ATLANTA — Years from now, 49ers fans looking back on their team's dramatic 28-24 victory over the Falcons in the NFC championship game will remember wide-open Vernon Davis hauling in passes downfield. They'll probably recall Chris Culliver's third-quarter interception, and certainly NaVorro Bowman's pass breakup that doomed Atlanta with 1:09 left.
But in a game of wide swings and shifting momentum, a hundred small pieces came together to form a championship mosaic.
“This is a team effort,” coach Jim Harbaugh said at the podium after the game, before he knew he would be scheming against his brother John in Super Bowl XLVII. “Everybody does a little and it adds up to a lot. It is not just about one person.”
Or one play, or one drive, or one strategy.
These were some of the little things that helped propel the 49ers to their sixth Super Bowl, and their first in 18 years:
Bowman's other deflection
The 49ers' all-pro inside linebacker ultimately punctuated the win by hugging close to wide receiver Roddy White on a crossing route and knocking away the ball to end the Falcons' last real threat. Less gaudy was a play Bowman made in the first quarter when, on third-and-4 from the San Francisco 17-yard line, he denied a pass from Matt Ryan to halfback Jacquizz Rodgers.
That forced Atlanta to settle for a field goal, a score sandwiched between two Falcons touchdowns. If they had converted the pass to Rodgers and gotten into the end zone again — well, it isn't hard to calculate the difference four points would have made in this game.
Kaepernick's tightrope walk
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who had destroyed the Packers with 181 rushing yards a week earlier, ran the ball just twice against Atlanta. He scrambled only once, but it was a graceful execution.
Down 17-7 late in the second quarter, Kaepernick fled the pocket and took off around the left end. It was a nice little play that became something more when the QB tiptoed along the sideline, managed to stay inbounds while avoiding speedy linebacker Sean Weatherspoon's tackle and strode for 23 yards.