Novarro Bowman went from potential goat to hero returning a bouncing interception 89 yards to give the 49ers a 34-24 victory and dash the Falcons comeback hopes in the last regular season NFL game at storied Candlestick Park.
Last season, the Falcons games against the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers stood in the path of a Super Bowl appearance. This year, the games against the two NFC West opponents were more about pride than anything. A disappointing lopsided loss to the Seahawks in Week 10 dropped Atlanta to 2-7 and practically eliminated the 2012-13 NFC Championship game participants from the 2013-14 playoffs.
On Monday night, Atlanta was 1:31 seconds and 10 yards away from possibly salvaging a portion of the season with a come-back win over the 49ers.
The Falcons jumped out early on the Niners in the same manner as they did in their last meeting. Aided in part by a questionable unnecessary roughness penalty on Donte Whitner’s hit on Falcons running back Stephen Jackson, Atlanta punched the ball in the endzone from the 2 yard line.
Unlike the NFC Championship game, the ‘Niners didn’t rely on any fourth quarter heroics to take control of the game. Colin Kapernick guided the offense down the field for a score on 6 plays. Anquan Boldin took the near lateral from Kaepernick 13 yards into the endzone to tie the game.
San Francisco added another 10 points before the Falcons were able to answer.
Four minutes after Kaepernick plunged into the endzone, Matt Ryan shredded the ‘Niners secondary with 5 passes. Roddy White’s 39 yard touchdown catch put the Falcons back within a field goal of the lead.
‘Frisco responded with a little smash mouth football courtesy of Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter. The pair accounted for all 76 yards of the score drive. Hunter’s 45 yard burst to the Atlanta 2 setup Gore’s 1 yard touchdown run. Gore finished the game with 97 yards on 21 carries.
Trailing by 10 and time running short, Ryan went back to work dicing up the ‘Niners secondary. Eight, mostly short, pass completions once again had the Falcons on the opposition’s two yard line. Instead of going to Jackson again, Ryan rolled right hitting future Hall member Tony Gonzalez for the score.
Still down a field goal, Atlanta went for and recovered the onside kick. In a strange twist of fate, Bowman, who would eventually save the game, mishandled the kick allowing the Falcons to recover the ball at the ‘Frisco 30 and gave Atlanta a potential game winning drive.
Ryan’s pass intended for Harry Douglas was contested by DB Tramaine Brock. As Douglas and Brock battled for possession, the ball popped over the shoulder of the reciever into the hands of Bowman. The rest is just another great moment in the annals Candlestick history.
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