ATLANTA This wasn't exactly the homecoming 49ers kicker David Akers had in mind.
After a very uncertain few weeks, when he was almost replaced by Billy Cundiff, the 38-year-old veteran caught the left upright on his only field-goal attempt a 38-yarder in the third quarter that would have tied the score.
"If it had been three inches to the right, I would have had a perfect game," said Akers, who succeeded on his four point-after attempts. "I struck the ball, and it lands on top of the goal post. Figure that one out and let me know."
Between NFL auditions early in his career, Akers worked as a waiter at a Longhorns Steakhouse in the Atlanta suburbs.
"I'm here till they tell me otherwise," he added.
Of further concern: Akers struggled on several field-goal attempts during pregame warmups.
About Crabtree's troubles Wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who is being investigated by San Francisco police about an alleged sexual assault, had a subpar game with six receptions for 57 yards and one ill-timed fumble.
With the 49ers driving for the lead on the opening possession of the fourth quarter, Crabtree caught a four-yard pass from quarterback Colin Kaepernick and was stripped of the ball just before the goal line.
Asked about the investigation and his star wideout's legal issues, coach Jim Harbaugh paused.
"Guys, no comment on that," Harbaugh said. "We support Michael. He's our teammate. That process will play out."
Rookie at rest Wide receiver Chad Hall, who was elevated from the practice squad Saturday, not only was in uniform Sunday, he was targeted on a pass attempt in the third quarter that fell incomplete.
That's in contrast to rookie wide receiver A.J. Jenkins. He and backup quarterback Alex Smith were the only 49ers who were active but didn't enter Sunday's game. Jenkins, the 30th overall draft pick, does not have a catch this season.
Hold the hankies One of the best matchups of the game pitted the 49ers' physical defense against Atlanta's two big and powerful wideouts, Roddy White and Julio Jones.
Referee Terry McAulay and his crew let the two sides duke it out, calling only six penalties, including two delay-of-game infractions by the 49ers. Linebacker NaVorro Bowman said he knew his tight coverage against White on Atlanta's penultimate play would not attract a flag.
"It's a playoff game," Bowman said. "The refs let us play the whole game."
Atlanta, which had only two penalties, had the league's fewest this season 55. The 49ers and Raiders tied for fifth most with 109 penalties.
Both of Atlanta's penalties, 15-yarders for unnecessary roughness and roughing the passer, preceded 49ers scores. Falcons linebacker Stephen Nicholas partly atoned for the team's first transgression by recovering Crabtree's fumble.
Opportunity knocks again Among the many bad memories for the 49ers from last year's NFC Championship Game was Anthony Dixon's failed attempt to convert a third-and-one situation in New York Giants territory late in the fourth quarter.
Dixon got a chance for redemption in the fourth quarter Sunday. It was another third-and-one scenario, but this time the running back converted it for four yards. Three plays later, Frank Gore scored on a nine-yard touchdown run, giving the 49ers their first lead.
Imagine that The professional sports world is small. After the 49ers escaped with the win, former Atlanta Hawks center Jon Koncak, whom the Kings might have selected in the 1985 NBA draft instead of Joe Kleine stood outside the visitors' locker room, waiting for Harbaugh.
Harbaugh's wife, Sarah, is Koncak's first cousin.
"Hard to believe, isn't it?" asked the 7-footer, a longtime Atlanta resident.
Familiar faces Former 49ers head coach Mike Nolan, now the Falcons' defensive coordinator, greeted Gore with a hearty congratulatory hug in the tunnel area after the game.
Former Falcons and Cal quarterback Steve Bartkowski, wearing his old No. 10 Atlanta jersey and sporting a full head of gray hair, appeared much younger than his 60 years.
Bartkowski, the No. 1 pick in 1975 (Walter Payton went fourth) remains Atlanta's all-time leader in passing yards, completions and touchdown passes. He lives outside of Atlanta and serves on the club's board of directors.