The Detroit Lions did what? The magical season came to a close after Detroit wasn't able to protect their lead in the 2nd half against the San Francisco 49ers.
For the first time since the 1991 season, the Detroit Lions fought their way to the NFC Championship game, earning the opportunity to face the San Francisco 49ers on the West Coast at Levi's Stadium. Detroit dominated the first half of play, taking a 24-7 lead into halftime. Unfortunately, the magic ran out for the Lions as the host 49ers mounted a comeback, seizing the lead and withstanding a late surge by the Lions. Super Bowl LVIII is now set, and the Lions will have to wait another year for their chance at football's ultimate glory.
The Lions made a bold statement on the road, immediately leaving their mark by reaching the end zone on their inaugural offensive drive of the game. A succinct four-play, 75-yard drive culminated in Jameson Williams executing a deceptive reverse, covering 42 yards to secure the game's opening score, catching the 49ers defense off guard.
Even with quarterback Brock Purdy guiding the 49ers down the field in response with a 12-play, 45-yard drive featuring multiple carries from Christian McCaffrey, Detroit's defense stood firm, preventing them from reaching the end zone. The defensive effort was then compounded by former Michigan Wolverines kicker Jake Moody missing a 48-yard field goal attempt, sending it wide to the right.
The Lions would continue their impressive start to the game, once again reaching the end zone after an 11-play, 62-yard drive thanks to David Montgomery, putting the Lions up by a pair of touchdowns and shocking the 49ers fans in attendance.
It wouldn't be long before the 49ers would finally issue a decisive response of their own. Christian McCaffrey would follow up his own 28-yard catch with a two-yard touchdown run, cutting Detroit's lead in half.
But San Francisco's hopes of knotting up the score were dashed when Purdy threw an ill-advised interception that was caught by Detroit's Malcolm Rodriguez, who is filling in for the injured Derrick Barnes.
This led directly to Detroit's third touchdown of the game, which came courtesy of running back Jahmyr Gibbs:
Following a successful defensive stand that forced a 49ers three-and-out, the Lions extended their lead with a field goal from Michael Badgley, bringing the score to 24-7 in favor of the Lions. This marked the conclusion of the first half.
San Francisco kicker Moody redeemed himself after the earlier miss, successfully kicking a 44-yard field goal to narrow the gap for the 49ers. The drive leading to the score was facilitated by an 8-yard run from McCaffrey, complemented by a 26-yard completion to Deebo Samuel.
The Lions, living up to the nickname of their head coach Dan Campbell (Dan Gamble), took another bold approach by attempting to secure a first down on a fourth-and-2 opportunity from the San Francisco 28-yard line. Unfortunately, Jared Goff‘s pass to Josh Reynolds was dropped, leading to a turnover on downs.
The 49ers started to instill some nervousness among Lions fans as a pass from Purdy to Brandon Aiyuk nearly resulted in an interception. However, the ball bounced off the facemask of Kindle Vildor.
Aiyuk would soon haul in a touchdown pass from Purdy, bringing the 49ers back to within a touchdown of Detroit's lead.
The bad news continued for the Lions, as the 49ers would soon draw even following a costly fumble by Gibbs.
San Francisco would take advantage of the turnover courtesy of runs by Samuel and McCaffrey, tying up the score and sending the 49ers fans in attendance into a frenzy:
The 49ers forced the Lions into a quick punt, and drove down the field but were prevented from reaching the end zone thanks to a pair of sacks from Tyson Alualu and Alim McNeill; they settled for another field goal from Moody, taking the lead for the first time.
Unfortunately for the Lions, the magic with Dan “Gamble” effectively came to a close. The Lions failed to covert on a fourth-and-3 opportunity from the 49ers 30-yard line. Had Detroit decided to kick a field goal, it would have been a 47-yard attempt.
The 49ers would then add to their lead thanks to a 3-yard touchdown run from Elijah Mitchell:
The Lions weren't ready to lay down and die just yet. With time ticking away late in the 4th quarter, Goff led the Lions down the field and would eventually connect in the end zone with Josh Reynolds on a fourth-and-goal attempt:
In a last-ditch effort to regain possession and make one final scoring attempt, Detroit attempted an onside kick. Unfortunately, the ball was successfully recovered by the 49ers, bringing an end to the game and the Lions' hopes of a comeback.
TL;DR (too long didn't read)
- The Detroit Lions advanced to the NFC Championship Game for the 1st time since the 1991 season, facing the San Francisco 49ers
- The Lions raced out to a commanding 24-7 lead by the time the two teams hit halftime at Levi's Stadium
- Unfortunately, Detroit's magical season came to a close as the San Francisco 49ers mounted a furious comeback effort, eventually overtaking Detroit and holding the lead to secure the victory.
Bottom Line: What a season it was for the Lions
Despite the disappointing end against the 49ers, the Lions basked in the glow of what was undeniably a magical 2023 season. It was a journey that propelled them further than they had ventured in three decades, creating cherished memories for Lions fans everywhere.
Here's to hoping that the Lions will once again find themselves in a similar position next year, with the anticipation of achieving a better result. Until then, Lions fans will forever remain #OnePride.