Another riveting game is in the books, and we have our first Super Bowl team: the San Francisco 49ers will fight for the ring in New Orleans in just two weeks.
The Atlanta Falcons managed to dominate the first half through the air. Matt Ryan barely felt any pressure, while Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and Julio Jones routinely beat their defenders one-on-one. The result was 24 points scored in the first half, with an impressive two-minute drive ending with a touchdown to close out the first half. Meanwhile, the 49ers weren't bad on offense: they scored two touchdowns and beat the Falcons in the intermediate area, but they simply couldn't keep up with Atlanta's high-scoring offense.
Of course, as we've come to know the Falcons, they started to slow down in the second half and allowed the 49ers to come back. The Falcons didn't score a single point in the third quarter, while the 49ers pulled to within three points and would have tied the game had David Akers not missed a chip shot field goal. The fourth quarter rolled around, and a series of fumbles eventually saw the 49ers come up with a 28-24 lead. That lead held until just outside the two minute warning, when the Falcons got the ball and the chance to win the game.
We'd seen this story before. The Falcons had done in the Seattle Seahawks with just 30 seconds remaining? Could the San Francisco 49ers hold on, or would Matt Ryan come up with another brilliant two-minute drive? Could he finally get the Falcons to the Super Bowl?
Not this time. On fourth-and-four inside the red zone, Matt Ryan could not connect with Roddy White. As the ball fell to the turf, the 49ers just had to run out the clock with just under two minutes remaining to go to the Super Bowl. And so they did, giving the ball back to Atlanta with just six seconds remaining. It wasn't enough. San Francisco goes to the Super Bowl once again.