49ers rally past Atlanta to punch Super Bowl ticket

Sun Jan 20, 2013 6:46pm EST
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By Simon Evans

ATLANTA (Reuters) - The San Francisco 49ers rallied from a 17-0 deficit to beat the top-seeded Atlanta Falcons 28-24 on Sunday and book their first trip to the Super Bowl in 18 years.

Running back Frank Gore scored two unanswered second half touchdowns as the 49ers, who came up one win short of reaching last year's Super Bowl, took command of the NFC Championship game after a dreadful start.

The 49ers will play the winner of Sunday's AFC Championship, between the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens, in the National Football League's title game on February 3.

The victory was a record comeback for a team in an NFC Championship game.

Atlanta dominated at the outset with quarterback Matt Ryan leading an 80-yard drive that culminated in a 46-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Julio Jones.

After a 35-yard Matt Bryant field goal for Atlanta, the San Francisco defense was clearly struggling as Ryan and Jones again combined to deadly effect -- the receiver showing outstanding agility to grab a 20-yard touchdown pass deep in the left corner as the Falcons built a 17-0 lead.

The 49ers finally responded with LaMichael James slicing his way 15 yards through the Falcons defense to reduce the deficit to 10 points midway through the second quarter.

Suddenly San Francisco's offense was alive, with Colin Kaepernick starting to look like the mobile quarterback who tore apart the Green Bay Packers last week and turning to recently under-used tight end Vernon Davis.   Continued...

San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore (R) scores a touchdown past Atlanta Falcons strong safety William Moore (25) during the fourth quarter in the NFL NFC Championship football game in Atlanta, Georgia January 20, 2013. REUTERS/Chris Keane