USA TODAY Sports
Colin Kaepernick took over as quarterback mid-season and sparked a San Francisco 49ers squad based on defense by giving them a valuable running game. Now they have won the NFC Championship game. They'll try to win their sixth Super Bowl in six tries.
The San Francisco 49ers are headed to the Super Bowl for the sixth time in franchise history, and the first since 1994, as Colin Kaepernick led the squad to victory after they fell short last year. San Francisco erased a 20-point Falcons lead in the first half of the NFC Championship game and battled back for a 28-24 win.
The Niners are a perfect five-for-five in Super Bowls, having won every time they've made it to the big game. The team was a game away last season, but lost in overtime to the eventual champions, the New York Giants.
The 49ers' path to Super Bowl XLVII has been anything but predictable: the defense has always been there - they allowed only 17.1 points per game, the second-best total in the league - but Jim Harbaugh's squad had trouble figuring out how to score. Alex Smith started as the quarterback and the team started out 6-2 with him at the helm, beating the Green Bay Packers in the season opener.
Smith went down with a concussion against the St. Louis Rams, Kaepernick took over, and it was clear the second-year player from Nevada provided something Smith didn't. Sure, he didn't have the same precision as a passer - Smith completed over 70 percent of his passes on the year - but he could throw the ball deeper. And most importantly, he could run, showing off the speed that made him such a dangerous player in Chris Ault's pistol in college. Combined with Frank Gore, the Niners were fourth in the league in rushing.
San Francisco tied in Kaepernick's first real game when he came in for the concussed Smith, but won five of seven down the stretch with Kaepernick at the helm. With the second-best record in the NFC they got a first-round bye, and then handled the Green Bay Packers, winning 45-31 in a divisional match-up before beating the Falcons in the NFC Championship game.