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Shutdown Corner

San Francisco takes its first lead with 8:23 left in the NFC title game as Atlanta blows another big chance

Doug Farrar
Shutdown Corner

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For the second straight week, the Atlanta Falcons have blown a considerable playoff lead. Now, we'll see if they can do what they did against the Seattle Seahawks last Sunday. After going up 20-0 at the half, the Falcons allowed Seattle to storm back in the divisional round before ultimately losing, 30-28, on Matt Bryant's last-second field goal. Against the 49ers in the conference championship, the Falcons had a 17-0 lead before LaMichael James started the San Francisco scoring process with a 15-yard touchdown run with 8:14 left in the first half.

With 8:27 left in the game, Frank Gore went into the end zone to put the 49ers up, 28-24, finishing a 4-1 touchdown run in San Francisco's favor. The Falcons could be even more in the hole after two Atlanta turnovers, but the 49ers couldn't take advantage. Matt Ryan threw a pick to Chris Culliver with 7:46 left in the third quarter, but kicker David Akers missed a 38-yard field goal on the subsequent drive. Next time the Falcons got the ball, Ryan fumbled, and defensive end Aldon Smith recovered. The 49ers drove the ball down from their own 37-yard line, but Colin Kaepernick threw to receiver Michael Crabtree from the Atlanta five-yard line, and Crabtree fumbled the ball from inside the one-yard line.

If the Falcons can't overcome this second-half collapse, the questions will come thick and fast for head coach Mike Smith and the entire Atlanta team.

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