From Comcast SportsNetATLANTA (AP) -- The clutch quarterback. The genius coach. The big-play defense.The San Francisco 49ers are ready to start a new dynasty with a familiar formula.Next stop, the Big Easy.Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore led San Francisco to a record comeback in the NFC championship game Sunday, overcoming an early 17-0 deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons 28-24 and send the 49ers to their first Super Bowl since 1995.Gore scored a pair of touchdowns, including the winner with 8:23 remaining for San Francisco's first lead of the day, and the 49ers defense made it stand up. A fourth-down stop at the 10-yard line denied Atlanta another stirring comeback after blowing a big lead."Everybody does a little," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said, "and it adds up to be a lot."San Francisco (13-4-1) moves on 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, since John Harbaugh coaches the Ravens.Joe Montana led the 49ers to four Super Bowl wins and Steve Young took them to No. 5. It's up to Kaepernick and Co. to get No. 6."He just competes like a maniac all the time," said Harbaugh, whose much-debated decision to bench Alex Smith at midseason now looks like the best move of the year.Harbaugh was hoppin' mad when a disputed call went against the 49ers on Atlanta's potential winning drive. He leaped in the air, screamed at the officials and had to be restrained by his staff from charging the field.No complaints when it was over."We rose up there at the end," Harbaugh said.His second-year quarterback, who runs like a track star, didn't get a chance to show off his touchdown celebration -- flexing his right arm and kissing his bicep, a move that quickly became a social media sensation known as Kaepernicking.But he shredded the Falcons through the air by completing 16 of 21 for 233 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown to Vernon Davis, and had them so worried about his running ability out of the spread option that Gore and LaMichael James had plenty of room.Gore scored a pair of touchdowns, including the game winner with 8:23 remaining for San Francisco's first lead of the day. Davis scored the first TD for the 49ers on a 15-yard run."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."The 49ers pulled off the biggest comeback victory in an NFC championship game, according to STATS. The previous NFC 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 in franchise history.The AFC championship game record is 18 points, when Indianapolis rallied past New England in 2007.Harbaugh is hardly cool and collected like the 49ers' first Super Bowl-winning coach, Bill Walsh, but has pulled off a similar turnaround in San Francisco. The 49ers had eight straight years without a winning record before their new coach arrived from Stanford in 2011.He immediately led San Francisco to the cusp of the Super Bowl, losing to the eventual champion New York Giants in overtime in last year's NFC title game, a bitter defeat at home set up by a fumbled return.This time, the 49ers were the ones winning on the road to set up another celebration in the city by the bay, which is rapidly becoming the new Titletown USA. They'll try to follow the lead of the baseball Giants, who won the World Series in October."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."Kaepernick guided San Francisco on a pair of second-half scoring drives that wiped out Atlanta's 24-14 lead at the break. Gore scored on a 5-yard run early in the third quarter, then sprinted in from 9 yards out for the winning score with 8:23 remaining after each team made crucial mistakes to ruin potential scoring drives.On both of Gore's TDs, the Falcons had to worry about Kaepernick running it in himself. They barely even touched the running back on either play, and James scored pretty much the same way."I kind of figured that coming in and they showed that on film, so I assumed Frank and LaMichael were going to have a big day," Kaepernick said. "Frank ran hard today, and I can't say enough about him."The top-seeded Falcons (14-4), in what appeared to be the final game for Hall of Famer-to-be Tony Gonzalez, tried to pull off another season-extending drive. But, unlike the week before against Seattle, they needed a touchdown this time.They came up 10 yards short.On fourth down, Matt Ryan attempted a pass over the middle to Roddy White that would have been enough to keep the drive going. But linebacker NaVorro Bowman stuck a hand in to knock it away with 1:13 remaining.The 49ers ran off all but the final 6 seconds, not nearly enough time for Ryan to pull off his greatest comeback yet.In the divisional playoffs, the Falcons blew a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter, the Seahawks scoring the go-ahead touchdown with 31 seconds remaining. But Ryan completed two long passes, setting up Matt Bryant's 49-yard field goal for 30-28 victory.The Falcons came up short of their second Super Bowl, leaving the 1995 Braves as the city's only major sports champions. This one figures to hurt for a while."We didn't make the plays when we had the opportunity," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "There were five or six plays, like in most hard-fought games, that make a difference. There were ebbs and flows and changes in momentum, and they made more plays than we did."Kaepernick, who ran for 181 yards against the Packers the week before to set an NFL playoff record for a quarterback, didn't have much chance to use his legs against the Falcons. He broke off a 23-yard gain, but was thrown for a 2-yard loss the only other time he carried the ball.But Kaepernick showed he's more than a runner. His favorite receiver was Davis, who hauled in five passes for 106 yards.Gore carried 21 times for 90 yards, while James added 34 yards on five carries.Ryan finished 30 of 42 for 396 yards, by far the best performance of his playoff career. But his postseason record dropped to 1-4, done in by two big miscues -- an interception and a fumble -- in the second half.Julio Jones was Ryan's leading target most of the day, finishing with 11 catches for 182 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He hauled in a 46-yarder less than 4 minutes into the game, then made a dazzling grab in the left corner of the end zone for a 20-yard score. He got his left foot down, then planted his right foot about an inch inside the line -- while cornerback Tarell Brown was all over him.Ryan threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Gonzalez with 25 seconds remaining in the first half after the 49ers had cut the deficit to 17-14. It seemed the home team had reclaimed the momentum heading to the locker room, but, amazingly, that would be its final score of the day. The 49ers quickly seized control on the opening possession of the second half, driving 82 yards in just seven plays for Gore's first TD.After a nearly perfect first half, in which Ryan was 18 of 24 for 271 yards and those three TDs, the quarterback known as Matty Ice made a couple of crucial blunders.First, he tossed a pass that was picked off by Chris Culliver, halting a drive in 49ers territory. Ryan ripped off his chinstrap in disgust.Then, with the Falcons in scoring range for at least a field goal, Ryan failed to grab a shotgun snap, appearing to take his eyes off the ball before he caught it. The ball squirted away and Aldon Smith recovered for the 49ers at their own 37."Against a good team, you can't have those kind of mistakes," Ryan said.San Francisco also squandered some chances. Struggling kicker David Akers clanked a 38-yard field goal try off the upright, and Michael Crabtree fumbled just short of the goal line, the ball stripped away by Dunta Robinson and recovered by Stephen Nicholas. But, after that big defensive stop with 13 1-2 minutes remaining, the Falcons went three-and-out.The 49ers drove for the winning touchdown.Atlanta took the ensuing kickoff and used up nearly all the clock while going 70 yards. The Falcons 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, and so did Douglas, but he held on to the ball. Harbaugh thought it touched the turf and challenged the call, then launched into his tirade when the officials let it stand. It all worked out, though.As for the 36-year-old Gonzalez, who said all year he was all but certain this would be his final season, it sure sounded like the end."I've had such a great life," he said. "I wish it would've culminated with the Super Bowl, but it didn't."
The Bears defeat of the Minnesota Vikings produced two dominant story lines: that the Chicago defense is quite possibly even better than early indications, and that Mitchell Trubisky has a throwing-shoulder issue, severity unknown.
With the 2018 playoffs within reach, those two narratives are closely connected.
Because very good Bears teams have survived and even flourished in situations where an injury to the starting quarterback propelled a backup into his stead, with postseason results. Those results were sometimes less under the No. 2’s but the regular seasons did not automatically crumble. The overarching reason lay with the defenses at the other end of the locker room and that No. 2 being serviceable.
Irrespective of how Trubisky’s shoulder injury occurred – whether Vikings safety Harrison Smith is in fact a direct descendant of Charles Martin or Hugh Douglas – a scenario is in the offing that could require Chase Daniel to step in for Trubisky, if not as early as this Thursday in Detroit, then likely at some point of this or next season. The odds and elementary analytics of quarterback durability say so.
Which is where the matter of the defense and a capable No. 2 come in, as they sometimes have been able to on occasion in Bears history:
1985 -- Steve Fuller for Jim McMahon
McMahon was injured in a game-nine win and Fuller started the following week – against the Detroit Lions. The 24-3 win was followed by shutouts of Dallas and Atlanta, a three-game span in which the Bears’ defense scored more points (14) than the three opposing offenses (3).
1986 -- Mike Tomczak/Doug Flutie for McMahon
Green Bay defensive lineman Charles Martin was suspended for pile-driving McMahon into the turf, resulting in a season-ending shoulder injury for McMahon, who missed 10 total games in the season. The Bears fashioned the NFL’s best record (14-2) but did lose those two games behind backup Mike Tomczak, then lost in the first round of the playoffs under Doug Flutie.
2001 -- Jim Miller for Shane Matthews
Matthews started but was injured in game one at Baltimore. Miller replaced him and the Bears finished 13-3. But in the first round of the playoffs, Philadelphia defensive end Hugh Douglas body-slammed Miller after an interception, Miller left with a shoulder injury, the Bears lost and Miller was never the same.
2004 -- Hutchinson/Krenzel/Quinn for Rex Grossman
Lovie Smith installed Grossman as the starter. But Grossman injured knee ligaments and was replaced – unsuccessfully – by Chad Hutchinson, Craig Krenzel and Jonathan Quinn. The defense, building under Smith’s design, slumped with Brian Urlacher plagued by hamstring issues.
2005 -- Kyle Orton for Grossman
Grossman suffered a broken ankle in preseason. Rookie Kyle Orton went 10-5 as his replacement and with one of the great defenses in franchise history. But the Bears lost in round one of the playoffs with Grossman returned to starter.
2011-- Caleb Hanie for Jay Cutler
A 7-3 start dissolved when Cutler broke his right thumb and Hanie foundered despite a defense that still had Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman and Brian Urlacher. Josh McCown won a by-then-meaningless game 16.
2012 -- Jason Campbell for Cutler
When Cutler suffered a concussion against Houston, Jason Campbell stepped in against the Texans and the following week against the 49ers and their Vic Fangio defense. The Bears lost both those games, missed the playoffs at 10-6 and Smith was fired.
2013 -- Josh McCown for Cutler
Cutler was in and out of the lineup with injuries. McCown resurrected his career with his relief work, going 3-2 as interim starter and becoming the first Bears quarterback to pass for 300 yards in three straight games. Cutler returned from injury and was ordered back in as the starter by GM Phil Emery. With a historically bad Bears defense throughout the season, Cutler started the final three games, the Bears lost the last two to finish 8-8 and lose the division to 8-7-1 Green Bay.
Zach Thompson might be off your radar, but the White Sox prospect is someone to watch in the White Sox organization, not just for what he's doing on the field, but for what he says off of it.
Chuck Garfien spoke with Thompson who had a 1.55 ERA last season with Winston-Salem and Birmingham. Thompson talks about the message he received from God that helped turn his career around (2:30), why he becomes a different person when he's on the mound (6:00), the talent he sees in the White Sox farm system, playing for Omar Vizquel (8:42), why he watches videos of open heart surgeries in the clubhouse (12:20) and more.
Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:
White Sox Talk Podcast