During the NFC Championship Game, the Atlanta Falcons dominated early by taking a 17-0 lead. The 49ers finally got on the scoreboard with a 15-yard touchdown run by running back LaMichael James and then followed that up with a 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Vernon Davis, bringing them to within 3. However, the Falcons struck again with a 10-yard touchdown pass to tight end Tony Gonzalez at the end of the first half to take a 24-14 lead.
The 49ers opened the second half with a 7 play, 82-yard drive that ended with a 5-yard touchdown run by running back Frank Gore to narrow the score to 24-21. With 7:38 left in the third quarter, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was picked off by 49ers corner Chris Culliver. However, struggling kicker David Akers was unable to connect on a 38-yard field goal that would have tied the game for the 49ers on the following drive.
At the end of the third quarter, Matt Ryan fumbled the ball and linebacker Aldon Smith recovered it for San Francisco. On the following drive, early in the fourth quarter, Michael Crabtree fumbled the ball at the Falcons' 1-yard line, just inches from a touchdown. Atlanta recovered the ball but were forced to punt after a three-and-out. On the following drive, the 49ers scored on a 9-yard Frank Gore touchdown run with 8:23 left in the game, taking a 28-24 lead. It was the 49ers' first lead of the game.
The Atlanta Falcons then drove down the field, but were unable to score and turned the ball over with a 1:09 left in the game, preserving the 49ers' victory and earning a trip to Super Bowl XLVII.
Colin Kaepernick ended the game with 233 passing yards and a touchdown. Frank Gore finished with 90 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Vernon Davis had 106 receiving yards on five catches and a touchdown. Michael Crabtree, who has been on a hot streak since Kaepernick has taken over at quarterback, finished the game with six catches for 57 yards.
During the playoffs, the 49ers have been inconsistent on the defensive side of the ball, playing badly in the first half but then coming up big in the second half. Against the Packers, the defense allowed 14 first half points (the 49ers allowed 21 -- one was an interception returned for a touchdown), and then allowed 10 second half points. However, seven of those ten happened with 2:37 left in the game when the matchup was already decided, so really, it was only three. Against the Falcons, the 49ers defense allowed 24 first half points. During the second half, Atlanta was held scoreless.
During the regular season against the New England Patriots, the 49ers defense allowed only three first half points. In the second half, the Patriots would go on to score 31, nearly coming back to win the game. Before that game, the 49ers were allowing about 14 points-per-game. Including this game and since, the 49ers are allowing almost 29 points-per-game.
In New Orleans, the 49ers will face a tough and motivated Ravens defense so they will need to play their most complete game of the year. The 49ers are not getting to the quarterback like a championship team should and allowed Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan to throw for 653 combined yards. Joe Flacco is playing like it is a contract year (it is) so the pass rush will need to improve. Dashon Goldson will need to focus more on preventing big passing plays and helping the corners in coverage rather than trying to make a big play himself.
Super Bowl Storylines
The media is having a lot of fun coming up with nicknames for this one. The best, by far, has to be "Harbowl." It is the first time siblings have coached against each other in the Super Bowl. However, this is actually Harbowl II. The two brothers faced each other last season on Thanksgiving night in Baltimore. Older brother John won that matchup 16-6. It was a short week (Thursday Night Football) and the 49ers had to travel across the country to play the game. Leading up to the game, Jim Harbaugh voiced his displeasure with that situation. This time, Jim has a full two weeks to better prepare for his brother.
The Harbaugh brothers have been deflecting the attention on themselves and are unwilling to play along with the national media. Instead, the two say that the focus should be on the players, not them.
"I really hope the focus is not so much on that. We get it, it's really cool and it's exciting and all that. But it's really about the team, about the players, about the guys you're talking about," said John Harbaugh.
"I think it is a blessing and a curse. A blessing because that is my brother's team. The curse part would be the talk of two brothers playing in the Super Bowl and what that takes away from the players that are in the game. They are the ones that have the most to do with it and they're the ones that we should be talking about," said Jim.
Ray Lewis' final game
A lot has been made of Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis' final playoff run. He announced his retirement plans the week prior to they team's Wildcard playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts. Since then, the Ravens have been playing some inspiring football. The 2012 Ravens have been called a team of destiny, using the magic of Lewis' last ride to upset both the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots on their way to Super Bowl XLVII. Lewis is the heart of the Ravens defense and is beloved by fans in Baltimore. Ending his career with another championship would just add to his football legacy.
A tale of two quarterbacks
Colin Kaepernick is the young gun in town and represents an evolution in NFL quarterbacks. He is dynamic, exciting, and a matchup nightmare. The most fascinating thing about Kaepernick is how he got here. Super Bowl XLVII will be his tenth NFL start. During week 10, he replaced quarterback Alex Smith, who suffered a concussion. Jim Harbaugh never looked back after that. Because Smith was already playing at such a high level, it was a controversial decision and the media attacked Harbaugh for making it. After all, Smith had completed 25 of his last 27 passes prior to the injury. However, after this playoff run, no one is doubting the decision now and as a January cover of Sports Illustrated magazine said, "HOLY... SHOUT IT FROM THE MOUNTAINTOP, JIM -- YOU WERE DEAD ON ABOUT COLIN KAEPERNICK."
Joe Flacco is trying to prove that he is an elite quarterback. Some of the media is not buying it just yet. Flacco has said that he always thought about being a Super Bowl quarterback, and here is -- finally in the biggest game in sports. He will become a free agent after the Super Bowl and winning a championship for Baltimore would certainly increase his value. John Harbaugh was always on board with Flacco this season. "Pay him whatever he wants," Harbaugh said after the Ravens 44-13 regular season win against the Cincinnati Bengals during week 1. "Pay the man."
Randy Moss' return
On February 3, 2008, Randy Moss thought he caught the game winning touchdown in Super Bowl XLII with 2:42 left in the game. That was until New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning engineered a comeback to seal a Giants 17-14 victory. After signing a one-year deal with the 49ers during the offseason, a Las Vegas favorite to win it all, Moss is back in the Super Bowl and hopes this time, he is able to walk away with a championship.
The punishing ground games
49ers running back Frank Gore finished the regular season with 1,214 rushing yards on 258 attempts and 8 touchdowns. That is 4.7 yards-per-attempt. During the postseason, he has rushed for 209 yards on 44 attempts, staying consistent at 4.8 yards-per-attempt.
Ravens running back Ray Rice finished the regular season with 1,143 rushing yards on 257 attempts and 9 touchdowns. That is 4.4 yards-per-attempt. During the postseason, he has rushed for 247 yards on 64 attempts. That is 3.9 yards-per-attempt.
They are two premiere NFL running backs and watching them face off against tough defenses should be very entertaining. However, it is not just the starters that make up this storyline. Backup 49ers running back LaMichael James, a rookie, is averaging 6.9 yards-per-attempt and Ravens running back Bernard Pierce, also a rookie, is averaging 6.3 yards-per-attempt in the postseason.
Did You Know?
- The Ravens lead the all-time series against the 49ers 3-1. The last time the 49ers beat the Ravens was during the 1996 season.
- Ray Lewis' first career sack of his 17-year career was on then Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jim Harbaugh in 1996.
- In 1998, Jim Harbaugh became the starting quarterback of the Baltimore Ravens.
- During the 1998 season, quarterback Jim Harbaugh and linebacker Ray Lewis, both on the Ravens, faced off against an explosive rookie wide receiver named Randy Moss, who then played for the Minnesota Vikings and now plays for the 49ers.
- The 49ers are the only undefeated Super Bowl team with more than two appearances and can tie the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most Super Bowl victories with six.
- No kicker missed more field goals during the 2012 season than 49ers kicker David Akers. In the NFC Championship game, he missed a 38-yarder against the Falcons.
From Fan to Webmaster and Now Back to Fan
While this site has been around for over 15 years, I started this site well after the 49ers' last Super Bowl appearance. I have been a fan for a very long time. At times, I have to switch out of fan mode and be a webmaster for the site, often missing out on a lot of great fan moments. For example, I just re-watched the NFC Championship game last night. Why? Because during the game, I was busy doing site updates, updating our Facebook fan page, and many other general site related functions. I didn't really get to enjoy it as much as I could have. Although, toward the end, I left my desk and was just standing around biting my fists in the final minutes of the game.
So this is a warning to all of you. After waiting for 18 years for our return to the top, I am going to savor every minute of the Super Bowl. While our forums will be as active as ever, site updates will be scarce during the Super Bowl. I was 16 years old the last time the 49ers were in the Super Bowl, watching it with my dad, a huge 49ers fan himself, and having that magical season kick my fandom into overdrive. I want to watch this as if I were a kid again and just enjoy each and every moment. Updates will come following the Super Bowl, but during the game itself -- it will be all about being a fan again and less about being work.
There were no tears of joy shed for my 49ers after their NFC Championship Game win. We still have work to do boys and girls. Celebrate when the job is done! GO NINERS!!!"