By Tim Graham
Whether you like it or not, Donte Whitner is going to the Super Bowl.
Whitner, the polarizing former Buffalo Bills safety, extended his Pro Bowl season Sunday by helping the San Francisco 49ers beat the Atlanta Falcons, 28-24, in the Georgia Dome.
Whitner failed to live up to the expectations of an eighth overall draft choice in his five seasons with Buffalo. He delivered colorful quotes but didn't standout on a lousy defense. Fans bemoaned the idea of a safety being drafted that high, wishing the team had taken quarterback Jay Cutler or defensive tackle Haloti Ngata instead.
Ngata also will play in Super Bowl XLVII for the Baltimore Ravens. So will cornerback Corey Graham, a Turner-Carroll graduate, who had 11 tackles in the Ravens' victory over the New England Patriots.
Whitner left Buffalo with five interceptions, 19 pass breakups, 1.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and one recovery in 69 games.
In 31 games for San Francisco he has three interceptions, 15 pass breakups, three forced fumbles and four recoveries.
Now he's one step away from winning a world championship after making it to the NFL title game a season ago.
"It feels good to finally get last year behind us," Whitner said on San Francisco Chronicle writer Eric Branch's blog. "Up until this moment, all of us were still feeling last year, whether they would say it or not. We felt that loss."
Atlanta jumped out to a 17-0 lead early in the season quarter. Wide receiver Julio Jones was dominant, including a touchdown over Whitner's head.
But San Francisco shut out the NFC's top seed in the second quarter.
"Over the last two years, our short history of being together, we never blink," Whitner said in a story by Bay Area News Group reporter Monte Poole. "When things go bad out there -- we give up a touchdown or blow a coverage or miss a tackle -- we never blink because we know we can fix it.
"We know who we are. We know the capabilities of these guys in this locker room."