Despite down by 17 points early in the NFC Championship, the San Francisco 49ers came roared back to outscore the Atlanta Falcons 28-7 the remainder of the game to move on to its sixth Super Bowl appearance.
Playing in front of a deafening sell out crowd at the Georgia Dome in downtown Atlanta, the 49ers did not appear to be the dominating team it was the previous weekend against the Green Bay Packers, with the Falcons offense putting up 17 straight points in just over a quarter. But the 49ers roared back, first by scoring two straight touchdowns in the second quarter to make it a little closer by the end of the half.
In the second half possession, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick drove the team 82 yards to a touchdown, drawing the visiting team to within a field goal. Although the 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree fumbled the football at the Atlanta one-yard line, the 49ers held the Falcons on downs and then scored the games final touchdown when running back Frank Gore was barely touched as he reached the end zone.
The Falcons had one last chance to win the game, holding onto the ball for more than seven minutes, only to see Matt Ryan’s fourth down pass fall incomplete down the middle. After taking possession of the ball, the 49ers ran down the clock to the game’s final 13 seconds and then was forced to punt. Yet Atlanta only had one play left, a 24-yard gain in the middle of the field as time ran out.
As the game ended players from both teams exchanged handshakes and hugs, while Niners Head Coach Jim Harbaugh and Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith shook hands and spoke briefly. The loss for the Falcons means the end of a outstanding season where they had the best record the NFL, only to fall short. Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez, who will go down in NFL history as one of the greatest players at his position, may be retiring now that his season is over.
The 49ers victory away from home propels them to Super Bowl XLVII at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and will meet the winner of the AFC Championship, pitting the New England Patriots against the Baltimore Raven. The 49ers, by virtue of their victory against the New England Patriots in Foxboro, Massachusetts in the regular season are expected to be favored to win their sixth Super Bowl, which would tie them with the Pittsburg Steelers for the most Super Bowl wins ever.