The 49ers closed down Candlestick in epic fashion Monday night, parlaying the worst defensive outing of the year into a nail-biting, season on the brink, game ending moment, and then watching Navorro Bowman save the day with a legendary 89 yard pick six that beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-24.
Only moments before the game altering play, Bowman had seized the goat horns by whiffing on an onsides kick, giving Atlanta the opportunity to win the game. But just like in the NFC Championship game last year, Falcons QB Matt Ryan coughed away the game at the 49ers ten yard line. In that game, it was — you guessed it — the same Navorro Bowman who broke up Ryan’s last gasp 4th down pass that nailed down the Niner trip to the Super Bowl.
Bowman will not by on Ryan’s Christmas card list, now or in his haunted dreams thirty years from now.
Bowman would not have made his mad dash to the end zone without the terrific defensive effort of Tramaine Brock, who wrestled the ball out of the Atlanta WR Harry Douglas’ hands and into the air for Bowman to glide underneath, haul it in, and head down the side line to glory. It was a redemptive moment for Brock, also, since he had played his worst game of the year up to that point.
The hoopla surrounding the last game ever to be played at Candlestick park had overshadowed this game for the entire week leading up to it. And Atlanta was supposed to be a pushover. Apparently, the 49ers felt that way, but Atlanta did not.
The Niner offense did not show up to play until the second half. The defense had no pass rush whatsoever, missed tackles all night long, couldn’t cover anybody, and looked nothing at all like a championship caliber unit. Bowman turned all of that into afterthought, but the effectiveness of the hurry up offense employed by the Falcons was surely noticed by our potential playoff opponents. Especially those in Philadelphia, where a hurry up offense is the base offense.
The end game theatrics overshadowed what should have been a monster, game ending drive by the 49ers earlier in the 4th quarter. Nursing a three point lead, the team took the ball at their own 24 yard line and rammed it down the Falcons’ throats with six straight in-your-face rushing plays, highlighted by Kendall Hunter’s 45 yard run, to score a touchdown and seemingly put the game out of reach. Oh, no, Nanette.
As Bowman rumbled toward glory with the game winning interception return, all I could think of was, “You lucky sons of bitches.”
Atlanta players probably just shrugged and said, “What a miserable effing season.”
But up in Seattle and especially down there in Arizona, reactions were no doubt much, much different. The Cardinals went from a win-and-you’re-in home game next Sunday to a desperate win-and-hope-the-Saints-lose scenario. Arizona DT Darnell Dockett, a loud and avid Niner hater, will no doubt be ordering new furnishings for his home today after demolishing everything in his house while Bowman chugged downfield.
For Seattle, aside from just plain hating the Niners, they now face a must win game against the Rams on Sunday to avoid possibly falling from the number one seed and home field advantage to the number five wild card seed and no home games at all. The 2013 season has come down to the last weekend, and it should be a good one.
Before that, however, we’ll take a short break and wish you all a Merry Christmas.