SANTA CLARA – Booming fireworks illuminated the sky but could not drown out the cheers, chants and joyful screams of 49ers fans as they streamed out of Levi’s Stadium after witnessing one of the great comebacks in NFL playoff history.
Among the overjoyed masses was Javier Carbajal from Mountain View, a lifelong 49ers fan who had just watched his team erase a 24-7 halftime deficit to beat the Detroit Lions 34-31 and earn a matchup with the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII.
Carbajal saw the game as a testament to quarterback Brock Purdy’s greatness, and he was far from the only one singing Purdy’s praises.
“He is elite,” Carbajal said after Purdy threw for 267 yards and a touchdown, “He was the last pick in the draft, but he’s still good … It doesn’t matter where you come from, it’s all about the work and perseverance and confidence to keep going, and that’s who Brock Purdy is.”
In another section of the stadium, Samson Arzamendi said he didn’t doubt the team would rally to make its eighth Super Bowl and first since 2019.
“They just don’t ever give up, and we knew they were going to come back,” Arzamendi said while bobbing and weaving through a throng of celebratory fans.
San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions fans cheer in the first quarter of their NFC Championship Game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)
His family knows a thing or two about watching incredible comebacks.
“My dad has had season tickets since The Catch, since Candlestick,” Arzamendi said. “We’ve gone through it all, the ups and downs.”
However, he wryly added that he went on a walk around the stadium during the third quarter in an attempt to give his Niners a superstitious boost.
It must have worked.
Chris Ichien, a fan since 1980, watched Joe Montana carve up defenses as a child. After being captivated by the comeback, the lifelong 49ers supporter allowed himself to make a lofty comparison.
“He’s not Montana … but he’s working his way there,” the San Jose resident said about Purdy, before adding about Christian McCaffrey, “He completes the offense.”
Purdy & Co. will need to play a clean game to defeat their Super Bowl adversary. Arzamendi was confident the team will find a way to beat the dynastic Chiefs.
“I think Purdy’s got him,” Arzamendi said about how Purdy stacked up with the Chiefs’ Hall of Fame quarterback. “I think Mahomes has gotten lucky, same thing with Tom Brady, because they’ve got some great calls for them. I don’t think you’re gonna find the same thing this time around.”
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (13) is congratulated by general manager John Lynch after winning the NFC Championship Game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024. The San Francisco 49ers defeated the Detroit Lions 34-31. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)
The Chiefs’ run of four Super Bowl berths in five years (and two wins, so far) began against the 49ers following the 2019 season, when Kansas City came back from a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit to win the title.
“They got us once, but they won’t get us twice,” Niners fan Alton Sands said while walking out of the stadium.
Romey Rome made the trip from San Francisco to watch the team play, and of the 71,824 fans in attendance, likely none were more optimistic than him when asked to predict a score.
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“100 to nothing,” Rome declared.
Most 49ers fans interviewed by Bay Area News Group said they’d watch the Super Bowl from home.
But with his girlfriend nodding in approval, Carbajal said that he was going to find a way to be in Las Vegas when Super Bowl LVII kicks off on Feb. 11.
“I’m going, and I’m sleeping in the car, or whatever it takes,” Carbajal said.
A San Francisco 49ers fan reacts after a touchdown by the Detroit Lions in the second quarter of their NFC Championship Game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)