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The 49ers erased the largest NFC Championship Game deficit in history since the Super Bowl merger

A comeback for the ages

NFC Championship - Detroit Lions v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

History almost repeated itself on Sunday night — with a twist. The last time the Detroit Lions won a road playoff game was in 1957 on the San Francisco 49ers home field. The Lions trailed 24-7 at halftime before coming back.

This time, the home team trailed 24-7 at halftime. After arguably their worst half of the season — one week after the worst half of the season — the 49ers kicked it in gear offensively, got stops and turnovers defensively, and erased the largest conference championship game deficit in the NFC since the Super Bowl merger. Every other comeback that was greater than the Niners’ happened in the AFC.

The Lions won the precursor to the Super Bowl in ‘57. Hopefully, the 49ers have the same fortune with this year’s big game.

It’s mind-boggling to think that the 49ers could come back and win after the first half. Even halfway through the third quarter, San Francisco had an 8.5 percent win probability. After the game, Nick Bosa called the 49ers’ first-half performance embarrassing: “It was embarrassing. Kind of felt helpless. We didn’t want to go down as failures. We know our defense is way too good to go down like that.”

Most of the players who spoke postgame said there wasn’t panic at halftime. Kyle Shanahan said his speech included, “We’re not going out like this.” George Kittle said there was no time for rah-rah speeches, as everybody knew what they had to do.

And they did it. Deebo Samuel said he never panicked. For Samuel, who has had some back and forth online with Lions safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, it had to mean something extra to send Detroit home after Gardner-Johnson was seen waiving bye to the 49ers crowd pre-maturely.

There’s zero debate whether the NFC is being represented by its best team. The 49ers beat every team on this side of the bracket to make the playoffs. They also shook the dreaded “no team that lost to Kirk Cousins in the regular season made the Super Bowl.” As silly as that was and reads, it was true.

Kyle Shanahan broke one streak last week, and the Niners did it again against the Lions. The 49ers added a win to the column under Kyle Shanahan when trailing by 14+ points in any game after previously being 0-for. They were 0-for-5 in games since 2022.

Bosa spoke about the importance of winning games like the Lions and the Packers these past two weeks and how that makes a special team. Two improbable comebacks in as many weeks.

The 49ers next opponent won’t be as forgiving as the last two. And they know that. But the 49ers live to fight another day.