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49ers advance to Super Bowl with dazzling comeback over Falcons

01.20.13 at 6:26 pm ET
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The San Francisco 49ers shrugged off an early 17-point deficit en route to a 28-24 victory in Atlanta to advance to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1995.

The Falcons raced to an early 17-0 lead, as quarterback Matt Ryan tore apart San Francisco’s defense, beating the Niners deep on balls to wide receiver Julio Jones (who had 100 yards receiving in the first quarter en route to an 11-catch, 182-yard, two-touchdown day) and working with tight end Tony Gonzalez (eight catches, 78 yards, touchdown) in the middle of the field.

However, after the Falcons went up by three scores on the first play of the second quarter, the 49ers started to find an offensive rhythm with running back Frank Gore and quarterback Colin Kaepernick, scoring touchdowns on three straight drives in the second and third quarters to get back into the game, narrowing the deficit to 24-21 early in the second half. Meanwhile, the Falcons offense faltered, as Ryan got picked once and fumbled on another drive; Atlanta would not score in the second half.

San Francisco finally broke through with the game-winning touchdown with 8:23 left in the fourth quarter, when Gore — who finished the day with 21 carries for 90 yards with two touchdowns — reached the end zone from nine yards out.

Now, the Niners await the winner of the Patriots-Ravens game to see who they’ll oppose in their quest to win a sixth Super Bowl. The 49ers beat the Patriots, 41-34, in Week 15 of the regular season in Foxboro, a game that saw the Patriots fall behind by 28 points in the second half before zooming back to tie the game, only to permit two late game-deciding scores. The Niners have yet to face the Ravens this year.

For a complete recap of San Francisco’s win over the Falcons, click here. For Christopher Price‘s breakdown of how the 49ers and Patriots stack up (following San Francisco’s regular season victory), click here. For comprehensive Patriots coverage, visit weei.com/patriots.

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