Blowing a 10-point lead had put an end to the 49ers’ two previous playoff appearances, but not this time.
The 49ers let a 10-0 first-half lead evaporate Saturday, then they rallied to dispatch the Seattle Seahawks 41-23 in their wild-card opener.
A second-half surge allowed the No. 2-seed 49ers (14-4) to recapture the lead, their confidence, and their momentum. They’ll take an 11-game winning streak into next weekend’s divisional round, where they’ll host either the No. 2 Minnesota Vikings, the No. 4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the No. 5 Dallas Cowboys.
It will be the Vikings if they win Sunday against the No. 6 Giants. If the Vikings lose, the Tampa Bay-Dallas winner will come to Levi’s Stadium, most likely next Sunday.
“We talk about the end game (of a Super Bowl quest), but you don’t get there unless you win one, and I’m proud of the guys that we won one today,” linebacker Fred Warner said.
The 49ers won, as expected, in only their third-ever playoff game at Levi’s Stadium, and they won comfortably on the scoreboard as their 2019 team did here twice en route to the Super Bowl.
But Saturday’s scoreboard didn’t reflect how tense things got, especially as the 49ers humbly and foolishly entered halftime trailing 17-16. The Seahawks had taken that lead – their last one – when Jason Myers booted a 56-yard field goal as the first half expired, set up by a Jimmie Ward penalty for hitting Geno Smith as he slid on a scramble with 1 second to go.
“Coming into halftime, Kyle (Shanahan) was straight up and like, ‘Hey, man, the plays were there. The opportunities were there. We have to keep it simple and get it to the guys,’” quarterback Brock Purdy said. “We knew our plan for the second half, we executed everything and we finished off drives, where we didn’t stall and overthink things.”
All went the 49ers’ way after that, however. They scored over 30 points for the eighth time in this 11-game win streak, and for the fifth time in Purdy’s six starts.
Anda Chu is a photojournalist for the Bay Area News Group based in the East Bay. He grew up in the Bay Area and graduated from San Francisco Sate University with a bachelor’s degree in photojournalism. He has been a staff photographer with the organization since 2000.