ATLANTA -- The 49ers are going to the Super Bowl.
Savor that thought. Not long ago, the 49ers were a joke, a poorly managed outfit that accomplished nothing and had zero standing in the NFL. This went on for years.
On Sunday in the loud Georgia Dome, noise bouncing off the artificial turf and the stands and the steel girders — it was the sound of going insane — the Niners beat the Atlanta Falcons, a good team playing at home. The 49ers took the next step — more like a leap — to a business trip in New Orleans against the Baltimore Ravens, where their ultimate dream just may come true.
What they did against the Falcons, coming from behind to win 28-24, was among the greatest performances by any team I ever covered in any sport at any time. That's how inevitable the Niners were. Yes, inevitable. Even when they were behind, even when they seemed out of hope and ideas and resources, the feeling persisted that they would come back, that Atlanta could not hold them down. Nobody could hold them down.
There is something about the Niners — call it their X quality — that insists on winning, that will take your best shot and feel invigorated, will get off the floor and overtake you and laugh doing it, and then knock you out.
That is exactly what the 49ers did to the Atlanta Falcons who, with all due respect, are classic front runners. They do well when everything is going well for them. But in football — this is how it replicates life — nothing always goes well. There are disturbances. The Niners were a disturbance.
When the Niners started to disturb, the Falcons must have felt their lips turn dry, must have experienced the hollowness in the stomach. The Niners' coming back to beat the Falcons was as inevitable as Greek tragedy. And you knew they would win even though they right away fell behind 17-0, even though David Akers, as usual, missed a cinch field goal, even though Michael Crabtree, of all people, lost a fumble at the goal line, even though the Niners' corners, especially Tarell Brown, could not cover the Falcons' receivers.