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Donte Whitner: 49ers more prepped for NFC title game

The San Francisco 49ers finally have found something positive to pull from last season's conference title-game loss to the New York Giants: experience.

"We didn't really understand the magnitude of the moment," safety Donte Whitner told Bay Area News Group on Tuesday. "A championship game like this, each and every play, it's going to be a roller-coaster ride out there. We understand that now."

Only 11 current 49ers players had playoff experience a year ago. Not this time. Outside of Colin Kaepernick, Randy Moss and Ted Ginn, every starter on San Francisco's roster is back from that loss last January.

"Walking into the locker room after that game, guys don't want to feel that way again," center Jonathan Goodwin said.

The 49ers face a separate challenge this time, taking on the Atlanta Falcons on the road. San Francisco, however, is more than just a year wiser. The team is doing things on offense it couldn't a season ago. The defense has been consistently sharp, minus one ugly drubbing by the Seattle Seahawks down the stretch.

We'll find out Sunday what another year together under coach Jim Harbaugh means to this team.

Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.

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