NFC Championship: 49ers 28, Falcons 24: Oh, brother, 49ers on roll

SF stuns Atlanta, eyes 6th Super Bowl title in battle of Harbaughs
2013-01-21T00:00:00Z NFC Championship: 49ers 28, Falcons 24: Oh, brother, 49ers on rollThe Associated Press The Associated Press
January 21, 2013 12:00 am  • 

ATLANTA - The clutch quarterback. The genius coach. The big-play defense. The San Francisco 49ers are ready to start a new dynasty with a familiar formula.

Next stop, the Big Easy.

Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore led San Francisco to a record comeback in the NFC championship game Sunday, overcoming an early 17-0 deficit to beat Atlanta 28-24 and send the 49ers to their first Super Bowl since 1995.

The win also sets up the first Super Bowl coached by brothers. The 49ers' Jim Harbaugh and Baltimore's John. The Ravens won the AFC title 28-13 at New England.

The 49ers have been listed as 5-point favorites in New Orleans.

Joe Montana led the 49ers to four Super Bowl wins and Steve Young took them to No. 5. It's up to Kaepernick and Co. to get No. 6.

"He just competes like a maniac all the time," said Jim Harbaugh, whose much-debated decision to bench Alex Smith at midseason now looks like the best move of the year.

Kaepernick shredded the Falcons through the air, completing 16 of 21 for 233 yards, including a 4-yard TD to Vernon Davis, and had them so worried about his running ability out of the spread option that Gore and LaMichael James had plenty of room.

Gore scored a pair of touchdowns, including the winner with 8:23 remaining for San Francisco's first lead of the day, and the 49ers defense made it stand up. A fourth-down stop at the 10-yard line denied Atlanta another stirring comeback after blowing a big lead.

"Everybody does a little," the 49ers' Harbaugh said, "and it adds up to be a lot."

He was hoppin' mad when a disputed call went against the 49ers on Atlanta's potential winning drive. He leaped and screamed at the officials and had to be restrained from charging the field. No complaints when it was over.

"We rose up there at the end," Harbaugh said.

The 49ers pulled off the biggest comeback win in an NFC championship game. The previous record was 13 points - Atlanta's victory over Minnesota in 1999, which sent the Falcons to their only Super Bowl.

San Francisco (13-4-1) will face Baltimore in two weeks, trying to join Pittsburgh as the only franchises with six Super Bowl titles.

Harbaugh is hardly cool and collected like the 49ers' first Super Bowl-winning coach, Bill Walsh, but has pulled off a similar turnaround. The 49ers had eight straight years without a winning record before Harbaugh arrived from Stanford in 2011.

"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."

Kaepernick's two scoring drives wiped out Atlanta's 24-14 halftime lead. Gore scored on a 5-yard run early in the third quarter, then sprinted in from 9 yards out for the winner in the fourth.

"Frank ran hard," Kaepernick said about Gore's 90 yards on 21 carries.

The top-seeded Falcons (14-4), in what likely was the final game for tight end Tony Gonzalez, tried to pull off another season-extending drive. But, unlike the week before against Seattle, they needed a TD and came up 10 yards short.

On fourth down, Matt Ryan attempted a pass over the middle to Roddy White, but linebacker NaVorro Bowman batted it away with 1:13 remaining.

"I've had such a great life," said Gonzalez, 36, a sure Hall of Famer. "I wish it would've culminated with the Super Bowl, but it didn't."

Ryan was 30 of 42 for 396 yards, his playoff-best. But his postseason record dropped to 1-4, done in by an interception and his fumble in the second half.

Up next

• What: Super Bowl

• Who: 49ers vs. Ravens

• Where: New Orleans

• When: 5:30 p.m. Feb. 3

• TV: Ch 13

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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