The San Francisco 49ers beat the Atlanta Falcons 28-24 in the NFC championship game, overcoming a huge first-half deficit and dominating the second half to advance to the sixth Super Bowl in franchise history.
We’ll have plenty more on this game and the AFC title game in the hours ahead. But here are five knee-jerk Cold, Hard Football Facts:
San Francisco weathered one hell of a storm. The 49ers were down 17-0 in the first half in front of a rocking home Falcons crowd.
Colin Kaepernick did it this week with his arm. He completed a hugely efficient 16 of 21 passes for 233 yards 1 TD and 0 INT. He ran the ball only twice, gaining a total of 21 yards.
Atlanta’s weakness running the ball and stopping the run ultimately cost it. The Falcons finished the year No. 29 in both average per rush attempt on offense (3.70 YPA) and average per rush allowed on defense (4.80 YPA). The 49ers ran the ball 26 times for 139 yards (5.35 YPA), while the Falcons countered with 19 attempts for 66 yards (3.47 YPA).
The ball is slippery when handled by Matty Ice. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan suffered two turnovers, an INT and a lost fumble. It’s hard to win in the NFL when your QB loses the ball twice in any game, let alone a playoff game. He’s committed two or more turnovers in four of five career playoff games.
Jim Harbaugh is one hell of a quarterback coach. Colin Kaepernick is the flavor of the day in the NFL, after replacing starter Alex Smith in the middle of the season. But the reality is that both were HUGELY efficient.
It’s a testament to coach Harbaugh, a former NFL quarterback, that he turned two guys that people didn’t think could play in the NFL into one hell of a deadly efficient tandem. If not for a couple muffed special teams plays last year, Harbaugh might have gone to back-to-back Super Bowls with two different quarterbacks.
Of course, would Harbaugh had the ability to have benched Smith if he had reached the Super Bowl last year?
Interesting discussion. But for now it doesn’t matter. The 49ers return to the Super Bowl for the first time in 18 years.