Conference championship Sunday in the NFL has come and gone with two teams coming out of yesterday’s matchups the victors. The first of those two teams is the San Francisco 49ers, who return to the Super Bowl for the first time in 18 years.
The 49ers, led by second year head coach and former NFL quarterback Jim Harbaugh, staged an impressive second half comeback over the NFC’s top-seeded team, the Atlanta Falcons on the road.
In doing so, they completely shut the Falcons down in the second half after allowing 24 points in the first. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan played the best game of his postseason career, completing 30 of 42 passes for 396 yards while also tossing three touchdown passes versus one interception. He also lost a fumble, however, on a bobbled snap.
The offensive attack was spearheaded by their three-headed receiving unit of Roddy White, Julio Jones, and tight end Tony Gonzalez. Each topped at least 75 yards, and the trio together accounted for three touchdowns. Jones in particular caught 11 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns.
Much of that production, however, came during the first half, as mentioned earlier, as the Falcons entered the locker rooms at halftime with a 10 point lead.
The 49ers, who boasted one of the best defenses in the league during the regular season, finally played like it in the second half while shutting down Atlanta’s offense while running back Frank Gore accounted for two second half touchdowns to give the 49ers their first and only lead in the fourth quarter.
The Falcons, however, seemed to be driving late in the fourth quarter to try to regain the lead as they trailed 28-24. They’d reached San Francisco’s 16-yard line at the two-minute warning.
On second down, Matt Ryan was leveled by Ahmad Brooks following a completed pass, which could have been flagged as roughing the passer, as the rusher landed on Ryan with his full body weight.
Then on fourth down, Ryan’s pass fell incomplete as linebacker NaVarro Bowman swatted the ball away, which was intended for Roddy White.
The argument could be made that Bowman should have been flagged for pass interference or defensive holding on the play, either of which would have given the Falcons a first and goal situation with over a minute to play, but no penalty was ever called.
The 49ers will become just the second team in NFL history with a chance to win a record-tying 6th Super Bowl, which was achieved by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2008. They also tie the Denver Broncos for the organization with the fourth-most Super Bowl appearances, trailing only the Steelers, the Dallas Cowboys (8 each), and the New England Patriots (7). They are currently tied with the second-most Super Bowl victories with the Cowboys with 5.
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