What sparked 49ers second-half defensive turnaround?

January 20, 2013, 7:00 pm
Share This Post

ATLANTA – The San Francisco 49ers gave up 24 first-half points to the Atlanta Falcons in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game. After regrouping in the locker room during halftime the 49ers played near-perfect football in the second half, blanking the Falcons and advancing to Super Bowl XLVII with a 28-24 win in the Georgia Dome.

What happened in the first half? According to strong safety Donte Whitner the problem was actually what the 49ers weren’t doing. Talking.

Whitner said the 49ers struggled in the first half because the defensive players weren’t on the same page. The defense got into the locker room at halftime and collectively decided “No more mistakes.”

One of the bigger mistakes of the first half, according to Whitner, cost San Francisco seven points.

“On that first long touchdown that he (Julio Jones) had, it was a miscommunication,” said Whitner. “One guy was playing one thing and the safety was playing another. Once we got those things cleaned up and understood where we were at, we started slowing them down a little bit. But Julio Jones is going to be a premier receiver in the National Football League.”

The 49ers had a little trouble with Jones, who caught 11 passes for 182 yards and scored twice. But most of that damage came in the first half. Jones caught just four passes in the second half for 47 yards, and he never crossed the goal line.

Inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman echoed Whitner’s sentiment, saying the 10-point hole San Francisco found itself in was all about the 49ers, not what the Falcons did at all. Bowman said the 49ers weren’t playing their style of football in the first half, and regrouped in the locker room.

“This is the defense you want going into the Super Bowl,” said NaVorro on San Francisco’s defining second half turn-around. “We don't care what type of situation or if adversity comes throughout the game, we're definitely going to step up to the task. Today was just a signature of how we've been playing all year.”

After fixing the communication issues, everything else just fell into place for the 49ers on defense. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan threw for just 125 yards in the second half and the Falcons moved the chains just 10 times.

Outside linebacker Aldon Smith said in the first half the 49ers were playing ball, but they weren’t on the same page. It took a very confident defense to keep things on track.

“If we weren't' sure in each other I think we would have hit a panic button,” said Smith. “But everyone believes in one another, knows what we're capable of and knows our goals.”

San Francisco needs just one more win to reach their ultimate goal; a Super Bowl win.