When I was growing up during the Joe Montana and Steve Young years, San Francisco had some really great teams, and won several Superbowls...and the Falcons hardly ever beat them.
Atlanta is 30-44-1 (.400) against them all time. But in my lifetime (since 1984) they are 13-27-1 (.317) against the 49ers.
All those years in the NFC West - all those beatdowns.
From 1984-1990, the Falcons were 1-12-1 vs. the 49ers. The average margin of victory (or loss, in the Falcons case) was 17 points. They were hard to beat.
The first memory I have, when I realized how much it meant to beat them, was when the Falcons won on a Hail Mary throw on the last play of the game in 1991 (in old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium) to win 17-14. I remember the next day on the school bus everyone was so pumped about winning that game. Of course, that was the second time Atlanta had beaten them that year, and that game gave the Falcons the tiebreaker (both teams were 10-6) and led to their big playoff victory in the Wild Card round vs. New Orleans in the Superdome.
The 49ers got payback in 1992 and won 56-17 and 41-3. If it wasn't enough that they beat us all the time, they had to steal away Deion Sanders after the 1993 season, and proceed to win the Superbowl with him in 1994.
Going into the 1995 season finale, San Fran had won 6 of the last 7, and they were poised for a 1st round bye in the playoffs. The Falcons needed to win to get in. I remember laying on my bed listening to the game on the radio (because practically all home games were blacked out back then). I don't recall exactly what happened, but it was an exciting finish I know. Atlanta won 28-27, my dad and I jumping up in down in my room as we listened to the call.
Back to getting taken behind the woodshed in 1996 and 97. And leave it to the 49ers to hand us one of our two losses in 1998, a 31-20 game in Week 3. But on their return visit to the Dome, I remember begging my dad to take me to the game because I just had to see it - both teams were 7-2 and I wasn't going to let the Georgia Dome not being sold out prevent me from putting my eyes on this game. (But, of course, I went and the game sold out for the first time in a billion years.) The Falcons won 31-19 and went on to an amazing season. And for once, when the 49ers came back to the Dome for the Divisional round of the playoffs that year, I finally felt confident we could beat them (maybe for the first time in my life). And we did, if only by a 20-18 score.
San Francisco wouldn't let us leave the NFC West without a bitter taste in our mouths. They won two overtime games in 2001. The Chris Chandler (but play Michael Vick, please) Falcons ended the year 7-9.
I was happy about the creation of the NFC South in 2002: no more San Francisco twice per season.
The 49ers have lost what they used to have. The 2000s weren't nearly as successful as the previous two decades, and the Falcons have won the last four meetings. But now that the Falcons are facing them in the NFC Championship Game, I'm reminded of the rivalry that once was. Just how thrilling it was to beat them back in the day, and how no one ever expected us to - as many are calling for this weekend. How awesome it would be to win one here, this week, to send Atlanta to the Superbowl.