Everybody seemingly expected the 49ers to win this game, but very few truly expected it to be easy. It most certainly was not. A long touchdown on the Falcons opening drive on a pass from Matt Ryan to Julio Jones set the tone early, a Matt Bryant field goal put them up 10-0 after 1. Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers offense sputtered from the get-go, amassing -2 yards of total offense on their first two drives. This game suddenly looked very similar to the Falcons game versus the Seattle Seahawks the previous week. A spectacular 20 yard touchdown catch by Julio Jones early in the 2nd quarter made it 17-0, and the 49ers found themselves in a very deep hole.
The offense finally began to pick up some momentum as Kaepernick involved Michael Crabtree and finally Vernon Davis, LaMichael James carved up the Falcons defense for a 15 yard touchdown run to get the 49ers on the board. They got the ball back again after a solid defensive showing, and Kaepernick an co. drove from their own 18 for another touchdown, this time to Vernon Davis for 4 yards. Kaepernick had his only real run which went for 23 yards down the left sideline. Vernon Davis also took up a big chunk with a 25 yard catch. It was now 17-14 as the 1st half was winding down. The Falcons ran an extremely efficient and effective 2 minute drill, capped by a touchdown pass to Tony Gonzalez to put the Falcons back up by 10 going into the half.
The 49ers had won the opening toss and deferred to the second half, so they got the ball at the beginning of the 3rd quarter and made the most of it. Passes to Randy Moss and Delanie Walker, with some strong runs by Frank Gore in the middle led to a Gore touchdown from 5 yards out to make it 24-21 Falcons. The scoring slowed down significantly from this point on, Matt Ryan was intercepted by Chris Culliver on the ensuing drive, and the 49ers were poised to finally catch up to the Falcons with a David Akers field goal. As we all know Akers has struggled badly this season, and the faithful were just hoping he’d have the fortitude to put one through from 38. But as the Fox replay showed, all he got was a loud clank sound when the ball hit the left upright. If the 49ers lost a close game, Akers assuredly would be the goat.
With a chance to regain the momentum the Falcons drove down the field from their 28 to the 49ers 28 when Matt Ryan took his eye off the snapped ball for just a fraction of a second, just enough for him to lose control of the ball. Aldon Smith pounced on the ball to regain possession. The 49ers drove down the field once again, and looked poised to punch it into the end zone and finally take the lead, but Michael Crabtree couldn’t hold onto the ball less than a yard from the goal line. A vicious hit to the back by William Moore jarred the ball loose, it was recovered by the Falcons and the 49ers had yet again failed to break through.
The 49ers defense had finally begun to come together as a unit, and forced a huge 3 and out by the Falcons. Ted Ginn, Jr. ran back the punt for a 20 yard return to the Falcons 38. The 49ers were already in business. They stuck to the ground game, attempting to not only take the lead but perhaps bleed a little bit of the clock out in the process. Runs from Frank Gore, LaMichael James, and Anthony Dixon in a clutch 3rd down situation got them in position. A Kaepernick pass to Crabtree set up Frank Gore’s second TD run of the game to finally give the 49ers the lead.
The Falcons made a good attempt to strike back, but needing a touchdown their drive stalled in the red zone on a 4th and 4 when NaVorro Bowman deflected a pass from Matt Ryan over the middle. At this point it was up to the 49ers to whittle down as much of the remaining minute plus, they didn’t make much progress though and failed to get a 1st down that would have ended the game. Andy Lee punted and the Falcons had one last prayer to steal this game, Matt Ryan’s pass over the middle was caught by Julio Jones but he was wrapped up quickly as the clock hit :00.
The key to this victory has to be the reemergence of Vernon Davis in the 49ers passing attack. His 106 yards receiving with a touchdown was easily the best showing he’s had since the first game Colin Kaepernick played against the Chicago Bears. He’s such a weapon he couldn’t possibly be held down any longer. Colin Kaepernick will now make his 10th career start in Super Bowl XLVII, guess Harbaugh made the right choice huh?
So the 49ers are headed to their 6th Super Bowl and await the winner of the AFC Championship Game taking place as we speak between the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens. For now though they get to relax and celebrate their NFC Championship.