2014 DRAFT GUIDE
49ers rally past Falcons 28-24 in NFC title game

By PAUL NEWBERRY - AP Sports Writer
    2013-01-21 03:49

ATLANTA (AP) - The loss stuck with them for a year, pushing the San Francisco 49ers in everything they did.

They didn't want to feel that way again.

Not to worry.

The 49ers are headed to the Super Bowl.

Bouncing back from a bitter loss in the 2012 NFC championship game, San Francisco cleared the hurdle it couldn't quite get over the previous season. And, boy, did the 49ers earn it, rallying from an early 17-0 deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons 28-24 on Sunday.

``We worked so hard,'' said Frank Gore, who ran for a pair of touchdowns, including the go-ahead score with 8:23 remaining. ``We knew that we got here last year and it didn't happen. But we got back and we said to ourselves, as a team, that this time we've got to walk through the door. You really don't get opportunities like this.''

The 49ers used to get them all the time, winning five Super Bowl titles in the 1980s and `90s. Now, with a clutch quarterback (Colin Kaepernick), a budding genius of a coach (Jim Harbaugh) and a big-play defense, they're ready to start a new dynasty.

They were one win away from playing for it all last season, until a fumbled return in the NFC championship game led to the winning field goal in overtime for the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

When the Falcons raced to their big lead by the first play of the second quarter, San Francisco (13-4-1) appeared headed for more disappointment.

But no one lost faith, and the 49ers pulled off the biggest comeback victory ever in an NFC championship game, according to STATS.

The previous record was 13 points - Atlanta's victory over Minnesota in the 1999 title game, which sent the Falcons to what remains the only Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. The AFC championship game record is 18 points, when Indianapolis rallied past New England in 2007.

``I don't really think it's destiny or anything like that written on the walls,'' 49ers defensive tackle Justin Smith said. ``It's the team that works the hardest, prepares the hardest, and has the best players and coaching staff. You pour all that in together and it comes out pretty good at the end.''

The 49ers advanced to face Baltimore at New Orleans in two weeks, looking to join Pittsburgh as the only franchises with six Super Bowl titles. It'll be a brother-vs.-brother matchup, too; John Harbaugh coaches the Ravens.

But Jim Harbaugh wasn't concerned about a family reunion.

He was hoppin' mad when a disputed call went against the 49ers on Atlanta's potential winning drive in the closing minutes. Harbaugh leaped in the air, screamed at the officials and had to be restrained by his staff from charging the field.

But the 49ers stopped Atlanta on a fourth-down play at their own 10, as linebacker NaVorro Bowman reached in to swat the ball away from Roddy White on a pass across the middle with 1:09 remaining.

San Francisco ran off all but the final 6 seconds, not nearly enough time for Matt Ryan to pull out another improbable comeback.

The previous week, Atlanta (14-4) squandered a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter against the Seattle Seahawks, nearly becoming the first team to lose with such a daunting advantage in the final period of a playoff game. But Ryan completed two long passes in the final 30 seconds, and Matt Bryant kicked a 49-yard field goal for a 30-28 victory.

After Gore's second TD gave San Francisco its first lead of the day, the Falcons took the ensuing kickoff and used up nearly all the clock while going 70 yards. They might have reclaimed the lead if Harry Douglas had been able to stay on his feet while hauling in a 22-yard pass.

The defender slipped, leaving Douglas all alone down the sideline. But he tripped, too, doing well to make the catch without the ball hitting the turf. Harbaugh thought it did, challenging the call, but the referee ruled it a catch after looking at the replay.

That's when Harbaugh nearly lost it.

It all worked out, though.

``We rose up there at the end,'' Harbaugh said. ``It was a great finish for our defense, an exclamation point on the game.''

The Falcons ran up and down the field in the first two quarters, piling up 17 first downs and 297 yards for a 24-14 lead. Ryan played a nearly perfect half, completing 18 of 24 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns, two of them to Julio Jones. When Tony Gonzalez hauled in a 10-yard touchdown pass with 25 seconds remaining, restoring a double-digit lead, it looked as though Atlanta had weathered the 49ers' comeback.

Actually, the Falcons were done, at least on the scoreboard.

They were held scoreless over the final two periods by the 49ers, who seized on two key mistakes by Ryan. First, after guiding the Falcons into San Francisco territory, he was picked off by Chris Culliver. Then, with Atlanta well within field-goal range at the 49ers 28, Ryan took his eye off a shotgun snap for a split-second and the ball bounced off his hands. Aldon Smith recovered for San Francisco.

``Against a good football team like that, you can't have those kinds of mistakes,'' Ryan said. ``We moved the ball really effectively all day. We just had two chances where we were in positive territory and didn't walk away with points.''

The 49ers are headed to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1995, when they won the last of their championships.

``We've come full circle,'' said Denise DeBartolo York, part of the family that has owned the 49ers since their championship days, ``and the dynasty will prevail.''

The city by the bay is rapidly becoming the new Titletown USA. The 49ers will try follow the lead of the baseball Giants, who gave San Francisco a World Series championship in October.

Kaepernick didn't get a chance to show off his touchdown celebration for the 49ers - flexing his right arm and kissing his bicep, a move that quickly became a social media sensation known as Kaepernicking.

But the second-year quarterback who runs like a track star shredded the Falcons through the air by completing 16 of 21 for 233 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown to Vernon Davis. Plus, he caused so much concern about his running ability out of the spread option that Gore and LaMichael James found plenty of huge holes.

Ryan had the best playoff game of his career, completing 30 of 42 for 396 yards. His favorite target was Jones, who hauled in scoring passes of 46 and 20 yards on the way to finishing with 11 catches for 182 yards.

But it wasn't enough to extend the career of Gonzalez, the Hall of Famer-to-be who has said all along this would likely be his final season.

He sure sounded like it was over.

``I've had such a great life,'' he said. ``I wish it would've culminated with the Super Bowl, but it didn't.''

Gore scored on runs of 5 and 9 yards, finishing with 90 yards on 21 carries. James picked up the first TD for the 49ers on a 15-yard run. Davis had five catches for 106 yards, and the 49ers overcame a fumble by Michael Crabtree just short of the goal line early in the fourth quarter, giving the Falcons a glimmer of hope.

``I take my hat off to Atlanta. They played hard. They've got a great team,'' Gore said. ``But we fought, man. We fought and we deserved it.''

And no one was thinking about last season anymore.

Notes: The Falcons rushed for only 81 yards and lost Michael Turner in the second half to an ankle injury. He gained 30 yards on eight carries. ... San Francisco K David Akers had another miss in a dismal season, clanking a 38-yard attempt off the left upright in the third quarter. ... Jones set a franchise record for receiving yards in a playoff game, topping Alfred Jenkins' mark of 155 in a 1981 loss to Dallas.

---

Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

---

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Trent RichardsonJan 27 10:43a

Indianapolis Colts RB Trent Richardson's one-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team voided the guarantee of a $3,184,062 salary in 2015.

Josh GordonJan 26 02:13p

Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon is in Stage Three of an alcohol program, which requires him to be tested for alcohol for a minimum of two years. His failed [ More ]

Rob GronkowskiJan 26 02:03p

New England Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski could cause a problem for the Seattle Seahawks during Super Bowl XLIX, because the Seahawks defense allowed 11 touchdowns to tight ends this [ More ]

Earl ThomasJan 26 02:03p

Seattle Seahawks FS Earl Thomas (shoulder) said he won't miss the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots with a dislocated shoulder, but he also admitted that it won't [ More ]

Odell Beckham Jr.Jan 26 01:52p

New York Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring) said he'll need to shut himself down this offseason in order to enter 2015 fully healthy and in great shape. He [ More ]

Josh GordonJan 26 12:33p

Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon tested positive for alcohol, according to sources, and his failed test will subject him to a possible one-year suspension. Gordon caught 24 passes for [ More ]

Vontaze BurfictJan 26 12:23p

Cincinnati Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict (knee) is recovering from microfracture surgery on his left knee, and the surgeon who operated on him is hoping that he will be at [ More ]

Odell Beckham Jr.Jan 26 11:22a

New York Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring) said he played this season with two tears in his right hamstring, which never fully healed.

Josh GordonJan 25 09:12p

Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon will be under contract through the 2016 season, and he will only be a restricted free agent after that year due to his looming [ More ]

Josh GordonJan 25 04:12p

Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon has reportedly failed another drug test and will be subject to a one-year banishment, according to multiple league sources.

Earl ThomasJan 23 09:02p

Seattle Seahawks FS Earl Thomas (shoulder) will play in the Super Bowl, head coach Pete Carroll said Friday, Jan. 23.

Dennis PittaJan 23 04:22p

Baltimore Ravens TE Dennis Pitta (hip) met with some specialists last week, but the team is not expected to have an update on his status for a few weeks, [ More ]

Johnny ManzielJan 23 01:12p

Cleveland Browns QB Johnny Manziel had a big proponent last year in owner Jimmy Haslam, but Haslam now thinks the team needs a quarterback in order to get their [ More ]

Jimmy GrahamJan 23 10:32a

New Orleans Saints TE Jimmy Graham (shoulder) said he'll rehabilitate his shoulder injury after the Pro Bowl, but he hasn't made a final decision on surgery. 'It's something we [ More ]

Mark IngramJan 22 06:42p

New Orleans Saints RB Mark Ingram, who will be eligible for free agency this offseason, wants to return to the team next year, and he thinks the interest is [ More ]

Vernon DavisJan 22 06:22p

San Francisco 49ers TE Vernon Davis had just two touchdowns in 2014, and they both came in Week 1. He also wasn't targeted at all in the red zone [ More ]

Geno SmithJan 22 05:32p

New York Jets QB Geno Smith has a lot of talent and promise, according to new head coach Todd Bowles. At the same time, Bowles acknowledged that the quarterback [ More ]

Brian HoyerJan 22 04:52p

Cleveland Browns QB Brian Hoyer could be re-signed this offseason, according to his agent. Hoyer is expected to meet with general manager Ray Farmer and offensive coordinator John DeFilippo in the near future.

Johnny ManzielJan 22 02:43p

Cleveland Browns QB Johnny Manziel will be working with a new offensive coordinator this year in John DeFilippo, but DeFilippo is unsure if the team's quarterback next year is [ More ]

Joe FlaccoJan 22 12:52p

Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco will have his fourth difference offensive coordinator in as many years in offensive coordinator Marc Trestman. However, head coach John Harbaugh is confident Flacco [ More ]

Tom BradyJan 22 10:12a

New England Patriots QB Tom Brady is now scheduled to speak to the media Thursday, Jan. 22, and he could come under fire due to the report of deflated [ More ]

Vontaze BurfictJan 21 09:03p

Cincinnati Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict (knee) has had knee surgery, head coach Marvin Lewis confirmed Wednesday, Jan. 21. While there has been concern Burfict might have to begin the [ More ]

Mike WallaceJan 21 09:03p

Miami Dolphins WR Mike Wallace's future with the team is unclear. General manager Dennis Hickey would not say Wednesday, Jan. 21, whether Wallace will be back or if his [ More ]

Johnny ManzielJan 21 04:43p

Cleveland Browns QB Johnny Manziel could benefit from new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, according to Oakland Raiders QB Derek Carr. Carr said DeFilippo will do great with Manziel, adding [ More ]

Richard ShermanJan 21 04:23p

Seattle Seahawks CB Richard Sherman (elbow) said he will practice in a brace, but should not have any limitations on gameday.

Marc TrestmanJan 21 03:53p

Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman said he wants to learn the specificities of the team's offense instead of changing it. Head coach John Harbaugh said Trestman's familiarity and [ More ]

Blake BortlesJan 21 03:43p

Jacksonville Jaguars QB Blake Bortles should be able to develop under new offensive coordinator Greg Olson, according to general manager Dave Caldwell. Caldwell said Olson has the ability to [ More ]

Blake BortlesJan 21 03:13p

Jacksonville Jaguars QB Blake Bortles developed bad habits and may need to start over, in the opinion of NFL Films guru Greg Cosell.

Latavius MurrayJan 21 12:53p

Oakland Raiders RB Latavius Murray is likely to be the team's lead back in 2015, and new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave plans tailor his system to Murray's talents. Musgrave [ More ]

Peyton ManningJan 21 11:03a

Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning plans to return in 2015, pending the results of his annual physical, according to three sources The Denver Post's Woody Paige trusts. The test [ More ]

Rashad JenningsJan 21 10:23a

New York Giants RB Rashad Jennings could have a veteran running back to complement or compete with him next season. The team could possibly add a change-of-pace back and [ More ]

Trent RichardsonJan 21 09:13a

Indianapolis Colts RB Trent Richardson was suspended and deactivated for the AFC Championship Game Sunday, Jan. 18.

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2015 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group