The San Francisco 49ers still have a chance to host a playoff game as of Dec. 24. Yet a lot has to break the 49ers way in Week 17, most of all a second straight home loss by the Seattle Seahawks. Ruling that long shot out, San Francisco's 34-24 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Dec. 23 was likely its last game at Candlestick Park -- although it did become a storybook finish.
At first it looked like a nightmare, as the 4-10 Falcons held a 10-3 lead at halftime. But the 49ers came out and took control in the second half, taking a 20-10 lead and then holding a 27-17 advantage with minutes left. Even when Matt Ryan got a touchdown to Tony Gonzalez with over two minutes left, San Francisco looked safe.
A penalty put the onside kick at midfield, yet the Falcons still had to convert it. Thanks to a bounce that got past NaVorro Bowman, Atlanta did recover right in field goal range. However, the Falcons were driving for a win, which would put the 49ers in danger of missing the playoffs altogether.
Yet with Ryan on the doorstep of the end zone, he threw a pass that went off Atlanta's Harry Douglas and San Francisco's Tramaine Brock, only to land in Bowman's arms. 89 yards later, Bowman was in the end zone in what may be the final touchdown in Candlestick Park history.
If not for that play, the 49ers would have been on the brink of being history for 2013, as they would have gone to 10-5 before visiting the 10-5 Arizona Cardinals in a play-in game. Instead, the 49ers are locked in the playoffs, while the Cardinals need a win and help to get in themselves.
Yet if the New Orleans Saints clinch a playoff berth before kickoff, Arizona will have nothing to play for, which would help San Francisco. In that case, the 49ers can win and go to 12-4, while hoping the Seahawks lose to the St. Louis Rams and give up the NFC West -- assuring one last game in Candlestick Park after all.
On the other hand, the 49ers can drop all the way to the sixth seed, or get the fifth seed and make an NFC title home game a slight possibility. If not, Bowman's run will have to serve as a grand finale in San Francisco.