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RECAP: Lions at 49ers

SANTA CLARA – The cruel reality of the NFL playoffs is the finality that comes with a loss.

The Detroit Lions have been on a magical run the last four months with the entire city of Detroit along for the ride, but it came to an end Sunday in the NFC Championship Game with a 34-31 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

In the end, a more experienced 49ers team playing in their third straight Championship Game found a way to make all the keys plays in the second half, scoring 27 unanswered points at one point to punch their ticket to their first Super Bowl since the 2019 season.

The Lions scored touchdowns on their first two possessions of the game and led 14-0 after the first quarter on Jameson Williams (42) and David Montgomery (1) touchdown runs. Detroit led 24-7 at the half after a 15-yard Jahmyr Gibbs touchdown run and a Michael Badgley 21-yard field goal in the second quarter.

San Francisco mounted their comeback from there and Detroit had few answers in the second half.

A Jake Moody 43-yard field goal made it 24-10 early in the third quarter.

View photos from the Detroit Lions vs. San Francisco 49ers NFC Championship game at Levi's Stadium on Sunday, Jan. 28 in Santa Clara, CA.

Detroit took their next possession down to the 49ers' 28-yard line but failed to convert 4th & 2 on a Jared Goff to Josh Reynolds pass. Campbell opted to go for it instead of attempting a field goal and potentially making it a three-possession game.

The 49ers needed just five plays after taking over on downs, aided by a Brandon Aiyuk 51-yard pass play to go 72 yards in less than two minutes to make it a one-score game at 24-17.

A Gibbs fumble on Detroit's next possession was recovered by the 49ers at the Lions' 24-yard line and turned into seven more points on Christian McCaffrey's second touchdown of the game, this one a 1-yarder to tie the game at 24-24.

After a Detroit three and out, San Francisco took their first lead of the game, 27-24, with nine minutes and 52 seconds left in the contest on a 33-yard Moody field goal.

Detroit's next possession took them down to the 49ers' 30-yard line, but again Campbell opted to go for it on a 4th & 3 instead of trying the field goal. An incomplete pass to Amon-Ra St. Brown turned it over on downs.

San Francisco tacked onto their lead and essentially ended any Lions comeback bid with a 3-yard Elijah Mitchell touchdown to score 27 unanswered points and take a 34-27 lead with three minutes left.

Goff found Williams for a 3-yard touchdown with under a minute left to trim the lead to 34-31, but they failed to get the onside kick and San Francisco ran out the clock from there.

QB Comparison: Goff finished 25-of-41 passing for 273 yards with a touchdown, no interceptions and an 88.8 rating.

49ers quarterback Brock Purdy completed 20 of his 31 passes for 267 yards with a touchdown, interception and passer rating of 89.0. He also rushed for 48 yards on five carries, a few of those critical first-down scrambles.

Big moment: The 49ers had just trimmed Detroit's 17-point halftime lead to seven early in the third quarter and the Lions needed to right the ship with a good drive and some points, but on the first play of their next possession safety Tashaun Gipson Sr. punched the ball out of Gibbs hands and defensive tackle Arik Armstead recovered it at the Lions' 24-yard line.

The 49ers only needed four plays from there for McCaffrey to record a 1-yard touchdown run and tie the game at 24-24.

Key stat: The Lions held the 49ers to just 131 yards of total offense and seven points in the first half. The San Francisco drive chart in the first half went: Missed FG, touchdown, interception, punt.

It was going to be hard to maintain that kind of performance against an offense as good as the 49ers and that turned out to be the case.

The 49ers scored 27 second-half points, gained 281 yards and their possession chart went: Field goal, touchdown, touchdown, field goal, touchdown, kneeldowns to win.

Injury report: Linebacker Derrick Barnes injured his right knee on Detroit's first defensive series of the game and did not return. Safety Kerby Joseph left briefly in the third quarter with an arm injury but did return. Linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin left the game in the second half with a groin injury and did not return.

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