The San Francisco 49ers came into the season as the pick of many to win Super Bowl LVIII, and they didn't disappoint. They started the season 5-0, and while they did have a three-game losing streak, they were considered the best team in football for much of the season and had two dramatic playoff wins to advance to Las Vegas.
The 49ers had a fantastic season, and here were the five turning points on their way to Super Bowl LVIII:
49ers start hot
If there was any question about whether the 49ers could pick up where they left off before Brock Purdy injured his elbow in last season's NFC championship game, it took only a couple of minutes into the season to get an answer. The story of Week 1 was the 49ers' absolutely blasting the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team that would make the playoffs. The 49ers won 30-7.
If one moment in that opener announced that the 49ers weren't messing around this season, it might've been their marching right down on their opening drive and Purdy hitting Brandon Aiyuk for a touchdown. The 49ers went 54 yards on seven plays without any resistance. It was a statement just minutes into the season.
— NFL (@NFL) September 10, 2023
From opening weekend, the 49ers looked like a Super Bowl team.
49ers wreck Cowboys
If there was any question about the best team in the NFL by Week 5, the conversation shifted after the 49ers housed the Cowboys on "Sunday Night Football." San Francisco beat Dallas 42-10. The Cowboys would end up being the No. 2 seed in the NFC, but against the 49ers, they looked absolutely overmatched.
The 49ers made it look easy, and the highlight was a flea flicker that ended up in George Kittle's hands for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
— NFL (@NFL) October 9, 2023
That game also featured Kittle showing his T-shirt with an inappropriate slogan about the Cowboys, for which he was fined, but that moment also defined the 49ers' swagger for most of the season.
They moved to 5-0 and spent most of the season as the consensus No. 1 team in the league.
49ers end their losing streak
The 49ers lost three in a row in the middle of the season, which isn't unheard of for a future Super Bowl team, but it's uncommon. The 49ers had a bye after that losing streak and then traveled to face the Jacksonville Jaguars. San Francisco took a 13-3 lead at halftime, then early in the second half let it be known it would not be a close game when Brock Purdy hit George Kittle for a 66-yard score.
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) November 12, 2023
The 49ers won 34-3 and lost just twice the rest of the season (including the season finale in which they rested starters). The blowout of the Jaguars seemed to restore their confidence.
That touchdown to Kittle was also a highlight for Purdy, who steadily climbed in the MVP race over the season. Making that big-time throw under pressure showed that he was probably more than just a system quarterback.
Brock Purdy shows off his wheels
You can pick plenty of plays from the 49ers' game-winning drive against the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round, but let's highlight a key run from a player not known for his running ability. On second-and-10 at the Packers' 15, the 49ers needed some yardage. Third-and-10 in that spot would not have been great. Purdy escaped the rush, scrambled to his left and dove for a 9-yard run to set up a much more manageable third-and-1.
Christian McCaffrey scored on the next play to give San Francisco the lead, and the 49ers went on to win. Purdy's run didn't end up getting enough attention. But without it, the 49ers might not have advanced.
Brandon Aiyuk makes a miracle catch
It remains to be seen how Aiyuk's 51-yard catch in the NFC championship game will be remembered, but it's hard to remember a more fortunate catch in a big moment. You could try a million times to replicate the play and not have success: Purdy's deep pass went through Detroit Lions cornerback Kindle Vildor's hands, off his facemask and up in the air, allowing a trailing Aiyuk to make a circus catch. Maybe Aiyuk just needed that lucky ladybug.
— NFL (@NFL) January 29, 2024
The catch also caught the eye of the Sacramento Kings, who hilariously played a highlight of the catch on a loop as the Detroit Pistons' starting lineup was announced before a game in Sacramento.
There were plenty of turning points in the second half of the 49ers' incredible comeback, including a couple of fourth-down failures from the Lions. But if there's one play to remember, it's Aiyuk making a nearly impossible catch to keep the momentum going.