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Falcons come up short, 49ers head to Super Bowl

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman — Tony Gonzalez walks off the field following the Falcons' loss to the 49ers on Sunday at the Georgia Dome. Gonzalez said he will retire at the end of the season.

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman — Tony Gonzalez walks off the field following the Falcons' loss to the 49ers on Sunday at the Georgia Dome. Gonzalez said he will retire at the end of the season.

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San Francisco's Frank Gore (21) runs in for the game-winning touchdown on Sunday at the Georgia Dome.

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Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White (84) makes a catch over San Francisco's Dashon Goldson during the first half of Sunday's game.

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Atlanta's Sean Weatherspoon (56) hugs Dunta Robinson following the Falcons' loss to San Francisco on Sunday at the Georgia Dome.

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Atlanta Falcons' Julio Jones pulls in a touchdown pass over San Francisco 49ers' Terell Brown (25) during the first half of Sunday's game.

ATLANTA — The Falcons blew another postseason lead, and this time they were unable to pull out a win in Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez's last chance to reach the Super Bowl.

Matt Ryan passed for 396 yards and three touchdowns, but the Falcons were shut out in the second half of their 28-24 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship game Sunday.

"I'm not going to cry about it," Gonzalez said after his 16th NFL season. "I walk away with the satisfaction I left everything, absolutely everything, every time I was on the field.

"I wish it would have culminated with the Super Bowl, but it didn't."

The 36-year-old Gonzalez still has a 13th Pro Bowl to play in, but after spending the season saying he was 95 percent certain he'll retire after the season, he sounded like he's now at 100 percent.

The Falcons led 17-0 in the first half and 24-21 entering the fourth quarter. Frank Gore's second touchdown run midway through the final quarter gave San Francisco its first lead.

Ryan and the Falcons were left 10 yards short of their chance for a second straight last-minute comeback of the postseason. The quarterback led the Falcons from the Atlanta 20 to the 49ers 10. On fourth-and-4 from the 10, Ryan's pass over the middle for Roddy White was deflected by linebacker NaVorro Bowman.

"On fourth down we tried to make something happen and we just couldn't get it done," Ryan said. "We fell a little short. I thought everybody battled real hard, we just didn't make enough plays to get it done."

It was the second straight week the Falcons blew a big lead. They led Seattle 20-0 in the first half of last week's divisional playoff game, but needed a late field goal by Matt Bryant for a 30-28 win. The field goal was set up by Ryan's two clutch passes.

This time, Ryan, Gonzalez and the Falcons came up short in the fourth quarter.

Gonzalez had eight catches for 72 yards including a 10-yard touchdown reception with 25 seconds remaining in the first half. The Falcons didn't score again.

Gonzalez wasn't the only Atlanta player wondering if he would come so close to the Super Bowl. Center Todd McClure, 35, and defensive end John Abraham, 34, each said he plans to play at least one more season. Even so, they were hit hard by the loss.

McClure had to stop and gather his emotions during his postgame comments.

"It's really tough," McClure said. "You play your whole career to get in this situation and to come up short, it's tough."

Asked how he felt, Abraham said "It's a feeling I can't comprehend and can't even speak about because I thought I was going to go on."

"No one in this locker room has any vacation plans because we all thought we were going to the Super Bowl," Abraham said. "You don't get many chances in life to get something you want so bad and to have it taken away from you, it hurts. You never know when you'll get the chance again."

The Falcons had one last chance, taking the ball on their 41 with 6 seconds remaining. Ryan completed a pass to Julio Jones at the 49ers 35 as the game ended.

Ryan said the last pass was intended to be the start of a razzle-dazzle, last-gasp attempt at a big play.

"It was one of those where we toss it all around," Ryan said, adding the play wasn't executed properly.

Ryan took a hit on his left shoulder during the game but said it was "good enough to go" late in the game.

The Falcons (14-4) were denied their second Super Bowl appearance. They lost to Denver in the Super Bowl following the 1998 season.

Despite all the passing yards Ryan was hurt by two turnovers — an interception and a lost fumble on a shotgun snap. Penalties didn't help, either.

The Falcons set NFL record lows for a 16-game schedule with 55 penalties for 415 yards, but coach Mike Smith bemoaned two personal fouls against his team. Linebacker Stephen Nicholas was called for unnecessary roughness in the first half.

A more crucial call came late in the third quarter when defensive end Cliff Matthews hit 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's helmet. If not for the roughing the passer penalty, the Falcons would have had a third-down stop.

"I asked and it was explained to me as forcible contact to the quarterback on the third down that would have gotten us off the field," Smith said. "By rule if it's forcible, it is a penalty. If it's a grazing blow, it's not a penalty."

Comments

kevin 1 year, 2 months ago

Tony G is the only guy I feel sorry for. He deserved a win for his loyalty. What a great man he is. More morals and character than everyone else. The face on the owner of the falcons after Ryan failed on 4h & 4 (1:09 left) must have spoken a thousand words. Rise up Falcons!! Just think about the 4 or 5 games the Falcons won on the last play of the game. It was time for them to feel the effect of losing on the last play of a game. Getting and winning a SB is 40% luck. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. All the problems commissioner Goodell gave the Saints that he took pleasure in destroying, opened the path for the Falcon's season in that division. The "voodoo" city was not going to let the dirty birds enter their Dome for any chance to win a SB in New Orleans. Maybe now the owners will vote for a new commissioner. Also, thanks to Rodney White and all the "hood" dirty birds trash talk. Other teams keep their mouth shut. The Saint's fans got one back on you all today. Feel the pain. I hope their fans keep supporting the dirty birds and don't go back to their "fair weather" ways. Overall, they had a great season, with a little luck.

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kevin 1 year, 2 months ago

did I tell a lie or not?

Thanks Rodney and all the eggs throwing. This is what the trash talk Falcons have done to the Saint's fans rivalry. So much for your comments.

http://video-embed.nola.com/services/player/bcpid619329503001?bclid=0&bctid=1957871001001

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kevin 1 year, 2 months ago

http://www.nola.com/superbowl/index.ssf/2013/01/new_orleans_fans_rejoice_as_sa.html

Thanks Rodney and all the eggs throwing. This is what the trash talk Falcons have done to the Saint's fans rivalry. So much for your comments. check out these videos if you dare to.

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