Thursday, January 16, 2014

49ers: NFC Championship Game History

The San Francisco 49ers are about to play in their 15th NFC Championship.  Its their 3rd straight NFC Championship game, the third time they have played in 3 consecutive NFL semifinals in their history.  Of the 15 times the 49ers have made it, only twice (1981, 1997) did they make the NFC Championship without playing it in the year before or reaching it the year after.  Since the playoffs take place in the following calendar year, we'll denote each 49ers appearance by the regular season's calendar year.  ( For instance, the 49ers are about to play in the 2013NFC Championship).  The years in which the 49ers were victorious are in bold.

Dallas Cowboys 17 - SF 49ers 10
Kezar Stadium (SF)

Dallas Cowboys 14 - SF 49ers 3
Texas Stadium

SF 49ers 28 - Dallas Cowboys 27
Candlestick Park

Washington Redskins 24 - SF 49ers 21
RFK Stadium

SF 49ers 23 - Chicago Bears 0
Candlestick Park

SF 49ers 28 - Chicago Bears 3
Soldier Field

SF 49ers 30 - Los Angeles Rams 3
Candlestick Park

New York Giants 15 - SF 49ers 13
Candlestick Park

Dallas Cowboys 30 - SF 49ers 20
Candlestick Park

Dallas Cowboys 38 - SF 49ers 21
Texas Stadium

SF 49ers 38 - Dallas Cowboys 28
Candlestick Park

Green Bay Packers 23 - SF 49ers 10
Candlestick Park

New York Giants 20 - SF 49ers 17
Candlestick Park

SF 49ers 28 - Atlanta Falcons 24
Georgia Dome

SF 49ers vs Seattle Seahawks
CenturyLink Field

Random Observations:

- In our 14 previous conference championship games, we have won 6 and lost 8.  Starting with the Walsh dynasty, which is really the 49ers that I know, they've actually been 6-6.  Walsh himself was 3-1.

- From 1981 to 1997, we played in 10 of the 17 NFC Championship games.  Considering our sustained excellence over 17 years, the fact that there was a 13 year absence is quite sad.

- SF has now surpassed Dallas in having the most NFC appearances and also tied Pittsburgh with conference championship appearances with 15.

- Of the 13 previous games, we've played Dallas 6 times, more than any other team, winning only twice.

- The 49ers have hosted 9 NFC Championships, far and away the most by any team.  Dallas and Washington have each hosted 5.

- Our record at home in this game is 4-5.  (4-4 at Candlestick Park since our 1st NFC champ game was played at Kezar Stadium.)

- The 1981 game against Dallas featured Montana-Clark's "The Catch", which jump-started the Walsh dynasty.

- The sweetest NFC championship win was the 1994 game over Dallas.  It was the 3rd consecutive meeting between these rivals in the NFC Championship, with SF coming up short both times before in '93 and '92.  The 49ers also disappointingly missed the '91 playoffs (even with a 10 win season).  As for 1990....  

- The most bitter NFC championship loss was the 1990 game where our hopes of an unprecedented Superbowl 3-peat was abruptly ended by the Giants in a 2 point loss.  This was the last playoff game Montana played for the 49ers.

- The 1997 loss to GB was just about as painful because the Packers had ended our postseason 3 consecutive years ('95, '96, '97 - which is clearly why TO's '98 "The Catch II" to beat the Packers was so cathartic).  If anyone was writing the storybook properly, we were supposed to finally prevail in 1997 (or at least in '98) and win the SB, just as the '94 49ers defeated the Cowboys on the 3rd try.

- Our record on the road is 2-3, with victories at Soldier Field in 1988 and at the Georgia Dome last season.  We lost at Texas Stadium twice and RFK once.

- Harbaugh's 49ers came back from a 17-0 deficit to beat the Falcons last year 28-24.  He is now the only coach to advance to the NFL semifinals each of his first 3 seasons.

- Kaepernick's road record in this game is obviously 1-0.  Montana was 1-1 on the road (3-1 at home).  Young was 0-1 on the road, (1-3 at home).

- This is only the 2nd time that the 49ers will play a fellow NFC West opponent.  In the '89 season, we pounded the Rams 30-3.

- This will be only Seattle's 2nd NFC Championship game.  They won their only visit in the 2005 season 34-14 over the Panthers.  Of course, they lost to Big Ben's Steelers in the Superbowl.

After we were punished by the Colts in Week 3, I was already resigned to the tall task of having to beat the Seahawks in Seattle to get back to the Superbowl.  Given Seattle's cake schedule and the feeling that our window closed when Kaepernick's pass sailed over Crabtree's head on 4th down vs the Ravens, I should probably be ecstatic that we're back in the NFC Championship.

Seeing as we haven't been able to get within 3 touchdowns in our last two games there, it is a frightening prospect anyway you look at it.  However, there is a glimmer of hope, since Arizona beat them in Week 16 and their offense has been off for the past few games.  (Wilson only completed 9 passes for 103 yards last week.)  As for the 9ers, they've emerged unscathed and as the most balanced team from the gauntlet of a -10 degree wind chill weather in Lambeau and a tough D in Carolina.

But clearly, this will be the toughest test.  For the 9ers to win, Willis/Bowman/Brooks need to contain Lynch (which the 49ers haven't proven they can do) and pressure Russell with just our 4 man front.  On offense, no turnovers can be allowed and Gore needs to at least have an effective day.  I can't actually make an objective prediction due to my intense hatred of the Seagulls, so here's hoping we get an early turnover or two and jump out to a 17 point lead.  We'll finish off the clock with a heavy dosage of Gore/Hunter and win 31-17.

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