NFL Game Summary - Atlanta at San Francisco|
(Monday, December 23rd)
Final Score: San Francisco 34, Atlanta 24
San Francisco, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - The San Francisco 49ers nearly
squandered a chance to clinch a postseason berth Monday, but found a little
late magic in what could be the final game at Candlestick Park.
NaVorro Bowman's 89-yard interception return for a touchdown late in
regulation essentially sealed the Niners' 34-24 win over the Atlanta Falcons
and kept San Francisco's hope of a No. 1 seed in the NFC alive.
The 49ers (11-4) need plenty of help next week to secure home-field advantage
throughout the playoffs, but can breathe a sigh of relief knowing they are at
least qualified for the postseason after Matt Ryan almost rallied Atlanta out
of a 10-point hole.
Ryan found Tony Gonzalez for a 2-yard touchdown with 2:09 remaining to bring
the Falcons within 27-24, and Jason Snelling secured the ensuing onsides kick
with a one-handed snag along the sideline.
Atlanta moved to the San Francisco 10-yard line with 1:31 to play, and Ryan
threw a short pass intended for Harry Douglas that was disrupted by Tramaine
Brock. The ball was tipped in the air, and Bowman snagged it and went
untouched the other way, diving into the end zone as a delirious Candlestick
Park crowd celebrated.
"I don't think I've ever been involved in a game where something that good
happened," said 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, who turned 50 on Monday. "That
was one of the greatest plays I've ever see. It looked like a pick-and-roll in
basketball...and (Bowman) took it to the house."
Colin Kaepernick threw for 197 yards and a touchdown and added 51 yards and a
TD on the ground for the Niners, who have rattled off five straight wins.
Frank Gore capped his 97-yard rushing night with a 1-yard plunge over the goal
line to give San Francisco a 27-17 lead with 5:04 left to play.
Ryan then guided a quick 11-play, 80-yard drive that ended in Gonzalez's catch
in the back of the end zone, but his deciding interception sullied his
otherwise terrific performance.
Ryan completed an efficient 37-of-48 passes for 348 yards with two touchdowns
and a pair of interceptions. Roddy White had 12 grabs for 141 yards and a TD
in the loss.
"When we got the onside kick at the end, we had a great opportunity to win but
it wasn't meant to be," Ryan said. "Sometimes the ball bounces in the other
direction. That's been the case for us."
Atlanta (4-11), which lost to San Francisco in the 2012 NFC Championship Game,
went the entire season without winning back-to-back games.
Phil Dawson knocked through a 49-yard field goal on San Francisco's opening
possession, but Atlanta forced the Niners to punt the next three times they
touched the ball in the first half.
Drew Davis got the Falcons on the move with a 59-yard catch-and-run down to
the San Francisco 5-yard line early in the second quarter. He gained a bunch
of yardage after the catch with a spin move near midfield, and Steven Jackson
cashed in with a 2-yard touchdown run after the Niners' Donte Whitner was
flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Matt Bryant tacked on a 35-yard field goal just before halftime to give
Atlanta a 10-3 lead at the break, but the tide turned when the Niners marched
83 yards in just six plays after the second-half kickoff for the tying
Michael Crabtree had a key 47-yard catch on an early third-down play and on
1st-and-goal from the 10, Anquan Boldin caught a screen pass and split several
defenders en route to the end zone.
Dawson connected from 30 yards out with 3:16 remaining in the third quarter,
and San Francisco's 9-play, 61-yard march stretching into the fourth ended
with Kaepernick taking it in himself for a 4-yard sneak for a 20-10 lead.
Ryan and White connected on a 39-yard scoring strike with 8:34 remaining
to bring the Falcons within three.
The Niners can win the NFC West with a win over the Cardinals next week
coupled with a Seahawks loss to the Rams. Then they would need the Panthers
to lose to the Falcons to gain the conference's No. 1 seed ... This was the
36th Monday Night Football game Candlestick Park has hosted, the most of any
stadium in NFL history ... San Francisco has won six straight games on Monday
night ... The 49ers are moving to football-only Levi's Stadium in nearby Santa
Clara, next season ... Jackson was limited to 53 yards on 16 carries ...
Crabtree and Boldin finished with 102 and 72 receiving yards, respectively.
12/24 01:59:39 ET