American Football: San Francisco 49ers comeback books Super Bowl showdown with Kansas City Chiefs

Christian McCaffrey has rushed for 90 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-tying score during the 49ers comeback from a 17-point halftime deficit, as San Francisco defeated Detroit Lions 34-31 in the NFC championship game at Santa Clara, California.

The result sends San Francisco, the conference's top seed, to Las Vegas for Super Bowl LVIII on February 12 (NZ time) against Kansas City, which won 17-10 at Baltimore. It will be a rematch of Super Bowl LIV, which the Chiefs won 31-20.

"Unfinished business for a while, man," said 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan. "This team has been set up for this point.

Fred Warner celebrates a big defensive play for 49ers.
Fred Warner celebrates a big defensive play for 49ers. Photo credit: Getty Images

"Today was hard at the start, but this team got it done."

The 49ers scored on their first five possessions of the second half, taking the lead for good, when Jake Moody drilled a 33-yard field goal with 9m 52s left in the game to make it 27-24.

After Detroit eschewed a 47-yard field goal and failed on a fourth-and-three gamble from the San Francisco 30, the 49ers clinched the win with Elijah Mitchell's three-yard touchdown run with 3m 02s left.

Jared Goff fired a three-yard scoring strike to Jameson Williams with 56 seconds remaining, but a Detroit penalty on the onside kick sealed the outcome.

"It's hard when you lose that way... it's hard," said Lions coach Dan Campbell. "You feel like you get your heart ripped out, but I'm proud of that group and I'll go anywhere with that group."

Brock Purdy completed 20 of 31 passes for 267 yards, with a touchdown and an interception for San Francisco. Goff was 25 of 41 for 273 yards, with a score for the Lions, who were aiming to make their first Super Bowl.

The 49ers' Brandon Aiyuk corralled an improbable 51-yard reception in the third quarter, after Purdy's deep pass bounced off a Detroit defender's facemask. Aiyuk caught a six-yard touchdown three plays later to cut the margin to 24-17.

Jahmyr Gibbs fumbled on Detroit's next play from scrimmage and San Francisco soon tied the game on McCaffrey's one-yard plunge.

Detroit wasted little time putting their stamp on the first half. The Lions led 7-0 less than two minutes into the game on a 42-yard touchdown run by Williams. Then they made the score 14-0 on a one-yard run by David Montgomery at the 2m 34s mark of the first quarter.

McCaffrey put San Francisco on the board with a two-yard scoring jaunt 71 seconds into the second quarter, but the Lions responded with Gibbs' 15-yard touchdown burst with 5m 54s left in the first half, five plays after Purdy tossed an ugly interception over the middle to Malcolm Rodriguez.

Detroit capped a near-flawless half with their fourth score in five possessions - a 21-yard field goal by Michael Badgley with seven seconds remaining that gave them a 24-7 lead at the break. Badgley's kick capped a 17-play, 68-yard drive.

Despite the daunting deficit, and the fact that the Lions marched up and down the field at will, 49ers players felt confident that they could rally.

"We just wanted to play our ball, the ball that we know how," said Aiyuk. "In the first half, we didn't do that at all."