Sierra alumni Brandon Aiyuk is Super Bowl bound

Sierra alumni Brandon Aiyuk is Super Bowl bound! Image courtesy of SF 49ers & Microsoft Surface
Sierra alumni Brandon Aiyuk is Super Bowl bound! Image courtesy of SF 49ers & Microsoft Surface

By Tom Jensen from


History rhymes for the San Francisco 49ers. A late comeback, an amazing catch, and a trip to the Super Bowl. Dwight Clark and The Catch in 1982, now Brandon Aiyuk and The Ricochet in 2024.

The Niners beat Detroit 34-31 in the NFC Championship to advance to the Super Bowl for the 8th time in franchise history. They'll face the Kansas City Chiefs in a rematch of the 2019 title game, this time in Las Vegas.

Brock Purdy overthrew a 51-yard pass to Aiyuk that caromed off Detroit cornerback Kindle Vildor's face mask and Aiyuk somehow made an acrobatic catch that saved the season.

Aiyuk caught a touchdown pass three plays later and the Niners never looked back, scoring 27 unanswered points for the win. The 17-point comeback from a 24-7 deficit at halftime ties the NFC Championship record.

Detroit had their chance to put the game out of reach, but head coach Dan Campbell pulled defeat from the jaws of victory.

The Lions knocked the 49ers to the canvas, up 24-10 with the ball on the Niners 28 and just over seven minutes left in the third quarter. Campbell gave the Niners life by choosing to go for it on 4th and 2. Nick Bosa applied some pressure on Jared Goff, who rushed and didn't set his feet for a slightly off-target throw to Josh Reynolds, who dropped it.

The Aiyuk ricochet and touchdown were followed a play later by Tashaun Gipson stripping the ball from Jahmyr Gibbs and Arik Armstead recovering it. The 49ers scored four plays later, from down 24-10 to tied at 24 in a little over two minutes.

Campbell has forged his team culture on aggressive risk-taking, but he lost track of the stakes. He went for the kill shot rather than securing the win in the NFC Championship. It's the kind of mistake a coach makes when he hasn't been on this stage before.

There are many heroes and villains for the Niners in this one.


Brandon Aiyuk – Three catches for 68 yards with an incredible play that will define the season.

Christian McCaffrey – 132 yards of hard-earned total offense and two touchdowns.

Nick Bosa – Two sacks, two tackles for loss and four quarterback hits. His pressure on Goff assisted in the 4th down stop that turned the game around.

Brock Purdy – The early interception was ill-advised but after that point, Purdy settled down to go 13-18 for 174 yards passing with a touchdown, and a critical 48 yards running converting key third downs.

Deebo Samuel – The team leader at eight catches for 86 yards and nearly 100 yards of total offense. Samuel wasn't bothered by his shoulder and should be a central part of the Super Bowl game plan.

Colton McKivitz – Detroit's Aidan Hutchinson came into the game with eight sacks in four games, he had none against McKivitz, with no quarterback hits or tackles.

Tashaun Gipson – His fumble strip of Jahmyr Gibbs extended the Niners' wave of momentum that carried them to the win.


Javon Hargrave – Facing a practice squad backup, Hargrave had four tackles and no sacks in a game where the team needed production from him.

Jon Feliciano - Had a poor game in pass protection.


Kyle Shanahan and Steve Wilks - The team was unprepared for the first-half onslaught. The game plans were off. However, Shanahan produced five straight scores in the second half and Wilks stacked the box and played tight man coverage to get key stops.


The 49ers have benefitted from mistakes by young players and coaches to advance. The season of giving is over in facing Andy Reid, Steve Spagnuolo, Patrick Mahomes, and the Chiefs. And yet, the Niners had a 10-point lead in the 4th quarter of the 2019 Super Bowl. Interesting matchup ahead.