After that, the 49ers all but knew they were probably heading to the Superdome in New Orleans. The thought was set in stone as one last ditch effort from Ryan failed to end the game, a pass to Julio Jones down to San Francisco's 35 as time expired.
After jumping to a quick 17-0 lead in the first half, the Falcons had the home crowd cheering for both the offense and the defense. Indeed, the 49ers had trouble doing anything on either side of the ball to start the contest, going three-and-out on both of their possessions in the first quarter.
However, San Francisco rapidly gathered momentum in the second quarter, scoring 14 straight points to bring them within a field goal of Atlanta.
With just under two minutes to go in the half, Ryan led his offense down the stretch of the field with ease, ending the drive with a touchdown pass to Tony Gonzalez to secure a 10-point half-time lead.
It was a tale of two halves, as Colin Kaepernick, Frank Gore, and the 49ers offense surged down the field on their opening possession, coming within just three points once again on a 5-yard touchdown run by Gore.
The Falcons didn’t have an answer. They did manage to drive into San Francisco territory twice in a row. Turnovers became an issue though, as an interception and fumble by Ryan ended any promising drives the Falcons were able to muster.
In the middle of the fourth quarter, it was Frank Gore’s nine-yard burst into the end zone that gave the 49ers the lead they had been slowly grinding towards the entire second half.
It came after the previous 49ers drive ended with a Michael Crabtree fumble on the Atlanta 1-yard line. He was redeemed when his resilient defense forced following Atlanta punt from their own end zone. Matt Bosher's punt only netted 28 yards after a Ted Ginn return and the 49ers marched the remaining 38 yards for the game-winning score.
Matt Ryan finished the game with 396 yards passing and three touchdowns, going 30-for-42 in his attempts. He had just one interception. 11 of those receptions, 182 yards, and two touchdowns went to Julio Jones, the leading receiver of the day, while White almost logged a 100-yard effort.
Gore’s 90 yards and two touchdowns led the San Fran ground game that averaged over 5 yards per carry in a 49ers victory. That, coupled with the 49ers' shutting down the Atlanta offense during the second half, was enough for victory.
One team had to end up staying home for the Super Bowl. It ended up being the Falcons after their 28-14 loss in the NFC Conference Title Game.
Out of Atlanta and on to the Superdome.