There are the months of preparation, movie research, recreation planning, accidents, ache, work and sacrifice. All of it’s important if you wish to get to the Super Bowl. However generally, even in spite of everything of that, you continue to want a funny-shaped ball to bounce your means.
“Clearly, no person wins and not using a little luck,” San Francisco 49ers left sort out Trent Williams mentioned within the locker room, a few hours after his group’s 34-31 comeback victory over the Detroit Lions within the NFC Championship Recreation. “Tonight was simply our time to get it.”
The dialogue was about one key third-quarter play — a 51-yard Brandon Aiyuk catch of a Brock Purdy throw that had each proper to be an interception however as a substitute turned the play that turned the 49ers’ fortunes round. There was 6:29 left on the third-quarter clock, and the Lions led the 49ers 24-10. Moments earlier, San Francisco had stopped Detroit on a fourth-and-2 from the Niners’ 28-yard line. That appeared like a turning level, however the Niners nonetheless wanted to make a giant play or two on offense to money in.
A 17-yard cross to receiver Deebo Samuel moved the ball to the Niners’ 45-yard line. Purdy lined up in shotgun and known as for the snap. Down the sector, he noticed the play unfold the way in which he needed. Security C.J. Gardner-Johnson picked up Samuel on a crossing route, leaving Aiyuk one-on-one with cornerback Kindle Vildor. That, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan would clarify later, meant Purdy was speculated to launch it downfield to Aiyuk.
“We want an explosive play and BA is one-on-one? I will take that [opportunity],” Purdy mentioned. “I used to be giving my man a shot.”
What San Francisco did not depend on was how nicely Vildor would cowl, because the 2020 fifth-rounder stayed between Aiyuk and the aim line, placing himself in place to make an interception. However as he reached again to catch the ball, he tumbled, and the ball hit him within the chest and popped again up within the air.
“I used to be shocked,” Aiyuk mentioned. “I felt the look earlier than, pre-snap, and that I had an opportunity to get the ball, however he simply stayed on high. I do not even know.”
Being shocked did not value Aiyuk, although. He noticed the ball bounce up within the air off the defender, and he dove and caught it himself on the 4-yard line. Most of his group was about 50 yards upfield, so it was robust to know what occurred. A flag was down. Aiyuk had rolled into the tip zone with the ball. Was it a penalty? Was it a landing? Was it really a catch? Might he presumably have caught it?
“I noticed the flag, however I could not see a lot,” Purdy mentioned. “Then I heard the stadium erupt, and it was like, ‘Oh my god, he caught that?'”
“BA’s had an amazing season making loopy performs for us,” defensive lineman Arik Armstead mentioned. “However that one was actually wild.”
“Simply the way in which we supposed it to look!” tight finish George Kittle deadpanned. “Off the man’s face masks into BA’s fingers, dang, Brock Purdy’s good at soccer.”
Brandon Aiyuk follows up jaw-dropping catch with a TD
Brandon Aiyuk catches the deflected Brock Purdy cross off a Lions participant, and some performs later, he hauls in a landing.
“What are you able to say?” Williams mentioned with an enormous smile. “There is not any quantity of teaching, no quantity of movie watching that may put together him to make a catch like that. That is simply expertise and can.”
The Niners scored a landing three performs later, Purdy to Aiyuk appropriately sufficient. The stadium was pulsing. A 17-point halftime deficit was all the way down to seven. The Niners kicked off, and on the very first play of the Lions’ possession, operating again Jahmyr Gibbs fumbled and Armstead recovered.
“Why do folks in analytics say momentum is not actual?” Kittle requested the assembled media in his postgame information convention. “That is the most important load of horse crap I’ve ever heard in my life.”
It was unattainable to be in Levi’s Stadium at that time and never really feel like one thing had shifted. The Niners had the ball on the Detroit 24. Purdy threw one to Kittle on first down that misplaced a yard. Then on second down, the pocket broke down, and Purdy took off, scrambling for 21 yards to the Lions’ 4-yard line. It was the primary of two 21-yard scrambles for Purdy — he had one other on third-and-4 within the fourth quarter on the drive that ended up placing the 49ers up by 10 factors with three minutes to go. He had not had a run of 20 yards all season previous to Sunday.
“Brock is an athlete,” Williams mentioned. “Clearly his athleticism is underrated. Folks do not take a look at him and assume he is likely to be tucking the ball and operating with it like that. However he can do it. We see it in follow. He can run. So we wanted him to run, and he ran. He is been making performs for us all yr, and he is the explanation we’re within the Tremendous Bowl.”
Sunday’s third quarter is likely to be an excellent larger motive. After permitting 148 speeding yards, 18 first downs and 24 factors within the first half, the 49ers hit the halftime locker room nonetheless feeling OK about their state of affairs. Shanahan mentioned the sensation at halftime was, “We’re not going out like this,” and the gamers believed issues would flip round.
Getting into the postseason, the Niners have been 0-30 underneath Shanahan when trailing by seven or extra factors coming into the fourth quarter, per ESPN Stats & Info. They snapped that streak final week in opposition to the Inexperienced Bay Packers, scoring 10 factors within the fourth quarter within the divisional round win. They have been additionally 0-19 underneath Shanahan when trailing by 17 or extra factors within the second half. They snapped that one this week. Per Elias Sports activities Bureau, the Niners joined the 1994 Chargers as the one groups with a number of seven-point second-half comebacks within the playoffs previous to reaching the Tremendous Bowl. (That Chargers group misplaced to San Francisco within the Tremendous Bowl.)
“We have been assured, really,” Williams mentioned. “Realizing we have been going to get the ball first, particularly. The performs have been there, we simply weren’t making them. We’ve got Aiyuk, Deebo, we all know they’re finally going to place their stamp on a recreation like this. Plus, [the Lions] threw their finest punches within the first half. Trick performs, flea-flickers, all that. You knew finally all that stuff would decelerate and we might be OK.”
They have been proper. The Niners outscored the Lions 17-0 and outgained them 170 yards to 42 within the third quarter. However the Lions additionally fumbled and dropped key passes on third and fourth downs.
“Simply acquired to attend it out,” Williams mentioned. “You play lengthy sufficient, you keep on with your plan, you do it the fitting means, issues finally flip your means.”
After which, within the twenty first week of the season, after every part you’ve got completed to place your self in place to get to the Tremendous Bowl, a ball bounces off the defender and into your receiver’s fingers, and that is what it took to money in a yr’s price of labor. The 49ers are again within the Tremendous Bowl for the second time in 5 seasons, and it took a bit of little bit of every part in an epic, unforgettable third quarter to get them there.