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Final observations from the 49ers 34-31 win over the Lions

Is this 49ers team the best they’ve had in the Kyle Shanahan era?

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

After back-to-back years of NFC Conference Championship disappointments, the San Francisco 49ers are heading back to the Super Bowl to face the team they lost to in 2019: the Kansas City Chiefs.

In doing so, the 49ers found a way to beat the emerging Detroit Lions, who burst out to a quick 24-7 lead at halftime, but weren’t able to finish the job in the second half as San Francisco came surging back.

With momentum, experience, and quite frankly, luck, on their side, the 49ers accomplished a goal that had evaded the team in each of the past two seasons, but understand that the job isn’t finished with the main objective of a Super Bowl still on the horizon.

Here are my final observations from the 49ers 34-31 win over the Detroit Lions this past Sunday.

The video for the show is embedded above, while the audio is available below.

You can listen to The Rohan Chakravarthi Show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or YouTube.

Third down conversions

In the first half, aggressiveness was the key for the Detroit Lions, who kept their foot on the gas pedal and mixed up both inside and outside runs with the utilization of Jared Goff in the passing game to create an efficient two-pronged attack.

The Lions more than doubled the 49ers in 10+ yard plays (10 to 4), which included converting on a number of hefty third downs, where Detroit still looked to create plays near the chains in an attempt to extend the drive.

In the first half, the Lions converted 5/7 of their third downs, leading to 11 and 17-play scoring drives that kept them in control of the game.

Meanwhile, San Francisco went 3/6 on third downs, with Brock Purdy throwing his lone interception on one of the attempted conversions, as the 49ers saw their four first-half drives end in one score.

In the second half, the 49ers’ defense stepped up, allowing Detroit to convert on just 1/5 of their third downs, while San Francisco converted another 3/6 of their opportunities, with two of their missed chances coming inside Lions territory and the other coming at the end of the game.

The 49ers needed to move the ball, but more importantly, get off the field defensively in the second half and did just that on third downs.

Deebo Samuel

Deebo Samuel’s injury was a case to monitor throughout the week as his shoulder issue caused him to miss the second half of San Francisco’s divisional-round win against the Green Bay Packers.

The wideout declared that there would be no limitations during the week, and that clearly was the case as Samuel led the team with eight receptions for 89 yards on nine targets against the Lions.

Early on, the Brock Purdy to Brandon Aiyuk connection wasn’t as effective as usual, with the duo converting just one of their first six opportunities into a reception.

But, San Francisco relied on Samuel, who found his way through a number of shorter passes and intermediate crossers that helped the team move the chains.

Samuel earned a touch on every single scoring drive for the 49ers, while also having the biggest play on the team’s missed field goal drive in the first half.

Without his presence, the 49ers likely don’t pull through to their second Super Bowl appearance in the Shanahan era.

Experience

Another factor that was highlighted entering the matchup was the experience disparity between the 49ers and the Lions, specifically in the playoffs.

While the Lions did have players like quarterback Jared Goff and safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson who had been in Super Bowls before, a significant portion of their roster was experiencing something new in the playoffs.

Meanwhile, the 49ers had made the playoffs in four of the past five years, reaching the conference championship each time, aiding them in the experience department.

Perhaps the biggest difference in experience came between head coaches Dan Campbell and Kyle Shanahan, as the former was partaking in his first playoff run since being hired by the Lions.

One of the biggest plays of the game came when rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs coughed up a fumble at the hands of veteran safety Tashaun Gipson, allowing the 49ers to take over at the Detroit 24-yard line with a chance to tie the game down 24-17.

Additionally, Campbell’s decision-making, specifically his usage of a timeout at the end of the game, was questionable, while offensive coordinator Ben Johnson went away from the run game in the second half to a degree.

Kyle Shanahan, on the other hand, stuck with the run game, as Christian McCaffrey had a major second half, which helped the 49ers remain balanced and make a comeback, despite being down multiple scores.

While the experience factor can’t be quantified, it appeared to go in the 49ers’ favor in their win over the Lions on Sunday.