Instead, they raised doubts in their fans and gave critics a reason to keep doubting them by getting mauled by Atlanta in a 45 to 10 blowout.
After falling behind 14-0, the red and gold handed the ball to Glenn Coffee at the 2 yard line with 4:09 left in the first quarter as he scored his first NFL touchdown. Nedney's 39 yarder less than four minutes into the second quarter put them within four, and the fumble recovery that followed on the next Atlanta drive seemed to put them in the drivers seat.
Oh sure, they were losing by four in the second quarter, but they had the momentum. They were going to score here. The 49ers would win this thing.
Well, um, not exactly.
After a nearly perfect punt by Andy Lee that left Ryan and Co. barely breathing, the former Golden Eagle completed a 90 yard touchdown pass to Roddy White, who finished the day with eight receptions for a career high 210 yards, highlighted by the Niners stingy defense he gained it against.
The rest is history. And history that the 49ers will soon want to forget.
The Falcons went on to score a total of six touchdowns, including five in the first half, while holding San Francisco to nothing after the Nedney field goal. Matt Ryan was brilliant, throwing for 329 yards and two TD's on 22-for-32 passing and also running it in for a late score. Niners starter Shaun Hill, however, was anything but brilliant as he struggled to find rhythm while only throwing for 198 yards on 15-for-38 passing and getting sacked three times.
Safety Michael Lewis left the game with a concussion in the third quarter.