In what could be the final game in the 43 football seasons Candlestick Park, this game against the Falcons ended on one of the highest notes. It was extremely close to being one of the darkest moments in 49ers history when Atlanta recovered an onside kick untouched.
NaVorro Bowman redeemed himself after the ball bounced past him on the onside kick. It took a wicked bounce after trickling through the All-Pro linebacker before no 49ers player was in the area of the ball. Jason Snelling picked up the ball and stayed in-bounds when he recovered it.
For Bowman, he said it was all about staying calm through the gaffe. It wasn't head coach Jim Harbaugh who helped him, but linebackers coach Jim Leavitt who talked him through it.
"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."
Two plays after the Falcons gained 21 yards and were in position to score, it took a team effort to make the interception happen. On second and one, the 49ers blitzed and Matt Ryan forced a throw to Harry Douglas. The Falcons' wide receiver bobbled it thanks to Tramaine Brock making a play on the ball and it bounced right into Bowman's hands.
The Pro Bowl linebacker dashed 89 yards for the touchdown in what was the longest returned interception in Candlestick Park history. Bowman thanked his teammate for knocking the ball loose and Brock stayed calm throughout the last drive.
"We both kind of had it and I thought I was going to come down with it," Brock said. "Bowman just took it and got out of there. It was a good play and it helped the team get the win."
In what was just another day at the office to Brock, it means much more for the 49ers and this season. First of all, they clinched a postseason spot and are now the No. 5 seed in the NFC. Second, the New Orleans Saints didn't clinch a playoff berth and the showdown in Week 17 for the 49ers will not be a winner-take-all battle.
The 49ers can make the plays in crunch time as they've been resilient all season on defense. After all momentum was on Atlanta's side, it was a team effort on the interception and it took all phases of the game to win.
After the game, Jim Harbaugh almost said it was greater than "The Catch" by Dwight Clark at first, but then said it was one of the greatest things to have experienced in football.
Bowman has the second longest contract in terms of years behind Anthony Davis after signing an extension last season. Last January, Bowman broke up the pass on fourth down against the Falcons in the NFC Championship game to seal it. This time, he beats the Falcons again with a breath-taking interception returned for a touchdown. It's only fitting an All-Pro linebacker will continue to build a legacy with the 49ers for years to come with that pick-six.
"That's my best play yet," Bowman said. "We're going to have to redo the top-10 plays in Candlestick Park. I'll take it. My first pick of the year gets us into the playoffs and I want to make some more plays."