Candlestick Park has been home to some magical moments in 49ers history, The Catch, The Catch II, and The Vernon Post to name a few. The 49ers won what was most likely the final game at Candlestick Park 34 -24 on a key interception return for a touchdown by All-Pro NaVarro Bowman that will probably be remembered as The Pick. The win clinched a third consecutive playoff appearance for San Francisco.
On a cool San Francisco night, Willie Mays gave the final broadcast interview before the game started, fittingly a San Francisco legend paying tribute to a San Francisco landmark.
Atlanta received the opening kickoff and the 49ers defense forced a punt as expected. The offense drove down the field with the help of a 15 yard completion from Colin Kaepernick to Anquan Boldin, but the drive stalled as Kapernick was sacked on 3rd and 2, Phil Dawson and his bionic leg made it 3 – 0.
Atlanta didn’t do much until the second quarter. With the score 3 – 0, the Falcons drove 80 yards on their 3rd drive of the half, Steven Jackson scored a touchdown to make the score 7 – 3. On the drive Matt Ryan completed a huge 59 yard pass play to Drew Davis on 3rd and 6 that kept the drive alive. The coverage on the play was courtesy of none other then Carlos Rogers, who has been picked on by every team that has played the 49ers this season. After a strong 2011 and 2012 season Rogers has played some of his worst corner this year.
In the first half the 49ers offense didn’t move the ball well after the first drive. Atlanta’s young defense played much better then expected and held the 49ers offense in check, keeping key playmakers Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree from getting involved. The Falcons ended the half with a Matt Bryant field goal and went into halftime leading 10 – 3.
San Francisco received the kick off to start the second half. On 3rd and 5 after an Atlanta penalty, Kaepernick completed a pass to Crabtree for a 47 yard gain to the Atlanta 31. After a Frank Gore run and another completion to Crabtree, Anquan Boldin took a Kaepernick screen for a 10 yard touchdown to tie it up. After Dawson added another field goal the score was 13 – 10 at the end of the third quarter.
The offense was able to keep the ball out of Atlanta’s hands for much of the second half while scoring another touchdown on a quarterback keeper by Kaepernick to make the score 20 – 10. At this point it looked like the 49ers were on their way to another easy victory. But after the Kaepernick TD, Ryan drove the Falcons down the field and ended the drive on a beautiful 39 yard TD toss on a play action play to Roddy White. On the play White ran right through a double team and scored an easy touchdown.
On the ensuing drive, the 49ers used six running plays to drive 76 yards to increase their lead to 27 – 17 with 5:04 left to play. Kendall Hunter had a 45 yard run on a nice cut back run to setup the 9th touchdown of the season for Frank Gore.
Atlanta game back with a vengeance and wasn’t going to leave without a fight, after a Ryan to Gonzalez touchdown that cut the 49er lead to 27 – 24, the Falcons recovered an onside kick that was missed by Bowman, but NaVarro would make up for it in a big way. The Falcons were threatening on the San Francisco 10 yard line when the 49ers defense dialed up an all out blitz which caused a quick throw by Ryan to Harry Douglas, Tramaine Brock was able to break up and tip the pass which was intercepted by a charging Navarro Bowman, who took a cavalry of 49ers down the sideline to score a touchdown that put the game out of reach at 34 – 24 and put the 49ers into the playoffs.
The game was much closer then almost anyone imagined and the 49ers showed great resolve in getting their fifth consecutive victory. San Francisco now trails the Seattle Seahawks by one game with the last game of the season left to play. If the Seahawks lose to the St. Louis Rams at home and the 49ers are able to beat the suddenly hot Arizona Cardinals on the road, the 49ers would win the division and secure a first round bye.
Colin Kaepernick finished the game 13 for 21 for 197 yards and a TD, adding another 51 yards and a TD on the ground. Michael Crabtree had his first 100 yard receiving game of the season after having only 3 receiving yards in the 1st half. Crabtree finished with 5 catches for 102 yards. The 49ers rushed for 199 yards on the day. The defense uncharacteristically did not play up to their usual level and were fortunate to get the pick 6 by Bowman to help seal the game. Things in SF would have been horrible if the team had lost the game after being up by 10 with 5 minutes left to play.
As the game was ending Jed York made his way down to the field and on his way said to Michael Silver of NFL Network “A little bit of magic left in the building.” With the way this game was going and the way it ended there definitely was some home field magic that helped the 49ers secure their third consecutive playoff appearance. Thanks for the memories Candlestick, hopefully we have some more magic next week and see you again in playoffs for a home game.