8:30 PM ET, December 23, 2013
Candlestick Park, San Francisco, CA
SAN FRANCISCO -- On a night they cheered "The Catch" and all the San Francisco greats of old, the current 49ers looked ready to move that success right into the future at a flashy new stadium.
More Falcons-49ers Coverage
NaVorro Bowman and the 49ers gave Candlestick one last iconic moment and might have saved their season in the process, Bill Williamson writes. Blog
Roddy White's late-season return to form and his connection with Matt Ryan continue to be a bright spot for the Falcons, Vaughn McClure writes. Blog
• Stats & Info: Keys to Niners' victory
Bowman returned an interception 89 yards for a touchdown with 1:10 remaining, and the 49ers clinched a playoff spot with a wild 34-24 victory against the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night in the likely final game at The Stick.
"That's been the best thing I've ever seen happen in a football game," coach Jim Harbaugh said. "Might've been close to 'The Catch.' "
"I always say a lot of plays are made when you run to the ball," Bowman said. "That's all I was doing was just running to the ball, trying to make a tackle, and it popped up and I was able to make a play for my team."
Atlanta's Jason Snelling recovered the ensuing onside kick as the Falcons got the ball back and were driving for a potential go-ahead score when San Francisco (11-4) capitalized with one of its biggest takeaways yet.
Mike and Mike
Jonathan Coachman and Danny Kanell talk about the 49ers' tight win over the Falcons, NaVorro Bowman's game-clinching interception return and the momentum gained by SF.
"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."
Kaepernick ran for a 4-yard touchdown and threw a 10-yard TD pass to Anquan Boldin, and Frank Gore scored on a 1-yard touchdown run as the 49ers used a big second half to clinch a third straight playoff season and fifth consecutive victory. They put up 169 yards in the third quarter after managing just 113 in the first half as the sellout crowd fell momentarily quiet.
San Francisco still has a slim chance at winning a third consecutive NFC West crown and earning a first-round bye if St. Louis wins at Seattle and the 49ers beat Arizona on the road. They can win the NFC's top seed with the same scenario, plus a Carolina loss at Atlanta.
During an evening of fanfare and famous faces for Candlestick's ceremonious farewell, Kaepernick took charge as his team made good on Harbaugh's mantra for the week: "We don't want to be the guys who screw up the final game in Candlestick."
"Best birthday present I've ever gotten, second only to being born," quipped Harbaugh on his 50th birthday. "That was awesome."
Boldin had a 10-yard touchdown catch that tied it at 10 with 12:03 left in the third, and Kaepernick ran for a score early in the fourth.
This rematch of the NFC Championship game featuring teams headed in opposite directions was another thriller. The 49ers won 28-24 last January in Atlanta to return to the Super Bowl for the first time in 18 years.
Boldin caught six passes for 72 yards and went over 1,000 yards receiving for the sixth time in his career and first since 2009. Kaepernick was 13 for 21 for 197 yards.
With the future of the 49ers on display, there were plenty of glimpses to the past -- and five Super Bowl titles.
Who's in? Who's on the verge of clinching? We break down the playoff possibilities for each team still alive heading into Week 17. Scenarios
"There's a lot of history in this stadium," Bowman said. "For this to be the last game, we cannot leave it with an L. So I'm glad we got the W."
Joe Montana's winning touchdown pass to Dwight Clark -- dubbed "The Catch" -- was celebrated at halftime as the No. 1 moment during a top-10 countdown during each home game this year. The special spot in the right corner of the north end zone was marked with a gold dot. That victory in the NFC Championship game after the 1981 season sent San Francisco to its first Super Bowl title.
The 49ers are set to move into $1.2 billion Levi's Stadium at team headquarters in Santa Clara while Candlestick waits out its implosion day.
White had 12 catches for 141 yards and retiring Falcons tight end Gonzalez eight for 63 yards in his final game back in the Bay Area, where he starred collegiately at California. Ryan wound up 37 for 48 for 348 yards but his late mistakes were costly as has been the case in a 1-7 road showing.
Hall of Famers Steve Young and Jerry Rice played catch on the field before the game, and two baseball greats with their own Hall of Fame distinction -- Willie Mays and Willie McCovey -- were on hand and waved to cheering fans.
San Francisco's 31 second-half points were its most since scoring 35 against Atlanta on Sept. 15, 1985, according to STATS.
Atlanta's 24 losses at Candlestick are the most of any 49ers opponent. ... The Falcons lost defensive tackle Corey Peters in the second quarter to an Achilles injury. Atlanta RB Jacquizz Rodgers sustained a concussion. ... 49ers TE Vernon Davis didn't have a reception for the first time all season.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 23: An exterior view of Candlestick Park before the game between the Atlanta Falcons...(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Team Stat Comparison
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from Penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
|Yards per play||5.8||7.0|
Comp - Att
Yards per pass
Sacks - Yards Lost
Yards per rush
|Red Zone (Made-Att)||2-4||3-4|
|Defensive / Special Teams TDs||0||1|
|FG||07:56||Phil Dawson 49 Yd||0||3|
|TD||09:53||Steven Jackson 2 Yd Run (Matt Bryant Kick)||7||3|
|FG||00:05||Matt Bryant 35 Yd||10||3|
|TD||12:03||Anquan Boldin 10 Yd Pass From Colin Kaepernick (Phil Dawson Kick)||10||10|
|FG||03:16||Phil Dawson 30 Yd||10||13|
|TD||12:34||Colin Kaepernick 4 Yd Run (Phil Dawson Kick)||10||20|
|TD||08:34||Roddy White 39 Yd Pass From Matt Ryan (Matt Bryant Kick)||17||20|
|TD||05:04||Frank Gore 1 Yd Run (Phil Dawson Kick)||17||27|
|TD||02:09||Tony Gonzalez 2 Yd Pass From Matt Ryan (Matt Bryant Kick)||24||27|
|TD||01:10||NaVorro Bowman 89 Yd Interception Return (Phil Dawson Kick)||24||34|
The 49ers rushed five or more defenders on five of Matt Ryan's 49 dropbacks Monday night. The 49ers rushed a game-high seven defenders on the pass that resulted in the game-sealing interception from Ryan. The 49ers bring added pressure on 18.5 percent of opponent dropbacks, the lowest rate in the league. - The 49ers had a 33.6% win probability before Ryan's pick-six, which brought the 49ers' win probability to 99.8%. The 66.2% swing was the biggest jump on a defensive play this season.
Both touchdowns Colin Kaepernick accounted for came in the second half, when he totaled more than twice as many yards as in the first half. This was the second game of the season (and third of his career) Kaepernick threw and ran for touchdowns (Week 8, Jaguars).[+]
Colin Kaepernick By Half, Monday
- Kaepernick completed 10-of-16 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown from inside the pocket. Kaepernick was 3-of-5 for 37 yards and was sacked twice when outside the pocket. - Vernon Davis was held without a catch on three targets, including a third-quarter drop, Monday night. The only other game Davis was targeted at least three times and did not have a reception was in Week 3, 2006. - The 49ers held the Falcons to 29 rushing yards after contact Monday. The 49ers have allowed 455 rushing yards after contact this season, the fewest in the league. - Ryan totaled a career-high 37 completions Monday night with 30 coming on throws 10 yards or fewer downfield. Ryan's average pass has traveled 6.6 yards downfield this season, third-lowest in the league.
The 49ers have won six straight Monday Night Football games, the second-longest active streak in the NFL.[+]
Longest Active Win Streaks - Monday Night Football
Matt Ryan continues to keep it short as all 12 of his passes were thrown less than 15 yards downfield. Only one (the 59-yarder to Davis) traveled more than 10 yards in the air.
Colin Kaepernick is 8-12 for 128 yards and a touchdown when throwing from inside the pocket. Outside the pocket, Kaepernick is 1-3 for 17 yards and has taken two sacks.
In the first half, Kaepernick was 1-2 for 3 yards when targeting Michael Crabtree. In the third quarter, Kaepernick is 4-4 for 99 yards when targeting Crabtree.
ESPN Stats & Information
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