49ers details: On Deebo Samuel's strong return, Brandon Aiyuk's gift from the top

The San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions looked a lot like the Twins within the conference on Sunday.

Both teams had 11 first downs on the ground and were 6 of 12 on third downs. They each committed one turnover. The Lions finished with 442 yards of total offense. The 49ers had 413 yards. One team excelled in the first half and the other in the second half.

The big difference, of course, is that the Lions turned the ball over twice, while the 49ers did so once: at the end of the game with no time on the clock.

The 49ers also outscored their opponents in time of possession, holding the ball for 32:12. They had 66 offensive plays to the Lions' 72. Here's how we break down the individual shots…

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Quarterback: Brooke Purdy 66

Purdy stood out from his black counterpart, Jared Goff, with his running ability and improvisational skills. He had two of the longest three-run drives of the contest for the 49ers, a pair of 21-yarders that helped set up the touchdown.

He also had a pair of looping completions, scrambling to his left on third down and throwing a pass toward the middle of the field that was cut off by one-handed Juwan Jennings. Even better was Purdy's Houdini-like escape from blitzing safety Ifeatu Melifonwu late in the third quarter, leading to a 10-yard completion to Kyle Juszczyk on the sideline.

While Goff was 3 of 13 when pressured Sunday, Purdy was 11 of 15, albeit with an interception in the second quarter. He also absorbed several big hits, such as when defensive tackle Aleem McNeil beat center Jake Brindle and hit Purdy as he fired a 15-yard throw to Deebo Samuel in the first quarter and when linebacker James Houston hit him late — helmet-on-helmet — in the fourth quarter. . The contact was so prominent that Purdy's helmet was nearly knocked off his head.

This almost certainly would have resulted in a rough call in the regular season. However, Blackman's College crew swallowed their whistles on Sunday and claimed just five penalties.

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Running back: Christian McCaffrey (60), Juszczyk (fullback) 40, Elijah Mitchell (6), Samuel (1)

Why didn't McCaffrey play the last five offensive snaps? He landed hard on the side of his shoulder at the end of his 25-yard carry in the fourth quarter and said his shoulder “felt a little weird” as a result. After the game, he said he was fine but didn't want to risk any problems at the end of the game, which is why Mitchell made the final few carries.

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Meanwhile, Juszczyk looked like Lynn Swann as he kept his toes within 10 yards of Purdy in the third quarter. He also caught a 23-yard pass in the first quarter. His 33 yards were the most since he had a 34-yarder against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 7 last season.

receiver: Brandon Aiyuk 56, Samuel 50, Jennings 28, Chris Conley 3, Ray Ray McCloud III 3

Receiving Aiyuk's deflected 51-yard pass seemed like a signal from above. It was the longest game of the contest for either team and the second-longest game of the season for Aiyuk (71 yards versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 11), and it seemed to unleash the 49ers on offense and defense.

“It kind of opened up the whole team,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said afterward. “Right after getting that turnover, I think (Tashaun) Gibson forced the fumble — that was huge. Right after that, you could feel the full momentum with our guys, the field, on the sideline. It felt like it was there after that.”

It's worth noting that Aiyuk and Burdi didn't get off to a good start. Aiyuk had the 49ers' first catch of the day, an 11-yarder on the opening drive. But the next five that went to Aiyuk were incomplete. That includes another off-schedule attempt from Purdy that Aiyuk apparently had a bead on but couldn't come up with.

“That was a big one,” Shanahan said of the incompletion. “For him to come back and completely redeem himself and more with one of the best shots you've ever seen, in the biggest moment — we'll all be so grateful for that for the rest of our lives.”

Samuel's 51 shots accounted for 77 percent of the offense's total, slightly below his usual allotment. His left shoulder injury, which was a huge story when the week of practice began, didn't appear to be a big factor, as Samuel finished with 96 total yards, 75 of them after the initial contact.

Samuel also had one of his best postgame lines when asked about safety C.J. Gardner Johnson's blindside hit — on Samuel's sore shoulder — shortly after the interception. Gardner Johnson, with whom Samuel had feuded during the season, was penalized 15 yards for an illegal blind block.

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“You have to catch me when I'm not looking,” he said. “This is the only way you'll take me.”

tight end: George Kittle 64, Charlie Warner 11, Brayden Willis 3

Kittle, who scooped up Detroit's onside kick attempt with 56 seconds left, noted that he failed to secure an onside kick in Week 1 of the 2021 season in Detroit, the last time the 49ers played the Lions. The rebound bounced off his face mask. The Lions rallied, then quickly cut the 49ers' lead, which minutes earlier had seemed insurmountable, to 41-33.

Kittle was in much the same spot on Sunday, and this time he collected the ball brilliantly, essentially securing the win. (The Lions were also called for illegal touching on the play, so any recovery by Detroit would be negated.)

“I said, ‘Watch me get (an opportunity) with this’ — and I did!’” Kittle said.

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Kittle (toe) and cornerback Ambry Thomas (ankle) were the only players listed on Shanahan's injury report the day after the game. He described both from day to day.

Offensive line: Trent Williams (66), Aaron Banks (66), Brindle (66), John Feliciano (66), Colton McKevitz (66).

A red-hot Williams returned to the offensive and defensive lines during warm-ups, then had one of his best games of the season. He did not allow pass pressure and earned a 90.2 overall grade from Pro Football Focus, his second-highest of the season (93.2 vs. Washington Commanders in Week 16).

This grade was also in stark contrast to his previous two NFC Championship appearances. He was playing on an injured ankle in the 2021 game and earned a grade of 52.5. Last year, he was left out of the game against the Philadelphia Eagles and received a grade of 53.2. Both were the lowest of those seasons for Williams.

Permissible medium pressures:

• Williams, 0
• Brendel, 1
• Feliciano, 2
• Banks, 3
• Mackiewicz, 3

Meanwhile, Banks had a good block on McCaffrey's one-yard score in the third quarter. Juszczyk took the linebacker out on the edge and the right sidemen — McKivitz and Woerner blocked them — and Banks pulled out of his left guard spot to clear the way for McCaffrey.

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Defense line: Nick Bosa 70, Chase Young 56, Aric Armstead 53, Javon Hargrave 51, Javon Kinlaw 22, Kevin Givens 15, Randy Gregory 14, Sebastian Joseph Day 5, Robert Bell Jr. 2

Bosa was on defense as Williams was on offense. He played all but two snaps and finished with two sacks and eight pressures, the most for either team.

After blitzing the Green Bay Packers just twice in the divisional round, the 49ers blitzed nine times on Sunday, with fullback Dre Greenlaw having the most extra rushes.

Medium pressures:

• Bosa, 8
• Armistead, 4
• Hargrave, 3
• Kinlaw, 2
• Young, 1
• Greenlaw, 1

Naturally, the defensive line struggled to stop the run, especially the outside running that plagued them against the Packers. Both playoff opponents had success using break throws — when a receiver blocks the defensive end — against the 49ers. Like defensive coordinator Steve Wilkes last week, Shanahan on Monday missed not defensive ends at the edge, but players who should have been in pursuit. He wasn't happy with Jameson Williams' 42-yard touchdown run on the opening drive and Jahmir Gibbs' 15-yard score in the second quarter.

“That play was disappointing for me because I thought our pursuit was as bad as it has been all year — on both long stretches,” Shanahan said. “We got the advantage, not defensively because they blocked it, but we did it on the next guy to get (the run) back. And when we put it back, our pursuit wasn't there, and that was the biggest disappointing thing about the two touchdown drives.”

Givens, Kinlaw and Young looked like they might have had a chance to beat Gibbs before he scored had they been running harder.

Linebacker: Fred Warner 72, Greenlaw 72, Orrin Burks 16

Warner had a missed tackle in the second quarter resulting in a Lions first down. After that, he led San Francisco's defensive attack. He finished with 13 tackles, tying his season high. For the second straight week, the 49ers gave up nine tackles. The Lions had 16.

Rear corner: Charvarius Ward 72, Demodore Lenoir 72, Thomas 42

Here's how much the Lions respect Ward: He was in coverage on 43 snaps Sunday, and Detroit targeted him once. Meanwhile, Thomas rebounded from his poor game against the Packers. He was targeted four times and gave up two catches for 39 yards.

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