Before the NFC Championship Game, former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo referred to the upcoming game as “just a warm up.” As it turned out, he was eerily correct. The 49ers took a quarter to warm up, while the Falcons cruised to a 17-0 lead, then walloped them 28-7 over the final three quarters, pitching a shutout in the second half.
However, for us poor schlubs out here kneeling in the pews, this game was anything but a piece of cake. In fact, one more completed pass from Falcon QB Matt Ryan and we would all be eating a turd sandwich, not cake.
But, he didn’t. And, we aren’t. AND THE SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS ARE GOING TO THEIR SIXTH SUPER BOWL!
A few hours after the game, the “other” Harbaugh put a smiley face on the entire day by sweeping the POS Patriots off the stage and sparing the nation another year of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick overkill. No, this year we will hear way too much about Jack Harbaugh and his sons. Hey, anything that eats into the media face time of Baltimore’s nauseating, overrated, preening LB is fine by me.
From the get-go, Sunday’s game just felt like one the 49ers were destined to lose. After digging a 17-0 hole, the offense finally got going and methodically chewed up the Falcons for the rest of the game. After pulling within three at 24-21 early in the third quarter, however, destiny laughed in our faces not once, but twice.
The first occurred after Chris Culliver intercepted Ryan for what looked like a game changing turnover. The Niners drove into Falcon territory and on a critical third down, it was practice squad call up Chad Hall who was targeted while number one draft pick AJ Jenkins stood on the sideline. A ringing endorsement of just how useless Jenkins has been this year and just how little the 49ers think of him at this point in the season.
The pass was incomplete and beleaguered kicker David Akers then boinked the tying field goal off the left upright. Ryan then drove down the field again, only to fumble away the ball, giving the Niners yet another chance to finally take the lead.
This time, Michael Crabtree, who had a quiet game while Vernon Davis once again was a playoff star, fumbled the ball at the goal line and that creepy not-our-day feeling gained serious momentum. The team forced a three and out, though, and finally, with eight and a half minutes left in the game, Frank Gore roared into the end zone for the first 49er lead of the day at 28-24.
Atlanta then chewed up almost the entire quarter, going on a seven minute drive that finally ended on fourth and four from the 49er ten yard line. As Ryan’s last pass clanked to the turf, the only thought the team and its fans seemed to have was, “Hey, wait a minute! We just won the game!”
It wasn’t as dramatic as “The Catch” game of 1981, but it had the same scenario and same impact. The offense took the lead in the fourth quarter, the defense came up with the game saving stop, and a new era of 49er championship football is finally under way. All that remains is to seal the deal two weeks from now in New Orleans.