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Bowman's interception clinches the 49ers a playoff spot in win over Falcons

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The San Francisco 49ers escaped with a 34-24 win over the Atlanta Falcons in the final regular season game for Candlestick Park. They clinched a playoff berth and are now one game behind the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West Standings. San Francisco is currently the No. 5 seed ahead of the New Orleans Saints.

Leading by 10 points, the Atlanta Falcons scored a touchdown by Tony Gonzalez to make it 27-24 with just over two minute remaining. Some drama occurred when a surprise onside kick went past NaVorro Bowman and the loose ball was recovered by Jason Snelling untouched.

The Falcons got on the 10 yard-line two plays later but the biggest play of the game happened right after. On 2nd and 1, Matt Ryan attempted to throw a slant to Harry Douglas before Tramaine Brock knocked the ball out of his hands. The ball bounced towards NaVorro Bowman and he returned the interception 89 yards for a touchdown to seal the game.

“Once I missed the ball on the onside kick, my coach [Jim Leavitt] said to let it go,” Bowman said. “That got me through it and having [Patrick Willis] here got me right and I stayed on my back. I was able to overcome it.”

Bowman stayed back on a blitz and said he saw Brock make a great play on the ball to force Douglas to bobble it. The All-Pro linebacker said that was his “Best play yet.”

Jim Harbaugh said it was an amazing play and it one of the best birthday gifts he has ever received. The head coach turned 50 on Monday.

“It was a great play by Tramaine Brock and NaVorro Bowman,” Harbaugh said. “It was like a pick-and-roll in basketball. Brock laid a pick and Bowman had space to run. That's the best thing I've ever seen in a football game.”

The 49ers started the game with a 49-yard field goal by Phil Dawson. Will Tukuafu was the first fullback to step on the field and on his opening snap, he had a key block for Frank Gore which resulted in a 10 yard gain.

Atlanta broke through with a 59-yard catch-and-run to Drew Davis on third down. Donte Whitner was double-flagged after a controversial hit which was ruled as contact to the helmet level. The second flag occurred due to the fact he argued the call with the referees. Steven Jackson finished the drive with a two-yard touchdown run to the left.

The Falcons threatened again after a 22-yard punt return by Robert McClain to the 49ers’ side of the field. Matt Bryant made a 35-yard field goal which resulted in a 10-3 score at halftime. Atlanta was 4-8 on third downs while the 49ers were converted one of five attempts.

Colin Kaepernick said the team didn’t execute in the first half, which led to being down after 30 minutes. The 49ers were only 1-5 on third down while Atlanta converted four out of eight attempts.

Trailing 10-3 at the start of the third quarter, the 49ers did exactly what they needed to do on their first possession of the second half. The Falcons jumped offsides on third and 10 as the 49ers made them pay immediately. Colin Kaepernick found Michael Crabtree for a 47 yard catch and run on third down and later hit him again for 19 yards. Anquan Boldin scored a 10-yard touchdown on a WR screen to tie the game.

Crabtree became clutch again on the ensuing possession with a 22-yard reception on third and 1. After getting sacked on second down, a pass-interference penalty occurred on third and 19 to bring the team in field goal range. The drive stalled and ended with a 30-yard field goal by Phil Dawson.

Colin Kaepernick scrambled three times on the ensuing possession and scored a touchdown with a four yard run. After the Falcons responded with a touchdown of their own, Frank Gore called his own number with a one-yard touchdown run to make it 27-17.

In an ugly win, Jim Harbaugh was relieved after Bowman’s interception returned for a touchdown. He was happy to close Candlestick Park on a positive note.

“The buildup to the final regular season game at the iconic Candlestick Park [was huge],” Harbaugh said. “I appreciate history as much as anyone, but for the men who were in the [building], it's about the future. We're facing our destiny for this year. There are lot of great memories and a lot of great wins [in Candlestick Park]. That's as big as they come.”

The 49ers will travel to Arizona to play the Cardinals in Week 17.

===

-Jim Harbaugh is now 19-4-1 in the regular season at Candlestick Park.

-Anquan Boldin reached the 1,000 yard receiving mark for the sixth time in his career.

-San Francisco needs the Seattle Seahawks to lose to the St. Louis Rams next week combined with a win over teh Cardinals in order to clinch the NFC West division. In order to be the No.1 seed, they also need the Carolina Panthers to lose to the Atlanta Falcons.

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