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The San Francisco 49ers are heading to the NFC Championship for the fourth time in five seasons, clearly showing they are the best team in the NFC under Kyle Shanahan. Despite all the deep playoff runs, the 49ers have yet to win the Super Bowl under Shanahan.

Perhaps this is the year for San Francisco. The 49ers are 18-1 when Brock Purdy, Christian McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel all play the entire game (2-4 in all other games since Purdy's first career start -- including playoffs). Samuel is reportedly questionable to play in this game, but the 49ers are 5-0 in the playoffs at home under Shanahan. 

San Francisco is facing a Detroit Lions team that reached the conference championship game for the first time in 32 years, so this is arguably the best opportunity for the 49ers to go back to the Super Bowl

Reaching the conference championship is no easy task. Here's how the 49ers got to this point. 

Notable acquisitions 

Javon Hargrave: The 49ers gave Hargrave a massive contract in free agency, poaching him away from the Eagles with a four-year, $84 million deal. Hargrave didn't have the same number of sacks (7.0), pressures (52), and pressure rate (12.3%) as he did in 2022 with the Eagles, but the 49ers improved in sack rate (7.2%) and pressure rate (39.6%) compared to 2022 (6.9% sack rate and 34.4% pressure rate). 

The pass rush on the interior has significantly improved as well. San Francisco has a much deeper team as a result of Hargrave on the roster. 

Chase Young: The 49ers decided to bolster their already strong pass rush by acquiring Young at the trade deadline in October. Even though Young had just 2.5 sacks since joining the 49ers, his 28 pressures certainly made an impact. The 49ers had a 39.6% pressure rate and 7.2% sack rate on the year, but that sack rate was 8.8% when Young was in the lineup. 

Nick Bosa had 7.5 sacks after Young arrived (3.0 before the trade) and Hargrave had 4.0 sacks (3.0 before the trade). The 49ers pass rush was clearly better with Young on the outside opposite Bosa. 

Turning point

Week 10 at Jaguars: Coming off three straight losses and a bye week that had some questioning whether the 49ers were a Super Bowl contender, having Trent Williams and Samuel healthy was the jolt San Francisco needed. San Francisco beat Jacksonville 34-3 in what was the 49ers' largest road win in 10 years.

Purdy went 19 of 26 for 296 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions while the 49ers defense had five sacks. George Kittle had three catches for 116 yards (including a 66-yard touchdown) as the game was never really close. 

This started the 49ers' longest win streak of the season (six games) and showed the NFC how good they would be when Samuel and Williams were on the field. 

Key win

Week 13 at Eagles: The 49ers wanted to avenge their NFC Championship loss to Philadelphia, having this game circled on their calendar since Purdy was injured in that game. San Francisco came into Philadelphia and steamrolled the Eagles, scoring touchdown drives on six consecutive possessions. 

Purdy went 19 of 27 for 314 yards with four touchdowns. Samuel had three touchdowns on his last three touches from scrimmage and became the player in NFL history with multiple 40-yard receiving touchdowns and a 10-yard rushing touchdown in a game. 

The blowout capped a run of four straight victories by 13-plus points as the 49ers became the first team since the 2007 Patriots with eight wins by 13-plus points in the first 12 games of a season. San Francisco would go on to get home-field advantage in the NFC while the Eagles would lose five of six to close the regular season. 

2023 regular-season results

Week (2023 season)Opponent Result (Record)


at Steelers

W, 30-7 (1-0)


at Rams

W, 30-23 (2-0)


vs. Giants

W 30-12 (3-0)


vs. Cardinals

W, 35-16 (4-0)


vs. Cowboys

W, 45-10 (5-0)


at Browns

L, 19-17 (5-1)


at Vikings

L, 22-17 (5-2)


at Bengals

L , 31-17 (5-3)


Bye Week


at Jaguars

W, 34-3 (6-3)


vs. Buccaneers

W, 27-14 (7-3)


at Seahawks

W, 31-13 (8-3)


at Eagles

W, 42-19 (9-3)


vs. Seahawks

W, 28-16 (10-3)


at Cardinals

W, 45-29 (11-3)


vs. Ravens

L, 33-19 (11-4)


at Commanders

W, 27-10 (12-4)


vs. Rams

L, 21-20 (12-5)

NFC divisional round

vs. Packers

W, 24-21 (13-5)

NFC Championship

vs. Lions


Will the 49ers advance to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 2019 season? They'll have to get by the Lions -- who haven't won a conference championship ever nor a road playoff game since 1957 -- to accomplish the task.