Just as I predicted, the San Francisco 49ers are going to New Orleans for what is sure to be donned the Harbowl. A Harbowl, as defined by Webster’s, is a Super Bowl that happens to be coached by the two Harbaugh brothers.
Yeah, expect to hear a lot about that.
Where I was wrong though was in my assuming that it would be a blowout for the 49ers or that this would serve as a warm up for the Super Bowl. A dress rehearsal of sorts. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I think it’s safe to say, regardless of the fact that they lost, it’s time the media give the Atlanta Falcons more respect. They earned it on Sunday.
The Falcons were strong to start the game and got out to a 17-0 lead by the 14:54 mark of the second quarter. It was looking eerily similar to what had happened last week against the Seahawks. They were sandwiching San Francisco three and outs with scoring drives, and made it look easy. They got two touchdowns from Julio Jones, including a beautiful catch on a contested throw to the corner in which he was able to corral the ball essentially with one hand while fighting off a defender. Oh, and get both feet in bounds. You’ll be seeing it on highlight packages for quite some time I’m sure.
After that though it took a divisional round esque turn for the worse. San Francisco got it’s run game going and stopped looking the part of the shaky road team with an inexperienced quarterback. They capped the drive off the way it started by running the football. Different back for more yardage though, as LaMichael James took it 15 yards to the house. Still don’t know why it took an injury to Hunter for this guy to get playing time.
Following a Falcons three and out the Niners would go downfield for another score, this time a Vernon Davis touchdown. He clearly watched game tape from last week’s performance from Zach Miller, as he actually found ways to get just as open nearly as often. He had 3 catches for 48 yards on that drive alone. The 49ers also got a little help from the Falcons when Stephen Nicholas took a horrible penalty for unnecessary roughness to move the 49ers deep into Atlanta territory.
By halftime the score may have been in Atlanta’s favour, but momentum was not. There 17-0 lead seemingly evaporated just as quick as they had it, but still managed to go to the locker room with a 24-14 lead.
The Niners got off to a great start in the second half, scoring on their first drive with a 5 yard scamper from Frank Gore. The Falcons lead was now down to 3 and it was starting to feel like deja vu all over again in the Georgia Dome. Not to be outdone, the San Francisco defense thought it would make some plays in the victory too. Chris Culliver jumped on a throw to Roddy White and intercepted the Mattural’s pass right in the bread basket.
As good as the Niners start was in the third, it was that bad in the fourth. Crabtree would fumble the ball on a catch and run on the Falcons one yard line on a hit by Dunta Robinson. The Falcons recovered, but would end up punting on the ensuing drive. No harm no foul I suppose. The Niners with shortened position would make good on their next drive with a 9 yard touchdown run from Frank Gore, his second rushing touchdown of the day. They took a 28-24 lead with about 8:25 left to go in the fourth. More than enough time for Matt Ryan to drive downfield and get a scoring drive to regain the lead; and he almost did. The Falcons got the ball all the way to the Niners 10 yard line, but could not convert on a pass intended for Roddy White on 4th and 4. Niners ball and that was all she wrote. They got one throw off, but it wasn’t even a hail mary.
It wasn’t easy, but the Niners found a way to pull out the victory. Things looked awful grim in the early goings but this team persevered and found a way to win on the road. As much as we all want Tony Gonzalez to get a Super Bowl, fact of the matter is the Falcons do not have a Super Bowl caliber team. The Niners do, and it showed. The most encouraging sign from this victory is Vernon Davis’ play. He had more yards and touchdowns in this game than the last 7 games combined. Now for a well deserved two week break as this team’s defensive leader gets healed and this team gets prepared for the Super Bowl in New Orleans.
You can follow J.D. Burke: @JDBurkeOV