Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore led Niners to a record comeback in the NFC championship game Sunday, overcoming an early 17-0 delinquency to beat the Atlanta Falcons 28-24 and send the 49ers to their first Super Bowl since 1995.
Gore scored a pair of touchdowns, including the winner with 8:23 remaining for San Francisco’s first lead of the day, and the San Francisco 49ers defense made it stand up. A 4th-down stop at the 10-yard line denied Atlanta another stirring comeback after blowing a big lead.
”Everybody does a little,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said, ”and it adds up to be a lot.”
San Francisco (13-4-1) moves on to face Baltimore at New Orleans in 2 weeks, looking to join Pittsburgh as the sole franchises with 6 Super Bowl titles. It will be a brother-vs.-brother matchup, also, since John Harbaugh coaches the Ravens.
Joe Montana led the San Francisco 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 of the time,” related Harbaugh, whose much-debated decision to bench Alex Smith at midseason now looks like the best move of the year.
Harbaugh was hoppin’ mad when a disputed call went against the 49ers on Atlanta’s potential winning drive. He leaped in the air, screamed at the officials and needed to be restrained by his staff from charging the field.
No complaints when it was over.
”We rose up there at the end,” Harbaugh recounted.
His 2nd-year quarterback, who runs like a track star, didn’t get an opportunity to show off his touchdown party – flexing his right arm and kissing his bicep, a move that fast turned into a social media sensation known as Kaepernicking.
But he shredded the Atlanta Falcons thru the air by completing 16 of 21 for 233 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown to Vernon Davis, and had them so anxious about his running ability out of the spread option that Gore and LaMichael James had plenty of room. Baseball spreads
Gore scored two touchdowns, including the game winner with 8:23 remaining for San Francisco’s first lead of the day. Davis scored the first TD for the 49ers on a 15-yard run.
The 49ers pulled off the biggest comeback victory in an NFC championship game, the prior NFC record was 13 points – Atlanta’s victory over Minnesota in the 1999 title game, which sent the Falcons to what remains the only Super Bowl in franchise history.
The AFC championship game record is 18 points, when Indianapolis rallied past New England in 2007.
Harbaugh is hardly cool and collected like the 49ers’ first Super Bowl-winning coach, Bill Walsh, but has pulled off a similar turnaround in San Francisco. The Niners had 8 straight years without a winning record before their new coach arrived from Stanford in 2011.
He immediately led San Francisco to the cusp of the Super Bowl, losing to the eventual champ New York Giants in overtime in last year’s NFC title game, a bitter defeat at home set up by a fumbled return.
This time, the 49ers were the ones winning on the road to set up another celebration in the city by the bay, which is rapidly becoming the new Titletown USA. They’ll try and follow the lead of the baseball San Francisco Giants, who won the World Series in October.