Goodbye Atlanta. Hello New Orleans.
In a game where they were down 17-0, the San Francisco 49ers were able to come back with a resilient ground game and then held off the Atlanta Falcons to win it 28-24. The 49ers are headed to Super Bowl XLVII looking for their sixth Lombardi. It’s San Francisco’s first Super Bowl appearance since the 1994 season when they beat the San Diego Chargers.
With 8:23 left in the game, Frank Gore scored a 9 yard touchdown which turned out to be the winning score of the NFC Championship game. This came after two failed drives in which David Akers missed a 38 yard field goal by hitting the goal post and then Michael Crabtree fumbled the ball right outside of the Atlanta end zone on the following drive.
The Falcons were able to produce a solid drive after Gore’s 4th quarter touchdown. The drive lasted 14 plays for 7:10 and had a controversial catch by Harry Douglas that looked like it had hit the ground. The play was reviewed and the call of a catch wasn’t overturned.
It came down to a 4th and 4 with just over a minute to go. After taking a brutal hit a couple plays earlier, Matt Ryan threw the ball to Roddy White who couldn’t catch it as San Francisco linebacker NaVorro Bowman broke it up. That resulted in a turnover on downs and 49ers ball.
Atlanta would get it back after stopping the 49ers running game but with just 6 seconds left and 59 yards away from the end zone. A pass to Julio Jones for 24 yards over the middle of the field ended the game and sealed the NFC Title for San Francisco.
“Anytime you win a game like this it’s a team effort,” 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh said about the win. “Everybody does a little, it adds up to be a lot.”
Colin Kaepernick, who took over as the 49ers starting quarterback in week 11, leads his team into the Super Bowl going 16/21 for 233 passing yards and a touchdown pass to Vernon Davis in the 2nd quarter. Kaepernick didn’t do much on the ground as just the threat of the read-option helped spur a collective 149 rushing yard performance.
Frank Gore lead that rushing attack with 90 yards and 2 rushing touchdowns on 21 carries.
Matt Ryan of the Falcons, on the other hand, had 396 passing yards and three touchdown passes but it was a couple of turnovers he committed that took away from scoring any second half points.
“Against a good team, you can’t have those kind of mistakes,” Ryan said afterwards.
The game didn’t start that well for the 49ers. San Francisco deferred after winning the coin toss and Atlanta promptly scored on a 46 yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones. After a field goal on their next drive, Julio Jones then scored a another touchdown catching a 20 yarder in the back of the end zone.
The 49ers would not get their first 1st down until their third possession starting in the 2nd quarter. On that drive, they would score their first points of the game with a 15 yard touchdown run by LaMichael James. It was actually James first NFL touchdown and it came in the postseason. LaMichael finished the day with 5 carries for 34 yards and the one TD.
After managing to hold the Falcons to a three-and-out, the 49ers managed to get to the Atlanta 4 with a couple of nice plays to Vernon Davis, a 23 yard run by Kaepernick, and a huge 15 yard penalty called on Atlanta linebacker Stephen Nicholas for unnecessary roughness. From there, Kaepernick threw his only touchdown of the game with a short 4 yard pass to Vernon Davis on play-action to bring it within 3. Davis finished the game with 101 receiving yards on 5 catches.
“They were keying on Crab(tree) in a few different situations,” Kaepernick said regarding his passing options. “Vernon was one-on-one and he made great plays out there.”
Michael Crabtree was active with 6 catches for 57 yards but had that one costly fumble early in the 4th quarter.
Atlanta got it back with just 1:55 in the 1st half remaining allowing them enough time to score one more touchdown before the half. Tony Gonzalez, who might’ve played his final game in the NFL, caught a 10 yard touchdown pass with just 24 seconds in the half.
“I’ve had such a great life,” Gonzalez said. “I wish it would’ve culminated with the Super Bowl, but it didn’t.”
Gonzalez would finish the game with 8 catches for 78 yards and the one score.
The 49ers had the ball to start the 2nd half and a few good passes from Kaepernick and some runs by Frank Gore equals a touchdown. The drive ended with a 5 yard Frank Gore rushing touchdown bringing the game within 3 points again.
The Falcons failed to score any second half points thanks to some big defensive stops and key turnovers. Atlanta’s first drive of the 2nd half ended when Matt Ryan threw an interception to cornerback Chris Culliver.
“Our defense battled back in the 2nd half,” Kaepernick said. “They played really well.”
The 49ers were not able to score off the turnover, however, as David Akers’ field goal hit off the top of the goal post.
The next Falcons drive abruptly ended with another turnover. In San Francisco territory, Matt Ryan fumbled a shotgun snap allowing Aldon Smith to recover the football for the 49ers. Despite the ensuing drive ending with Crabtree’s fumble, Atlanta failed to score again.
The 49ers then forced a three-and-out for the Falcons and managed to score Gore’s game winning touchdown on the following drive.
“They were playing the quarterback on a lot of things we were doing,” Kaepernick said. “So Frank was hitting them in the middle and he ran well today.”
San Francisco was down by 17 and came back to win it making the largest comeback win in NFC Championship game history. Ironically, the previous largest comeback win in the NFC Title game was back in 1999 by the Atlanta Falcons down by 13 vs. the Minnesota Vikings.
“I take my hat off to Atlanta. They played hard. They’ve got a great team,” Frank Gore said. “But we fought, man. We fought and we deserved it.”
Jim Harbaugh and San Francisco’s Super Bowl trip involves facing the Baltimore Ravens which is coached by Jim’s older brother, John Harbaugh. It marks the first time in Super Bowl history where brothers are the head coaches of the two competing teams.
“I don’t know if we had a dream this big,” Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said after their 28-13 win over New England. “We had a few dreams, we had a few fights. We had a few arguments. We will try to stay out of that business. We’ll let the two teams duke it out as much as possible.”
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Written by Daniel Trucios