On a night where all the legends were out in full force to celebrate the closing of Candlestick Park on Monday Night, the San Francisco 49ers struggled in their presence. They trailed 10-3 at halftime but coming out of the break, they looked like a completely different team. The 49ers put up their best scoring second half of the season, amassing 31 points in a victory over the Atlanta Falcons, 34-24. It sounds like a resounding victory for the 49ers but this game was in doubt until late in the 4th quarter when a certain linebacker stole the show. He went from being the goat to the hero in the span of minutes.
With the 49ers up 27-17 late in the 4th quarter, Matt Ryan found Tony Gonzalez for a two-yard touchdown to make it 27-24. With less than three minutes to go in the game and after a huge personal foul penalty by Ahmad Brooks, the Falcons decided to try an onside kick. They executed it to perfection by kicking a low bouncer past the grasp of NaVorro Bowman and Jason Snelling recovered the onside kick at the 49ers’ 30 yard line.
You could hear a pin drop as Candlestick went quiet with the whole stadium in utter shock. The 49ers were on verge of losing their last game at the Stick and possibly missing the playoffs. It appeared the lowly Falcons had all the momentum and were going to break the hearts of the 49er faithful. The Falcons moved the ball down to the 49ers’ 10 yard line, destined to score a touchdown and win the game, but Bowman had other ideas, wanting to make up for his whiff on the onside kick.
The next play is what Coach Harbaugh described as “the best thing he had ever seen in a football game.” On 2nd and 1 at the 49ers’ 10, Ryan dropped back to pass looking for Harry Douglas on the slant. Tramaine Brock read the slant and almost intercepted it but instead he deflected the ball up in the air. Bowman snagged it and sprinted down the sideline, escorted by his teammates, 89 yards for the biggest touchdown of his career.
This sealed the victory and another trip to the postseason for third consecutive year. This may have been the last regular season game at Candlestick but it might not be the last game there. With Seattle’s loss to Arizona, the 49ers are only one game behind the Seahawks for the division lead. If the 49ers win against the Cardinals on Sunday and the Seahawks lose to the Rams, the 49ers would win the NFC West with a first round bye, giving them a home game and possibly two. Bowman’s pick made all this possible and hopefully the 49ers can cash in on this opportunity in their quest for six.
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