As a late Atlanta Falcons drive fell short on fourth-and-4 deep in San Francisco territory, the 49ers knew they were probably heading to the Superdome in New Orleans. The thought was set in stone as one last ditch effort from Matt Ryan failed to end the game.
After jumping to a quick 17-0 lead in the first half, the Falcons had the home crowd cheering for both the offense and the defense. Indeed, the 49ers had trouble doing anything on either side of the ball to start the contest.
However, San Francisco rapidly gathered momentum in the second quarter, scoring 14 straight points to bring them within a field goal of Atlanta.
With just under two minutes to go, Matt Ryan led his offense down the stretch of the field with ease, ending the drive with a touchdown pass to secure a 10-point half-time lead.
The second half was a completely different story. Colin Kaepernick, Frank Gore, and the 49ers offense surged down the field on their opening possession, coming within just three points once again on a 5-yard run past the goal-line by Gore.
The Falcons didn’t have an answer. They did manage to drive into San Francisco territory twice in a row. Turnovers became an issue though, as an interception and fumble ended any promising drives the Falcons were able to muster.
In the middle of the fourth quarter, it was Frank Gore’s ten yard burst into the end zone that gave the 49ers the lead they had been slowly grinding towards the entire second half.
It came after the previous 49ers drive ended with a Michael Crabtree fumble on the Atlanta 1 yard line. He had his resilient defense to thank for forcing the following Atlanta punt from their own end zone.
Matt Ryan finished the game with 396 yards passing and three touchdowns, going 30-for-42 in his attempts. He had just one interception. 11 of those receptions, 182 yards, and two touchdowns went to Julio Jones, the leading receiver of the day.
Gore’s 90 yards and two touchdowns led the San Fran ground game to a 49ers victory. That, as well as the defense completely shutting down the Atlanta offense during the second half.
One team had to end up staying home for the Super Bowl. It ended up being the Falcons this year in the NFC Conference Title game.
Out of Atlanta, and on to the Superdome.