Monday, January 21, 2013

49ers advance to their 6th Superbowl!

Key moments from the 2012 NFC Championship

- After being dominated the entire 1st quarter (9ers had no first downs while Falcons had no punts) and going down 17-0, SF finally responds with a 11 play, 6:46 minute, 80 yard TD drive.  It was capped off by a 15 yard LaMichael James run from a read-option handoff.  What was encouraging was that the 9ers didn't panic, but opted to hand off to Gore 4 straight times to start the drive.

- After a Falcon 3 and out (finally), the 49ers drove 91 yards for 2nd straight TD.  This drive was notable for Kaepernick's lone positive rush of the day - a 23 yard broken play scamper up the left sideline - as well as Vernon Davis' reappearance in the SF offense.  He accounted for 3 catches for 48, including the 4 yd TD reception.

- Though Atlanta scored a TD to end the half, the 49ers started the 3rd quarter with a 3rd consecutive TD drive.  7 plays, 82 yards - Randy Moss contributed with 2 catches totaling 38 yards, while Gore had 4 rushes for 24 yards and a TD.

- Next 2 Falcon possessions ended in turnovers - a Culliver interception just past midfield and a Ryan fumbled snap well inside FG territory.  Disappointingly, the 49ers squandered both ensuing scoring opportunities with a Akers missed 38 yarder and a Crabtree goalline fumble.  That's 10 points we should've had.

- However, Crabtree didn't fumble away our field position, and Atlanta's ensuing 3 and out punt coupled with Ginn's 20 yard return provided us with a short field.  6 plays and 38 yards later including Gore's 9 yard read-option run, SF had a 28-24 lead.

- Atlanta went on a 7 minute, 70 yard, 14 play march, needing a TD to win.  (On one 3rd down play, Harry Douglas brought down a pass, fell, lost control of the ball since it clearly moved after contact with the ground but was still ruled a catch even after replay.  Utterly ridiculous.) Inside 2 minutes, the last 4 downs from the SF 16 were as follows:
1) 1 yd Rodgers run stuffed by Patrick Willis on first down.
2) 5 yard pass to Snelling, tackled by Willis while Ahmad Brooks piledrove Ryan and his left shoulder into the ground causing injury.
3) Ahmad Brooks bats down a Ryan pass at the line of scrimmage intended for an open Roddy White on the right.
4) NaVorro Bowman contacts White withing 5 yards and breaks up a short pass up the middle - turnover on downs.

The 9ers defense allowed 24 points in the first half, but shut them out in the 2nd half.  This is the 2nd greatest comeback in championship game history - only behind Peyton's beautiful 18 point comeback against the Patriots in 2006.

Harbaugh's decision to go with Kaepernick has been justified simply because the 49ers have advanced further than Alex Smith was able to take us last year.  This year, we even had to play this NFC Championship on the road, against the team with the best record in the league.  Kaep's big play ability with both his feet and his arm has even made up for a comparatively less stout defense than we had last year.

Another fact of note: this is only the 49ers' 3rd playoff win on the road, ever.  We are now 3-9 all time on the road in the playoffs.
1970 Divisional Round at Minnesota 17-14
1998 NFC Championship 28-3 at Chicago 28-3
2012 NFC Championship at Atlanta 28-24

By the way, my 38-24 prediction would've been right on had we scored that FG and Crabtree fumble.  Just sayin.

Its been 18 years since the 49ers have been to the Superbowl.  We are the only team in history with more than 1 appearance to be undefeated in the biggest game.  Think about that - there is no team that is even 2-0 in the SB, while we are 5-0.  And now, the 49ers have a chance to tie for the most Superbowl wins in NFL history (Pittsburgh has won 6, but lost 2) and regain our status of greatest NFL franchise in the Superbowl era.

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