Kyle Shanahan gave a clear message to the team at halftime before a comeback win.
The 49ers looked lifeless against the Detroit Lions at halftime down 24-7, but head coach Kyle Shanahan knew what to say on Sunday.
Shanahan shared with the media that he told the players, “guys, it’s only 17 points” and that “it’s plenty of time to back”. Amid a successful season with a 12-5 record, NFC West title, and No. 1 seed, Shanahan emphasized “we’re not going out like this”.
San Francisco responded with a 17-point third quarter to tie the NFC Championship Game and beat the Lions 34-31 to advance to the Super Bowl. The 49ers became “a lot more aggressive” as Shanahan called for.
“The guys didn’t want to go home today, “Shanahan continued, “they played like it in the second half, and we’re able to get the ball to bounce the right way, and we made up for what we didn’t in the first half.”
Detroit owned the middle of the field in the first half and jumped out the gate with wide receiver Jameson Williams‘ 42-yard touchdown run.
The Lions then made it a two-score game twice on touchdowns runs by running backs David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs before kicker Michael Badgley‘s 21-yard field goal for a 24-7 advantage.
“We knew they were a good running team going in,” Shanahan said.
“But we had a couple of missed tackles, a couple of guys out of gaps, and it’s hard to win like that. But the guys timed it up there in the second half, and got it done.”
San Francisco’s defense tamed the Lions in the second half with no points allowed until the final minute on Williams’ 3-yard touchdown grab from quarterback Jared Goff. The 49ers preserved the win when tight end George Kittle collected the onside kick.
After the Niners’ first stop of the Lions on fourth down in the second half, wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk turned the table for the 49ers with a 51-yard catch from quarterback Brock Purdy. It set up Purdy to Aiyuk for a 6-yard touchdown, and the Niners trimmed the deficit to 24-17.
“We thought if we could get it going and make a game of it on both sides, it would be a matter of time before we could score some points, but they way their offense was going, their defense was doing a couple of things to get us off the field, but once B.A. made the play, it kind of unlocked it with such an explosive and kind of unlocked the whole team,” Shanahan said. “That was huge.”
“And right after that, you could feel the whole momentum with our players on our sideline, and the stadium kind of flipped, and we thought it was on after that,” Shanahan added.
San Francisco then pounced on a Lions fumble, which led to the game-tying score. Running back Christian McCaffrey punctuated the 4-play, 24-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown to make it a 24-24 tie in the third quarter.
The 49ers pulled away in the fourth quarter with another field goal and a touchdown run by running back Elijah Mitchell for three yards. It sealed the 49ers’ first trip to the Super Bowl since 2020 and ended the Lions’ storybook season.
“We just had to get it going,” Shanahan said.