When you have a top-notch defense and a big-play offense as the 49ers do, you have the luxury of being able to climb out of a deep hole.
It’s not an ideal way to win, especially in a game with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, but Jim Harbaugh and Colin Kaepernick will take it.
After falling behind 17-0 on the first play of the 2nd quarter, the defense and Kaepernick slowly brought the 49ers back against the Atlanta Falcons, punching the 49ers sixth ticket to the Super Bowl with a 28-24 victory in the Georgia Dome.
After a LaMichael James touchdown run with 8:14 left in the 2nd quarter, and a Kaepernick-to-Vernon Davis four-yard touchdown pass at the two-minute warning, the 49ers were on the comeback trail. But a Tony Gonzalez touchdown catch with under 30 seconds left gave the Falcons a 24-14 lead at halftime.
Since 2001, the 49ers were 1-27 in games they trailed by at least 17 in the 1st half. Kaepernick and Harbaugh spat in the face of crazy team history.
After deferring the opening kickoff, the 49ers got the ball to start the 2nd half and got right back to work, scoring in just over four minutes on a Frank Gore five-yard touchdown run to cut the Falcons lead to 24-21.
With the Falcons driving, Aldon Smith, who had been quiet over the last few games, recovered a fumble by Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan. The sputtering drive was extended by a roughing the passer penalty, but had an anti-climactic finish when Michael Crabtree had the ball ripped from his hands just before he could score.
After forcing a quick three and out inside the 10-yard line, the 49ers struck quickly as Frank Gore gave the NFC West champs their first lead of the game, 28-24 with 8:23 left in the game.
With all the chips on the table, the Falcons mounted a final drive, needing a touchdown to win. A questionable call on an Atlanta third-down conversion kept their drive alive, but the 49ers stuffed the Falcons inside the 10 yard line with just over a minute remaining. The 49ers would run out most of the clock before punting to Atlanta for their fruitless final play.
While standing on camera for a post-game interview with Fox Sports’ Erin Andrews, Kevin Willis was bear-hugged by Frank Gore, the two enjoying an impromptu celebration on camera. Willis would then tell Andrews:
“We fought all game long. It wasn’t easy by any stretch of the means. But you know what? The last two years all we’ve done is play as a team. And thank God for this day.”