Kaepernick, using the pass sparingly, repeatedly evaded the Falcons pass rush. When the 49ers put five or more men on the line of scrimmage, he picked the Atlanta defense apart, completing 9 of 11 passes for 129 yards on plays in which the Falcons blitzed. At times, Kaepernick looked like a college quarterback, running the option play 13 times, sometimes pitching the ball to Frank Gore and sometimes keeping it himself. On several key plays, though, he simply dropped back into the pocket and fired completions to his All-Pro tight end Vernon Davis.
With 8:23 remaining, the Niners took the lead for the first time when Frank Gore ran straight off tackle for a nine-yard TD. As he had done the week before, Ryan drove the Falcons downfield in the waning seconds of the game, but this time there was no miracle when, at the SF 10-yard line with 1:13 on the clock, linebacker NaVorro Bowman knocked down a pass intended for Roddy White. The 49ers were going to the Super Bowl.
Up in Foxborough, the Baltimore Ravens had a much tougher time against a much tougher opponent. The New England Patriots, who in this era have been almost invincible at home—QB Tom Brady was an incredible 67-0 at home when leading at the half—were up 13-7 at the midpoint and just two quarters away from their sixth Super Bowl. Then, giving way to terrific pressure on offense and defense from the Ravens, they collapsed. There's no other word for it.
Raven QB Joe Flacco often looks like he's throwing a brick instead of a football, and he ripped through the Patriots' defense on three TD drives. The best one was on the Raven's first possession in the second half when, starting from deep in their own territory at the 13, Baltimore tore up 87 yards in 10 plays, capping the drive with a quick, perfectly timed five-yard TD pass to Dennis Pitta.
New England seemed stunned that such a thing could happen to them, and they did almost nothing right on offense or defense the rest of the game. Constantly harassed by Ravens linebacker and future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, Brady, the NFL's all-time postseason leader in just about every category, threw two interceptions. Flacco, for his part, had none.
The New England crowd sat in stony silence for almost the entire second half until Brady fired up his team for a final drive. It ended with 2:05 left when his pass into the end zone was intercepted by Baltimore cornerback Cary Williams. And that was it—the Ravens won 28-13.
An era that began 12 years ago when the Patriots upset the St. Louis Rams in the 2001 Super Bowl seemed to have finally come to an end. Or at least, so thought one brazen Ravens fan who had made the trip to Foxborough and expressed himself with a large hand-painted sign, "The Ravens Say Never More!"