The San Francisco 49ers gave Candlestick Park a victorious regular season farewell and kept hope alive for a possible return encounter in the postseason.
And NaVorro Bowman quickly went from goat to hero in order to seal the win.
Bowman intercepted Matt Ryan and returned it for an 89-yard touchdown to seal a 34-24 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night. The play came three plays after the Falcons recovered an onside kick that dipped under Bowman’s hands and was recovered by Jason Snelling to keep hope alive for a miracle rally for Atlanta.
Ryan connected with Harry Douglas for 11 and Tony Gonzalez for nine more to move to the 49ers 10-yard line before Bowman sealed the deal.
After a slow first half offensive for the 49ers, San Francisco scored on all four of their possessions in the second half to rally from a 10-3 halftime deficit. The win keeps alive hopes of winning the NFC West for the 49ers and the potential for at least one more game at Candlestick.
The 49ers need to win next week against the Arizona Cardinals and hope for a second straight home loss by the Seattle Seahawks against the St. Louis Rams to win the division.
Colin Kaepernick threw for 197 yards and a touchdown and ran for another.
Kaepernick scored on a 4-yard touchdown run to give the 49ers a 20-10 lead early in the fourth quarter. San Francisco had completely dominated the half up to that point. They had scored 17 unanswered points in the half to take the lead and the 49ers’ defense had held Atlanta to just seven offensive plays on their first two possessions of the half.
But the Falcons weren’t ready to roll over just yet. Matt Ryan led Atlanta on a seven-play, 69-yard scoring drive to keep within reach of San Francisco. Ryan connected with Roddy White for a pair of third down conversions before hitting White for a 39-yard touchdown behind the 49ers’ defense.
White caught 12 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown for the Falcons on the night.
The touchdown cut the 49ers lead to 20-17. The Falcons defense couldn’t hold up their end of the bargain. Kendall Hunter broke free for 45 yards down to the Atlanta 2-yard line. Frank Gore scored from a yard out two plays later to extend the lead to 27-17.
But Atlanta wouldn’t quit. Ryan led the Falcons 61 yards on nine plays and hit Tony Gonzalez for a 2-yard touchdown pass to once again close the deficit to just three with 2:14 left to play. A roughing the passer penalty by Ahmad Brooks against Ryan moved the kickoff to midfield and gave the green light for Atlanta to attempt an onside kick.
The onside try by Matt Bosher dipped under Bowman’s hands and was one-handed by Snelling along the sideline to give the ball back to the Falcons.