January 21, 2013

NFC championship: 49ers rebound to beat Falcons

The victory is sweet redemption for San Francisco, who lost last year's NFC title game in overtime.

The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, center, celebrates with linemen Leonard Davis, left, and Daniel Kilgore after leading the 49ers to a 28-24 win over the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC championship game. The 49ers are headed to the Super Bowl for the first time in 18 years.

The Associated Press

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Atlanta Falcons' Tony Gonzalez (88) is congratulated by Michael Palmer after his 10-yard touchdown catch during the first half of the NFL football NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers Sunday.

The Associated Press

“We didn’t make the plays when we had the opportunity,” Falcons Coach Mike Smith said. “There were five or six plays, like in most hard-fought games, that make a difference. There were ebbs and flows and changes in momentum, and they made more plays than we did.”

Kaepernick, who ran for 181 yards against the Packers to set an NFL playoff record for a quarterback, didn’t have much chance to use his legs against the Falcons. He broke off a 23-yard gain, but was thrown for a 2-yard loss the only other time he carried the ball.

But Kaepernick showed he’s more than a runner, shredding the Falcons for 233 yards passing on a 16-of-21 day. His favorite receiver was Davis, who hauled in five passes for 106 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown.

Gore carried 21 times for 90 yards, while James added 34 yards on five carries.

Ryan finished 30 of 42 for 396 yards, by far the best performance of his playoff career. But his postseason record dropped to 1-4, and he was done in by two big miscues – an interception and a fumble – in the second half.

Julio Jones was Ryan’s favorite receiver most of the day, finishing with 11 catches for 182 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He hauled in a 46-yarder less than 4 minutes into the game, then made a dazzling grab in the left corner of the end zone for a 20-yard score.

Ryan threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Gonzalez with 25 seconds remaining in the first half after the 49ers had cut the deficit to 17-14. It seemed the home team had reclaimed the momentum heading to the locker room, but that would be its final score of the day.

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