The 49ers are going to the Superbowl.
The Quest of Six continues after a 28-24 win over the Atlanta Falcons on the road to punch their ticket to New Orleans.
The Niners overcame a 17-0 deficit in the first half, the largest comeback ever in the history of the NFC Championship game.
Colin Kaepernick did not have as great a game as he did last week against Green Bay, but still wound up with a respectable 188 yards on 13/18 passing attempts. Frank Gore helped the Niners stabilize their running game with 57 yards on 14 carries for a touchdown. Vernon Davis came back from the dead with a huge game, catching five passes for 106 yards and a touchdown.
For the Falcons, Matt Ryan finished 16/21 for 233 yards and three touchdowns. Julio Jones had one heck of game, with two touchdown receptions and 182 yards. Roddy White also chipped in with seven catches for 100 yards.
The Falcons came out ready to play. It took just a little over three minutes for Ryan to find Jones for a 46-yard touchdown, on a play where Dashon Goldson fell asleep and allowed Jones to make the wide-open catch and walk into the end zone.
At the end of the first quarter, the 49ers had -2 yards as opposed to the Falcons’ 182.
Ryan found Jones again on the first play of the second quarter on a beautiful lob pass in the left corner of the end zone, connecting for the second time in the game. Jones did a wonderful job of keeping both feet inbounds, and the Falcons claimed a 17-0 lead early.
The Niners responded with their first productive drive of the game by going to the running game early. Frank Gore got several consecutive carries and set the tone for a huge third down completion by Kaepernick to Vernon Davis at the Falcons’ 15 yard line. LaMichael James finished it off with a nice, solid run into the end zone, and the Niners were on the board.
The last drive opened up the floodgates, as the Niners scored again following a defensive stop. Davis apparently found his groove at the right time, as he caught four passes from Kaepernick. A 25-yard reception set up first-and-goal at the four-yard line, followed by the touchdown pass to a wide-open Davis. Just like that, the Niners were within a field goal.
But the Falcons would close the half like they started it, driving 80 yards in 1:30. Ryan hooked up with future Hall-of-Famer Tony Gonzalez three times, and the final completion was a was 10-yard touchdown to give the Falcons a 24-14 lead.
Jim Harbaugh’s decision to defer payed off, as the 49ers looked in-rythym on the opening drive to start the half. Kaepernick hit Delanie Walker and Randy Moss, setting up a Gore touchdown run from five-yards out to pull within a field goal once again.
Then, the Niners’ defense finally decided to show up. After Isaac Sopoagua (of all people) recorded the Niners’ first sack of the game, Chris Culliver picked off Ryan’s pass intended for Roddy White at the Niners’ 38-yard line.
However, they would fail to capitalize on the turnover. After a big play to Davis, the drive stalled and David Akers’ 38-yard field goal hit the left upright and was no good. You can imagine the number of Niners’ fans screaming at their television as that happened.
Just as you thought the Falcons would re-gain the momentum, Ryan fumbled a snap deep in Niners’ territory. Aldon Smith pounced on it, and the Niners forced their second straight turnover.
They would return the favor right back to Atlanta. Kaepernick hooked up with Michael Crabtree to set up first-and-goal, and his next pass to Crabtree appeared to be good for a touchdown, but he was stripped by Dunta Robinson right at the goal line, and the fumble was recovered by the Falcons at their own one-yard line.
A quick three-and-out gave the Niners the ball back in good field position, thanks to a solid return by Ted Ginn Jr. Gore starred on this six-play, 38-yard drive, closed out by his untouched, nine-yard run into the end zone. From down 17, the Niners battled back and took a 28-24 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
Ryan then led the Falcons on a 7:10 that resulted in absolutely nothing. The Niners did not waver as Atlanta ventured deep into their territory. Ryan’s fourth down pass was broken up by Navorro Bowman, and the Niners took over on downs with barely any time to spare.
The Niners went three-and-out, and Andy Lee’s punt left the Falcons with six seconds for a desperation heave. Carlos Rogers’ tackle on Julio Jones at the San Francisco 35-yard line sealed the deal as time expired, and the Niners were Superbowl bound.
This is the 49ers’ sixth Superbowl appearance in franchise history, and they have won in all five of their opportunities.
They will face the winner of the AFC Championship game between the Ravens and Patriots.