Falcons host 49ers as home underdogs

Published on Saturday, 1/19/13, at 5:13 p.m. Eastern.

By Brian Edwards

Fourteen years after these teams met in the NFC semifinals and nearly two decades after these clubs were division rivals in the NFC West, Atlanta and San Francisco will square off again Sunday in the NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome.

There’s plenty of history in this rivalry, although most of it has been enjoyed by the 49ers, who lead the all-time series 44-30-1. There was the day at the old Fulton-County Stadium when Jerry Rice torched Tim McKyer for five touchdown catches. And there were plenty of blowouts at Candlestick Park with Joe Montana and Steve Young sticking it to Atlanta.

But the Falcons have had their moments, too. In fact, they have won four in a row against San Francisco dating back to 2001. There was the game in January of 1999 that we’ll discuss below because of its crazy finish for our purposes.

There was the ‘Big Ben’ play in 1983 when Steve Bartkowski hit Billy ‘White Shoes’ Johnson for a touchdown on a Hail Mary pass as time expired. There was also the time, Nov. 3 of 1991 to be exact, when Billy Joe Tolliver gave the Falcons an improbable victory on a Hail Mary pass to Michael Haynes with no time left.

Of course, none of those things will matter Sunday. Ronnie Lott, who still insists Johnson was down before getting into the end zone, won’t be in uniform. Montana, Young, Rice and Dwight Clark won’t dress out, either. Instead, the cast of characters will include names like Kaepernick, Crabtree, Gore, Willis, Ryan, Jones, White and Rodgers.

As of early Friday morning, most books were listing San Francisco (12-4-1 straight up, 10-7 against the spread) as a four-point favorite with a total of 49. Gamblers can take the Falcons on the money line for a plus-170 payout (risk $100 to win $170).

For the rest of my Falcons-49ers preview, click here.

Click here for my three selections for Sunday’s NFL action!

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