By David Purdum
ATLANTA -- The San Francisco 49ers are headed to the Super Bowl for the first time in 18 years. All it took was the biggest comeback win in NFC Championship Game history. Frank Gore
scored two touchdowns, helping the 49ers overcome an early 17-0 deficit and beat the Atlanta Falcons
28-24 Sunday at the Georgia Dome.
The 49ers now await the winner of the Baltimore-New England game to see who they will play in Super Bowl XLVII.
The 49ers trailed the entire game until Gore's 9-yard touchdown run gave San Francisco its first lead with 8:23 to play.
The Falcons drove to the San Francisco 10-yard line on their ensuing drive, but Ryan's pass over the middle to Roddy White on fourth down with 1:25 to play was broken up by Navorro Bowman.
Just like in last week's win over Seattle, the Falcons jumped out quickly. Ryan threw touchdown passes of 46 and 20 yards to Julio Jones
, and Matt Bryant made a 35-yard field goal to put Atlanta up 17-0 early in the second quarter.
Ryan completed 18 of 24 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns in the first half. Jones had seven catches for 135 yards and two scores.
The Falcons had 182 yards in the first quarter. The 49ers had minus-2.
But just like last week, the Falcons couldn't hold the lead.
The 49ers scored twice in the second quarter to cut the Falcons' lead to 17-14. First, LaMichael James scored on a 15-yard run. Colin Kaepernick tossed a 4-yard touchdown to Vernon Davis to narrow the gap.
Davis had a big game with five catches and for 106 yards.
But Atlanta answered right before the half, with Ryan capping a seven-play, 80-yard drive with 10-yard completion to Tony Gonzalez to extend the lead to 24-14.
The 49ers scored on their opening possession of the second half, marching 82 yards on seven plays with Gore going in from the five-yard line to trim the Falcons' lead to 24-21.
Ryan turned the ball over twice in the third quarter, once on Chris Culliver's interception and the other on a mishandled snap. But the 49ers failed to capitalize on either turnover.
The 49ers looked poised to take their first lead of the game early in the fourth quarter, but Dunta Robinson stripped Michael Crabtree at the goal line and Stephen Nicholas recovered.
The Falcons had owned the previous largest comeback in an NFC Championship Game, when they rallied from 13 down to beat the Minnesota Vikings in 1999.
Notes: This was the first time the Falcons had hosted an NFC Championship Game. ... 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh is the eighth coach in NFL history to reach the conference or league championship game in each of first two seasons. ... Falcons RB Michael Turner injured his ankle in the third quarter. ... David Akers missed his 14th field goal of the season in the third quarter, the most of any kicker in the NFL this season. ... The Falcons, who set a record for fewest penalties in the regular season, committed two personal fouls against the 49ers.
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