LAS VEGAS — For anyone pulling for the 49ers, it was impossible not to get emotional after what went down in the NFC Championship game.
The Niners were favored and playing at home, yet they were getting abused by the Lions, down 24-7 at halftime. Something needed to change, and everything did, as the 49ers scored 27 consecutive points to stun the sagging Lions, winning 34-31 to earn a trip to Super Bowl 2024.
Yes, it was an emotional scene at Levi’s Stadium after this pulsating comeback.
“We won the game against Detroit, I saw Jerry Rice running on the field,” 49ers safety Tashaun Gipson said. “I was running on the field, we hugged each other, and then it hit me later. Man, I was hugging on Jerry Rice. That’s kind of cool. I know it sounds crazy.”
It does not sound crazy.
Those of a certain age know all about Rice, Joe Montana, Steve Young and coach Bill Walsh’s dynasty in San Francisco.
Those who are considerably younger know all about the Niners’ recent success — four NFC title games in the past five years — but must be forgiven for not possessing a complete understanding of the rich history of the 49ers franchise.
Gipson, 33, was 4 years old the last time the 49ers won a title, thrashing the Chargers, 49-26, in Super Bowl XXIX after the 1994 season.
It has been 29 years since the Niners have hoisted a Lombardi Trophy. They have five of them, but the sixth has been quite elusive to attain.
Rice — the NFL’s all-time leader in receptions, receiving touchdowns, receiving yards, scrimmage yards and total touchdowns — remains close to the franchise he graced with his presence for 15 years.
The same with Young, who replaced Montana and like Montana and Rice is enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Prior to traveling for a week of practices and media obligations in advance of the Super Bowl, the Niners heard from Young about what his latest postseason run means to all the former players who wore the red and gold.
“It just was cool, because you watch a guy like him growing up and the Jerry Rices of the world, and you understand what this means to them,” Gipson said.
“These guys are legends, man, but they bleed 49er football. Like [Young] said, ‘When you guys lose, I feel like I lost, so it ruins my Sunday. When you guys win, I feel like I won.’ And to sit here and understand that, it’s like man, these guys watch the games, they know the players. That’s so cool to be a part of something like that. These guys, they’re like superheroes.”