The 49ers and Falcons play today for the 76th time since 1966, Atlanta's first season. San Francisco leads the all-time series 44-30-1 and has more postseason experience with 13 trips to the NFC Championship Game, five conference championships and five Super Bowl rings.
The Falcons are playing in just their third NFC title game. Atlanta has won once but came up short in the 1999 Super Bowl.
The 49ers have played in the NFC Championship Game with several different quarterbacks and coaches, from John Brodie and Dick Nolan in the early 1970s, to Joe Montana and Bill Walsh in the 1980s, to Steve Young and George Seifert in the 1990s, to Jim Harbaugh and Colin Kaepernick today.
Here's a look at those 13 NFC Championship games played by the 49ers:
KEZAR FAREWELL NOT SO FOND
COWBOYS 17, 49ERS 10
Jan. 3, 1971
Fresh off a 17-14 upset win at Minnesota, the 49ers and NFL MVP John Brodie returned to Kezar Stadium for the final time and ran headlong into the Doomsday Defense. Dallas led 17-3 as Duane Thomas rushed for 143 yards and Craig Morton hit Walt Garrison for a touchdown pass. Brodie was intercepted twice, both leading to touchdowns.
VISIT TO 'BIG D' IS MORE MISERY
COWBOYS 14, 49ERS 3
Jan. 2, 1972
Dallas intercepted Brodie three times, and the visiting 49ers managed just a Bruce Gossett field goal that pulled them to within 7-3. Thomas scored the sealing touchdown on a short run. The 49ers wouldn't return to the playoffs for 10 years.
'THE CATCH' FOR ALL TIME
49ERS 28, COWBOYS 27
Jan. 10, 1982
The victory over the Cowboys was the beginning of a dynasty in San Francisco. Joe Montana's six-yard pass into the back of the end zone that only Dwight Clark could pull in capped a 13-play, 89-yard drive. Eric Wright had a game-saving tackle a moment later, pulling down Drew Pearson, and Lawrence Pillers forced a Danny White fumble that Jim Stuckey recovered to ice it. Candlestick Park seemingly celebrated the rest of the evening.
THE 49ERS GET FLAGGED IN D.C.
REDSKINS 24, 49ERS 21
Jan. 8, 1984
For longtime 49ers fans, recollections of this championship game only rekindle frustrating memories of a title many thought San Francisco should have won. Behind Montana's 347 passing yards and three fourth-quarter touchdown passes, the 49ers overcame a 21-0 deficit to tie the score. But two controversial penalties against the 49ers late in the game set up a 25-yard game-winning field goal by Washington's Mark Moseley with 40 seconds left.
49ERS UNLEASH A SACK ATTACK
49ERS 23, BEARS 0
Jan. 6, 1985
Fueled by the previous season's disappointment in Washington, the 49ers rolled to a franchise-best 15-1 record. In a meeting of defensive powers at Candlestick, San Francisco sacked Steve Fuller nine times, held Chicago to 186 yards of offense, almost half by Walter Payton, who rushed for 92 yards. The 49ers later rolled Miami 38-16 to win Super Bowl XIX at Stanford Stadium.
FROSTY-NINERS GET FIRED UP
49ERS 28, BEARS 3
Jan. 8, 1989
In an icy affair at Soldier Field, the 49ers beat the Bears again, only this time it was even more emphatic in squashing any theory that the 49ers were pure finesse. Playing in a wind-chill factor of minus-26 degrees, Montana passed for 288 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions, throwing to Jerry Rice for two first-half scores. The Bears managed just 176 yards. The 49ers won Super Bowl XXIII over Cincinnati 20-16.
GOLD RUSH, 49ERS-STYLE
49ERS 30, RAMS 3
Jan. 14, 1990
The 49ers pieced together perhaps their most dominant playoff run, rolling the Vikings 41-13, then the Rams at Candlestick Park before walloping the Broncos in Super Bowl XXIV 55-10. Montana completed 26 of 30 passes for 262 yards and two touchdowns in the NFC title game. The 49ers picked off Jim Everett three times and the Rams managed 156 yards of offense.
THREE-PEAT BID IS CUT SHORT GIANTS 15, 49ERS 13
Jan. 20, 1991
San Francisco's quest for a Super Bowl three-peat was thwarted by the New York Giants, a team the 49ers beat 7-3 in a "Monday Night Football" slugfest earlier in the season. Montana was nearly cut in half by Leonard Marshall on a hit, marking his end as a starter with the 49ers, and Roger Craig fumbled to set up Matt Bahr's game-winning field goal.
NAMES CHANGE, BUT RESULTS THE SAME
COWBOYS 30, 49ERS 20
Jan. 17, 1993
A 14-2 record and home-field advantage had the 49ers thinking Super Bowl again, but the train was derailed by the reborn Cowboys, featuring Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin. Aikman passed for 322 yards, Smith ran for 114 and Irvin had 86 receiving yards, and unsung wide receiver Alvin Harper pulled in a 70-yard pass to set up the clinching score.
AIKMAN INFLICTS MORE PAIN
COWBOYS 38, 49ERS 21
Jan. 23, 1994
Dallas backed up coach Jimmy Johnson's midweek boast that the Cowboys would stick the 49ers with another playoff loss. The Cowboys led 28-7 at the half behind two Aikman touchdown passes. In a Texas Stadium elevator following the loss, 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. said, "Never again." The 49ers that offseason signed 10 high-profile free agents, including Deion Sanders.
AT LAST, THE 49ERS GET SOME PAYBACK
49ERS 38, COWBOYS 28
Jan. 15, 1995
After falling to Dallas in the previous two NFC title games, the 49ers prevailed after taking a lead of 21-0 and then 31-14 at the half to bounce the two-time defending Super Bowl champions. Quarterback Steve Young accounted for three scores and then took several giddy victory laps after the game. San Francisco won Super Bowl XXIX over the San Diego Chargers 49-26.
INCREDIBLE ERA COMES TO AN END
PACKERS 23, 49ERS 10
Jan. 11, 1998
Under first-year coach Steve Mariucci, San Francisco went 13-3 and beat Minnesota 38-22 in a divisional game. But against the Green Bay Packers, the 49ers produced no offensive touchdowns and just 33 rushing yards. It was 13-3 at the half and 23-3 in the fourth quarter as Brett Favre powered the Packers back to the Super Bowl for the second consecutive season.
TWO WORDS SAY IT ALL: MUFFED UP
GIANTS 20, 49ERS 17 (OT)
Jan. 22, 2012
The 9-7 Giants backed into the playoffs, then high-stepped their way to the Super Bowl by beating the 49ers for the second time in an NFC title game. San Francisco rookie Kyle Williams fumbled a punt return that led to Lawrence Tynes' 31-yard field goal in overtime in a defensive slugfest at Candlestick.