It’s unfortunate. It really, truly is unfortunate. It’s just too bad that my education isn’t extensive enough to describe the superlatives that surround this NFC Championship Game! How do you describe a game where the 49ers made the biggest comeback in NFC Championship history?
I’ll start right where the 49ers did….in a 17 point hole.
A Jim Harbaugh team wasn’t going to do this were they? They weren’t going to be in the exact same position as they were last year and come out flat and ill-prepared. Jim Harbaugh and staff cover every base. They are diligent and precise in their work. They learn from past mistakes and have no desire to repeat failures. This team had played in hostile domes, on the road and went home victorious. But, snap your fingers, and the 49ers were in that 17 point hole before the scoreboard read 2nd quarter.
It was as shocking as it was maddening, but Harbaugh Co. never deviated all that far from their original game plan. They didn’t have to either. The 49ers had three things in particular going for them. First off, they were playing the choke artist currently known as the Atlanta Falcons Then, there’s the fact that they have one of the best coaching staffs in the NFL. And, they have Colin Kaepernick.
They have that special guy behind center that many are waiting to fold. There are countless that are waiting to say, “see, I told you so.” He’s not supposed to be this good this early into his career. He’s not supposed to redefine poise under pressure with this few starts. But he is that good, and he doesn’t let pressure enter his mindset.
Experts won’t say it, but thankfully I’m not one. Colin Kaepernick played better in the NFC Championship game than he did in the game against the Packers. He was flawless. Kaepernick made the right read on every option play, and he didn’t keep the ball but one time. He fed LaMichael James and Frank Gore all game long allowing them to carve up the Falcons lackluster run defense. Kaepernick made every throw in the book. He threw with precision, with velocity, and with touch. The moment never became too big for him. The San Francisco 49ers quarterback was beyond phenomenal in throwing darts to Vernon Davis, Randy Moss, Michael Crabtree, and Delanie Walker. He incorporated every weapon he had on offense. This performance stands out in 49ers lore as one that says Kaepernick wants to stand by Montana and Young wearing a Super Bowl ring.
The 49ers won’t get to that ring without a defensive performance more reminiscent of the second half of the NFC title game. As the entire viewing world saw, the 49ers defense in the opening quarters was dreadful. The vaunted 49ers defense was dissected as if they weren’t even on the field. Matt Ryan hit anyone and everyone within the Georgia Dome that wore a Falcons jersey. In typical Vic Fangio style, he rarely blitzes. He relies on a solid pass rush from the 49ers front four and stout coverage from linebackers and defensive backs. The coverage wasn’t horrible, excluding the first Julio Jones touchdown, but the pressure was not there. Without anyone influencing Matt Ryan’s style of play, the Falcons easily hung 24 points on the 49ers in the first half alone.
Atlanta’s four possessions in the second half were a complete reversal of fortunes. Coach Fangio and staff began to bring periodic blitzes and disguise coverages that produced consecutive series of interception, fumble, punt, and end of game. These are the types of things that make this team and staff special. The overall talent of this team and the ability of Jim Harbaugh’s staff to make incredible adjustments, when needed, carry this team.
It carried them to a defensive shutout in the second half, and it will carry the 49ers right into Super Bowl XLVII.