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As the 2012 season prepared to kick off, there was great optimism in the 49ers camp following the team's breakout season in 2011 that saw Jim Harbaugh's squad advance to the NFC Championship game before falling to the NY Giants in overtime. While San Franciso was a favorite to advance to the Super Bowl, no one knew who would wind up leading them there.
Hoping to sustain the momentum captured the previous season, San Francisco began 2012 play with the credible goal of earning a Super Bowl berth for the first time since the 1994 season.
The Regular Season: A tough road assignment was the first test for Jim Harbaugh's team and the 49ers passed with a 30-22 victory over Aaron Rodgers and the Pack. SF surged the next week with a 27-19 home win vs. Detroit, but fell the following week at Minnesota by a 24-13 margin.
The 49ers surged with four wins in their next five games as the defending NFC West champs defeated the NYJ 34-0 and thumped Buffalo 45-3. The team's surge was briefly halted with a 26-3 home loss to the NYG, but SF bounched back with late October wins that included a 13-6 home win vs. Seattle and a 24-3 win over the Cardinals in Arizona.
Following a bye week on Nov. 4th, a major storyline developed when starting QB Alex Smith was knocked out of the 24-24 tie vs. St. Louis. With QB Alex Smith sidelined by a concussion, 2nd year QB Colin Kaepernick saw his first extensive action. With immediate success, Kaepernick gained starter status even when Alex Smith was cleared to play again.
Kaepernick's first start resulted in a 32-7 49ers win vs. Chicago that pushed the team's record to 7-2-1. San Francisco continued its winning ways at New Orleans the next week with a 31-21 win over the Saints, but fell at St. Louis in OT the next week by a 16-13 margin.
Hoping to hold off a tough Seattle rival in the NFC West race, the 49ers went 3-1 in their last four games of the regular season. Wins over Miami (27-13), New England (41-34) and Arizona (27-13) were high points, but a 42-13 loss at the hands of Seattle in their 15th game raised concerns. However in the end, SF ended the 2012 regular season as NFC West champs with an 11-4-1 record.
Thanks to entering the 2012 NFL Playoffs as the NFC's No. 2 seed, the 49ers did not jump into postseason action until a NFL Divisional Round game at home vs. the Green Bay Packers. With a 45-31 win over the Packers, SF advanced to the NFC Conference Championship Game against Atlanta.
Things looked dire for Harbaugh and company early in the championship game at Atlanta when the 49ers fell behind by a 17-0 margin. However, Frank Gore rushed for 2 TD's and TE Vernon Davis paced the comeback as SF scored late in the 4Q to earn a 28-24 win. The victory enabled the 49ers to punch their ticket to their first Super Bowl since the 1994 season.
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