The 49ers won a game they had to win Monday night, securing a playoff berth for the third consecutive year under head coach Jim Harbaugh on his 50th birthday.
In the final regular season game at Candlestick Park — San Francisco’s home since 1971 — the 49ers beat the Falcons 34-24.
Harbaugh said post-game:
“It was about coming face to face with our destiny.”
Yet the 49ers found themselves down 10-3 at halftime, but Colin Kaepernick emerged to lead the offense on four straight second half scoring drives while Matt Ryan answered with touchdown strikes to Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez to keep the Falcons within reach.
After a successful onside kick and down just 27-24, the Falcons were in the red zone when Tramaine Brock deflected a Ryan pass intended for Harry Douglas into the hands of blitzing NaVorro Bowman who returned the pick 89 yards for the game sealing touchdown.
Regarding the interception Bowman who totaled 11 tackles said:
“It popped up and I was able to make a play for my team.”
Harbaugh was impressed by the play saying afterward:
“It’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen on a football field. That was awesome.”
Kaepernick completed 13-of-21 passes for 194 yards and a touchdown to Anquan Boldin. He also connected with Michael Crabtree five times for 102 yards while adding 51 rushing yards on six attempts including a touchdown.
Phil Dawson was 2-for-2 on field goals extending his streak of consecutive makes to 26.
Spurred by the offensive line and fullbacks Will Tukuafu and Anthony Dixon, bell cow Frank Gore rushed for 97 yards on 21 carries and a score while Kendall Hunter added three rushes for 51 yards.
Meanwhile Patrick Willis led the defense with 18 tackles including three for loss and one pass defensed while Justin Smith recorded the only sack on Ryan who was hit eight times by Vic Fangio’s unit.
Brock intercepted Ryan’s Hail Mary pass to end the game.
The 49ers won their fifth straight game and improved to 11-4 while the Falcons drop to 4-11.
San Francisco looks the hot team heading into the season finale at Arizona next Sunday, a game that has playoff implications.
The 49ers can still win the NFC West with a Seattle loss and a victory over the Cardinals. In the worst case scenario they will be the No. 5 seed.
This of course means Monday night’s game may not actually have been the last game at the ‘Stick.