Atlanta • The clutch quarterback. The genius coach. The big-play defense.
The San Francisco 49ers are ready to start a new dynasty with a familiar formula.
Next stop, the Big Easy.
Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore led San Francisco to a record comeback in the NFC championship game Sunday, overcoming an early 17-0 deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons 28-24 and send the 49ers to their first Super Bowl since 1995.
Gore scored a pair of touchdowns, including the winner with 8:23 remaining for San Francisco’s first lead of the day, and the 49ers defense made it stand up. A fourth-down stop at the 10-yard line denied Atlanta another stirring comeback after blowing a big lead.
"Everybody does a little," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said, "and it adds up to be a lot."
San Francisco (13-4-1) moves on to face Baltimore at New Orleans in two weeks, looking to join Pittsburgh as the only franchises with six Super Bowl titles. It’ll be a brother-vs.-brother matchup, too, since John Harbaugh coaches the Ravens.
Joe Montana led the 49ers to four Super Bowl wins and Steve Young took them to No. 5. It’s up to Kaepernick and Co. to get No. 6.
"He just competes like a maniac all the time," said Harbaugh, whose much-debated decision to bench Alex Smith at midseason now looks like the best move of the year. "It’s always the same when I’m looking in through the facemask."
The second-year quarterback, who runs like a track star, didn’t get a chance to show off his touchdown celebration — flexing his right arm and kissing his bicep, a move that quickly became a social media sensation known as Kaepernicking.
But he shredded the Falcons through the air by completing 16-for-21 for 233 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown to Vernon Davis, and had them so worried about his running ability out of the spread option that Gore and LaMichael James had plenty of room.
Gore scored a pair of touchdowns, including the game winner with 8:23 remaining for San Francisco’s first lead of the day. Davis scored the first TD for the 49ers on a 15-yard run.
The 49ers pulled off the biggest comeback victory in an NFC championship game, according to STATS.
Kaepernick guided San Francisco on a pair of second-half scoring drives that wiped out Atlanta’s 24-14 lead at the break.
Gore scored on a 5-yard run early in the third quarter, then sprinted in from 9 yards out for the winning score with 8:23 remaining after each team made crucial mistakes to ruin potential scoring drives.
The top-seeded Falcons (14-4), in what appeared to be the final game for Hall of Famer-to-be Tony Gonzalez, tried to pull off another season-extending drive. But, unlike the week before against Seattle, they needed a touchdown this time.
They came up 10 yards short. On fourth down, Matt Ryan attempted a pass over the middle to Roddy White that would have been enough to keep the drive going. But linebacker NaVorro Bowman stuck a hand in to knock it away with 1:13 remaining.
Copyright 2013 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.