This time, Ryan, Gonzalez and the Falcons came up short in the fourth quarter.
Gonzalez had eight catches for 72 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown reception with 25 seconds remaining in the first half. The Falcons didn't score again.
Gonzalez wasn't the only Atlanta player wondering if he would come so close to the Super Bowl. Center Todd McClure, 35, and defensive end John Abraham, 34, each said he plans to play at least one more season. Even so, they were hit hard by the loss.
McClure had to stop and gather his emotions during his postgame comments.
"It's really tough," McClure said. "You play your whole career to get in this situation and to come up short, it's tough."
Asked how he felt, Abraham said, "It's a feeling I can't comprehend and can't even speak about because I thought I was going to go on.
"No one in this locker room has any vacation plans because we all thought we were going to the Super Bowl," Abraham said. "You don't get many chances in life to get something you want so bad and to have it taken away from you, it hurts. You never know when you'll get the chance again."
The Falcons had one last chance, taking the ball on their 41 with 6 seconds remaining. Ryan completed a pass to Julio Jones at the 49ers 35 as the game ended.
Ryan said the last pass was intended to be the start of a razzle-dazzle, last-gasp attempt at a big play.
"It was one of those where we toss it all around," Ryan said, adding the play wasn't executed properly.
Ryan took a hit on his left shoulder during the game but said it was "good enough to go" late in the game.