Williams pulled the Lions within three points.

Detroit Hall of Famer Joe Schmidt was the centerpiece of a championship defense, winning titles in 1953 and 1957, the last time the Lions ruled the NFL.

Jan. 28, 2024

Tight end George Kittle recovered the ensuing onside kick for the 49ers, however, and they ran out the clock, starting a jubilant celebration on the field and in the stands..


So now it’s on to the Super Bowl.

“We still got one more to go,” Purdy said.

Four years ago, defensive lineman Nick Bosa was a rookie when the 49ers played the Chiefs in the Super Bowl. Now they are going back to once again play the Chiefs.

“It’s perfect,” Bosa said.