The San Francisco 49ers are moving on to the Super Bowl after battling out a tough victory over the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship game 28-24. It will be the first time the 49ers will take the field in a Super Bowl game since 1995. And they most certainly had to earn their way this time. After falling behind 17-0 against the Falcons, they fought and clawed their way to the win, shutting Atlanta out in the second half.
Again the success of the team was dictated by the efforts of running back Frank Gore. He carried the ball 21 times for 90 yards and two touchdowns in the win. As a team the 49ers rushed a total of 29 times for 149 yards. Proving once again that their running game is the catalyst that drives this team. It is the very reason the option offense and the play action that they employ is so successful. It allows for big plays by quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers pass catchers.
Speaking of Kaepernick, though he did not have huge rushing yards as he did against Green Bay, he was as efficient as ever, completing 16 of 21 passes for 224 yards and one touchdown, while only running the ball twice for 21 yards. The offensive scheme as well as Kaepernick unveiled a new page in the option game plan, utilizing a play action pass that kept the Falcons defense in a constant state of confusion in the second half.
Thanks to the play action pass design they implemented in the second half, a seldom seen face in the offense reemerged to strike a heavy blow to the Falcons. Tight end Vernon Davis had a huge game, catching five balls for 106 yards and one touchdown. It was obvious that the Falcons had made him to be a forgotten man in the offense, and it turned out to burn them in the end. Wide receiver Michael Crabtree was also busy in the offensive scheme as he caught six balls for 57 yards as well.
After being down 24-14 at the half, the 49ers defense took command of the game. Intercepting a pass, recovering a fumble, delivering a crushing blow to quarterback Matt Ryan that injured his shoulder, and forcing a turnover on downs after the Falcons failed to convert on fourth down in the red zone. Not only that, but they also nearly eliminated the Falcons rushing game, their tandem running back attack of Jacquizz Rodgers and Michael Turner combined for only 18 carries and only 62 yards.
The 49ers knew the trio of Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Tony Gonzalez were going to have a major presence in the game, and they did for the first two quarters, seemingly picking the 49ers secondary apart. But the second half was a different story, the 49ers defense knocked down a lot of passes to those recipients, that probably could have been game changers. In the losing effort Jones had 11 receptions for 182 yards and two touchdowns. White had seven receptions for 100 yards. And Gonzalez had eight receptions for 78 yards and one touchdown. Unfortunately for football fans, it looks like it might be the end of the road for tight end Gonzalez, he has maintained that this will be his last year in the NFL all season. And he again confirmed his retirement again after the game. He will not doubt be inducted into the Hall of Fame with his first opportunity.
Super Bowl Sunday in two weeks will pit the 49ers against the Baltimore Ravens, that will no doubt be dubbed the Harbaugh Bowl, as it is the first time two head coaching brothers face off against each other in the Super Bowl.
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