Green Bay Packers’ James Jones (89) is tackled by San Francisco 49ers’ Donte Whitner (31) in the fourth quarter for the NFC divisional playoff
Green Bay Packers' James Jones (89) is tackled by San Francisco 49ers' Donte Whitner (31) in the fourth quarter for the NFC divisional playoff game at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, Calif. on Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

SANTA CLARA -- Safety Donte Whitner believes the 49ers' experience in last season's NFC Championship Game will help them Sunday when they again try snatching a Super Bowl berth.

"We didn't understand the magnitude of the moment," Whitner said of last year's 20-17 overtime loss to the New York Giants. "In a championship game like that, each and every play is going to be a roller coaster and we need to make plays."

The 49ers (12-4-1) are favored to advance to Super Bowl XLVII despite having to travel to face the Atlanta Falcons (14-3) at noon Sunday.

"It's the game for the Super Bowl, so it's the biggest of the year," defensive tackle Ray McDonald said. "Guys are going to be a little more amped for a championship game. Growing up, these are the kind of games you want to be in."

reen Bay Packers’ James Jones (89) is tackled after a catch against San Francisco 49ers’ Dashon Goldson (38) and San Francisco 49ers’
reen Bay Packers' James Jones (89) is tackled after a catch against San Francisco 49ers' Dashon Goldson (38) and San Francisco 49ers' Donte Whitner (31) in the fourth quarter for the NFC divisional playoff game at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, Calif. on Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

Safety Dashon Goldson dismissed any connection between last season's run to the NFC Championship Game and this one.

"Different (49ers) team, different mindset and different opponent," Goldson said. "Guys are going to be up for it. We'll be ready. It's another football game.

"No pressure for us."

McDonald and Whitner already have a strong grasp of the Falcons' offensive weapons, including quarterback Matt Ryan, who captured his first playoff win in four attempts Sunday.

"If you give him time with the weapons he has, he'll have a field day," McDonald said. "We'll have to get after him."

Whitner conceded that Ryan could be classified as one of the NFL's top quarterbacks, especially by virtue of his status as the 2008 draft's third overall pick.


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"We've played against the who's who of quarterbacks in the NFL," Whitner said. "We feel we can play with anybody. We feel we've earned that right."

In Saturday night's 45-31 win, the 49ers defeated the Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers for a second time this season. They also own road wins over the New England Patriots' Tom Brady and the New Orleans Saints' Drew Brees.