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49ers rally past Falcons 28-24 in NFC title game

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49ers rally past Falcons 28-24 in NFC title game

ATLANTA (AP) The loss stuck with them for a year, pushing the San Francisco 49ers in everything they did.

They didn't want to feel that way again.

Not to worry.

The 49ers are headed to the Super Bowl.

Bouncing back from a bitter loss in the 2012 NFC championship game, San Francisco cleared the hurdle it couldn't quite get over the previous season. And, boy, did the 49ers earn it, rallying from an early 17-0 deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons 28-24 on Sunday.

``We worked so hard,'' said Frank Gore, who ran for a pair of touchdowns, including the go-ahead score with 8:23 remaining. ``We knew that we got here last year and it didn't happen. But we got back and we said to ourselves, as a team, that this time we've got to walk through the door. You really don't get opportunities like this.''

The 49ers used to get them all the time, winning five Super Bowl titles in the 1980s and `90s. Now, with a clutch quarterback (Colin Kaepernick), a budding genius of a coach (Jim Harbaugh) and a big-play defense, they're ready to start a new dynasty.

They were one win away from playing for it all last season, until a fumbled return in the NFC championship game led to the winning field goal in overtime for the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

When the Falcons raced to their big lead by the first play of the second quarter, San Francisco (13-4-1) appeared headed for more disappointment.

But no one lost faith, and the 49ers pulled off the biggest comeback victory ever in an NFC championship game, according to STATS.

The previous record was 13 points - Atlanta's victory over Minnesota in the 1999 title game, which sent the Falcons to what remains the only Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. The AFC championship game record is 18 points, when Indianapolis rallied past New England in 2007.

``I don't really think it's destiny or anything like that written on the walls,'' 49ers defensive tackle Justin Smith said. ``It's the team that works the hardest, prepares the hardest, and has the best players and coaching staff. You pour all that in together and it comes out pretty good at the end.''

The 49ers advanced to face Baltimore at New Orleans in two weeks, looking to join Pittsburgh as the only franchises with six Super Bowl titles. It'll be a brother-vs.-brother matchup, too; John Harbaugh coaches the Ravens.

But Jim Harbaugh wasn't concerned about a family reunion.

He was hoppin' mad when a disputed call went against the 49ers on Atlanta's potential winning drive in the closing minutes. Harbaugh leaped in the air, screamed at the officials and had to be restrained by his staff from charging the field.

But the 49ers stopped Atlanta on a fourth-down play at their own 10, as linebacker NaVorro Bowman reached in to swat the ball away from Roddy White on a pass across the middle with 1:09 remaining.

San Francisco ran off all but the final 6 seconds, not nearly enough time for Matt Ryan to pull out another improbable comeback.

The previous week, Atlanta (14-4) squandered a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter against the Seattle Seahawks, nearly becoming the first team to lose with such a daunting advantage in the final period of a playoff game. But Ryan completed two long passes in the final 30 seconds, and Matt Bryant kicked a 49-yard field goal for a 30-28 victory.

After Gore's second TD gave San Francisco its first lead of the day, the Falcons took the ensuing kickoff and used up nearly all the clock while going 70 yards. They might have reclaimed the lead if Harry Douglas had been able to stay on his feet while hauling in a 22-yard pass.

The defender slipped, leaving Douglas all alone down the sideline. But he tripped, too, doing well to make the catch without the ball hitting the turf. Harbaugh thought it did, challenging the call, but the referee ruled it a catch after looking at the replay.

That's when Harbaugh nearly lost it.

It all worked out, though.

``We rose up there at the end,'' Harbaugh said. ``It was a great finish for our defense, an exclamation point on the game.''

The Falcons ran up and down the field in the first two quarters, piling up 17 first downs and 297 yards for a 24-14 lead. Ryan played a nearly perfect half, completing 18 of 24 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns, two of them to Julio Jones. When Tony Gonzalez hauled in a 10-yard touchdown pass with 25 seconds remaining, restoring a double-digit lead, it looked as though Atlanta had weathered the 49ers' comeback.

Actually, the Falcons were done, at least on the scoreboard.

They were held scoreless over the final two periods by the 49ers, who seized on two key mistakes by Ryan. First, after guiding the Falcons into San Francisco territory, he was picked off by Chris Culliver. Then, with Atlanta well within field-goal range at the 49ers 28, Ryan took his eye off a shotgun snap for a split-second and the ball bounced off his hands. Aldon Smith recovered for San Francisco.

``Against a good football team like that, you can't have those kinds of mistakes,'' Ryan said. ``We moved the ball really effectively all day. We just had two chances where we were in positive territory and didn't walk away with points.''

The 49ers are headed to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1995, when they won the last of their championships.

``We've come full circle,'' said Denise DeBartolo York, part of the family that has owned the 49ers since their championship days, ``and the dynasty will prevail.''

The city by the bay is rapidly becoming the new Titletown USA. The 49ers will try follow the lead of the baseball Giants, who gave San Francisco a World Series championship in October.

Kaepernick didn't get a chance to show off his touchdown celebration for the 49ers - flexing his right arm and kissing his bicep, a move that quickly became a social media sensation known as Kaepernicking.

But the second-year quarterback who runs like a track star shredded the Falcons through the air by completing 16 of 21 for 233 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown to Vernon Davis. Plus, he caused so much concern about his running ability out of the spread option that Gore and LaMichael James found plenty of huge holes.

Ryan had the best playoff game of his career, completing 30 of 42 for 396 yards. His favorite target was Jones, who hauled in scoring passes of 46 and 20 yards on the way to finishing with 11 catches for 182 yards.

But it wasn't enough to extend the career of Gonzalez, the Hall of Famer-to-be who has said all along this would likely be his final season.

He sure sounded like it was over.

``I've had such a great life,'' he said. ``I wish it would've culminated with the Super Bowl, but it didn't.''

Gore scored on runs of 5 and 9 yards, finishing with 90 yards on 21 carries. James picked up the first TD for the 49ers on a 15-yard run. Davis had five catches for 106 yards, and the 49ers overcame a fumble by Michael Crabtree just short of the goal line early in the fourth quarter, giving the Falcons a glimmer of hope.

``I take my hat off to Atlanta. They played hard. They've got a great team,'' Gore said. ``But we fought, man. We fought and we deserved it.''

And no one was thinking about last season anymore.

Notes: The Falcons rushed for only 81 yards and lost Michael Turner in the second half to an ankle injury. He gained 30 yards on eight carries. ... San Francisco K David Akers had another miss in a dismal season, clanking a 38-yard attempt off the left upright in the third quarter. ... Jones set a franchise record for receiving yards in a playoff game, topping Alfred Jenkins' mark of 155 in a 1981 loss to Dallas.

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Ravens 2016 Preseason Schedule: Week 3 vs. Lions date, time, TV channel, live stream

Ravens 2016 Preseason Schedule: Week 3 vs. Lions date, time, TV channel, live stream

The Ravens 2016 preseason schedule rolls on with a Week 3 game against the Detroit Lions.

With just three weeks until the start of the 2016 NFL reuglar season, the Ravens look to figure out their 53-man roster and get their injured players back to 100-percent.

Here is everything you need to know about the Ravens' Week 3 preseason game against the Lions.

RELATED: BREAKING DOWN THE TIERS OF 2016 FANTASY FOOTBALL QBS

Who: Detroit Lions at Baltimore Ravens

What: Week 3 of the 2016 NFL Preseason

Where: M&T Bank Stadium. Baltimore, Md.

When: 7:30 p.m. ET. Saturday, August 27

TV Channel: CSNMA+ (Channel Finder

Live Stream: NFL.com Game Pass

Radio: Ravens Radio Network (Frequency Finder)

 

Baltimore Ravens 2016 Preseason Schedule

Week 1 (Thurs., 8/11): vs. Carolina Panthers (22-19 W)

Week 2 (Sat., 8/20): at Indianapolis Colts (19-18 W)

Week 3 (Sat., 8/27): vs. Detroit Lions

Week 4 (Thurs., 9/1): at New Orleans Saints

RELATED: KEY FANTASY FOOTBALL PLAYERS TO TARGET IN 2016

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Breshad Perriman is still as fast as ever and believes he'll be ready for Week 1

Breshad Perriman is still as fast as ever and believes he'll be ready for Week 1

OWINGS MILLS – Ravens wide receiver Breshad Perriman believes he will be on the field Week 1, and is approaching his return to practice that way.

The former first-round pick also said he was as fast as he ever, despite the two knee injuries that have kept him from playing a game since the Ravens made him a first-round draft pick in 2015.

“I’m attacking it now like I will be ready (Week 1) and I think I will,” Perriman said a day after being activated off the PUP list.

RELATED: START OF SOMETHING NEW FOR PERRIMAN?

Perriman did admit that he needed to improve his on-field chemistry with starting quarterback Joe Flacco. The Ravens only have two preaseason games remaining — Saturday against the Lions, and Sept. 1 against the Saints.

“Probably have some work to do,” Perriman said. “Haven’t been out there with Joe for a minute. It shouldn’t take that long. I feel like we’ll get it done.’”

Smiling after practice, and talking confidently about his future, Perriman looked like a person who believed his serious injuries were behind him.

When Perriman partially tore his ACL two months ago, there was concern he may have suffered another season-ending injury. Instead, Perriman escaped surgery, and has believed ever since that he would be back on the field this season.  

“It was scary, but at the same time (I) kept faith,” said Perriman.

Perriman has a new look this year, cutting off his dreadlocks earlier this summer.

“I don’t know why, Perriman said. “I just woke up and decided to do it.”

Perriman said there were pros and cons to shedding so much hair.

“It gets cold sometimes,” Perriman said. “I cut it, I weighed myself, and I lost three or four pounds.”

Now Perriman wants to shed the label of being injury-prone.

“Great seeing Breshad out there,” said Ravens wide receiver Michael Campanaro. “He’s worked so hard. Behind the scenes, nobody sees the work he puts in, he’s such a quiet and humble guy. But he’s in here working out all the time, just trying to get right.”

RELATED: SUGGS CLOWNS PERRIMAN ON FIRST DAY BACK

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Terrell Suggs jokes 'Who's the new guy?' when Breshad Perriman returns to Ravens practice

Terrell Suggs jokes 'Who's the new guy?' when Breshad Perriman returns to Ravens practice

OWINGS MILLS – Upon seeing wide receiver Breshad Perriman on the practice field Tuesday morning, Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs couldn’t resist.

“Who’s the new guy?” Suggs said loudly as he walked past Perriman. “Can he play?”

The Ravens certainly think Perriman can play, and hope that he will be playing soon. Seeing Perriman on the field Tuesday was a welcome sight for the organization after his two serious knee injuries, but the timetable for his first game action remained uncertain.

Perriman was running smoothly and being put through drills by wide receiver coach Bobby Engram during the early portion of practice that the media was allowed to watch.

The Ravens have two preseason games remaining – at home Saturday against the Lions, and Sept. 1 at New Orleans. The Ravens’ regular-season opener is Sept. 11 against the Bills.

That doesn’t give Perriman much time to be ready for game reps Week 1.  But the more practice time he can get without setbacks, the closer he comes to taking the field for the first time since being drafted in 2015.

Don’t expect Suggs to stop giving Perriman grief. But just like the rest of his teammates, Suggs was glad to see Perriman on the field, not in the training room.

MORE RAVENS: False start or start of something big for Perriman?