What a way to say goodbye to an old friend.
In the last regular season game ever at aging, worn down Candlestick Park, the San Francisco 49ers came away with a wild 34-24 victory against the Atlanta Falcons after Niners linebacker NaVorro Bowman’s electrifying 89-yard touchdown run sealed the win with less than two minutes to go on the final Monday Night Football game of the season.
Playing in front of a raucous, sold out crowd of more 70,000, a national television audience and some of the greatest players ever to have played in Candlestick Park, including Jerry Rice and Willie Mays, the 49ers, by virtue of their victory, guaranteed themselves a spot in the upcoming NFL playoffs. Barring an upset in the final week of the season, Monday night's game was the ever at the 53-year-old stadium that's played host to some of the most famous moments in San Francisco history, including the Joe Montana touchdown pass to Dwight Clark in the 1982 NFC Championship Game forever known as The Catch, the 1989 Earthquake during the World Series and the Beatles last ever public concert in 1966.
After recovering the onside kick following a touchdown pass from quarterback Matt Ryan to Tony Gonzales, the Falcons were in good position to pull off a stunning upset and payback against the 49ers in a rematch of last year’s NFC Championship game. But with just 1:31 left in the game, Ryan tossed a quick pass to wide receiver Harry Douglas, but the ball was batted away by cornerback Tramaine Brock and into the hands of Bowman, who then burst down the field to score before being dogpiled by ecstatic teammates in the endzone, while etching his name in 49er history with one of the most spectacular defensive plays ever and perhaps a fitting finale for a stadium that’s hosted a record 36 Monday Night Football games, two World Series and five Super Bowl winning teams.
After the game, 49ers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh, called Bowman’s touchdown, “one of the greatest plays I’ve ever seen” and “the best birthday present I’ve ever gotten” on his 50th birthday. And for NaVorro Bowman, it was sweet redemption as he failed to protect the football on the Falcons’ onside kick just minutes earlier.
First there was The Catch, then The Catch II. Now after Navarro Bowman’s stunning touchdown, fans and sports analysts are calling it The Pick to Close Out the Stick. If that was the last game ever at Candlestick Park, the 53-year-old stadium sure went out in style.