San Francisco 49ers secure playoff berth by beating Atlanta
NaVorro Bowman, Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers sealed their NFL postseason berth in a celebratory regular-season finale at Candlestick Park. The 49ers beat Atlanta 34-24.
The Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO – In one emphatic finish, NaVorro Bowman, Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers sealed their postseason berth in a celebratory regular-season finale at Candlestick Park.
Bowman returned an interception 89 yards for a touchdown with 1:11 remaining, and the 49ers clinched a playoff spot with a 34-24 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night in the likely final game at The Stick.
Tramaine Brock broke up a pass intended for Harry Douglas and Bowman got his hands on the ball and took off. He was joined in the end zone by jubilant teammates.
“I always say a lot of plays are made when you run to the ball,” Bowman said. “That’s all I was doing, was just running to the ball, trying to make a tackle, and it popped up and I was able to make a play for my team.”
San Francisco (11-4) is a game behind the Seahawks (12-3) in the NFC West entering the final week of the regular season.
Matt Ryan threw a 39-yard TD pass to Roddy White with 8:34 remaining and a 2-yard score to tight end Tony Gonzalez — who is in his last season — with 2:09 left as the Falcons (4-11) made things interesting.
Atlanta’s Jason Snelling recovered the ensuing onside kick as the Falcons got the ball back and were driving for a potential go-ahead score when Bowman intervened.
“We’ve had opportunities in a lot of football games this year,” Ryan said. “We just haven’t found ways to win. Same thing tonight.”
Kaepernick ran for a 4-yard touchdown and threw a 10-yard TD pass to Anquan Boldin, and Frank Gore had a 1-yard touchdown run as the 49ers used a big second half to clinch a third straight playoff season and fifth consecutive victory.
On a festive night, Kaepernick took charge as his team made good on coach Jim Harbaugh’s mantra for the week: “We don’t want to be the guys who screw up the final game in Candlestick.”
“Best birthday present I’ve ever gotten, second only to being born,” said Harbaugh on his 50th birthday.
Boldin had a 10-yard touchdown catch that tied the score at 10 with 12:03 left in the third, and Kaepernick ran for a score early in the fourth quarter.
This rematch of last season’s NFC Championship Game featured teams headed in opposite directions. The 49ers won 28-24 in January in Atlanta.
Boldin caught six passes for 72 yards and went over 1,000 yards receiving for the sixth time in his career and first since 2009.
Michael Crabtree adjusted to make a 47-yard catch on an underthrown pass by Kaepernick in the third quarter, and then made a 19-yard reception on the play before Boldin’s score.
Crabtree made five catches for 102 yards on a day tight end Vernon Davis didn’t have a reception for the first time all season.
With the future of the 49ers on display, there were plenty of salutes to the past — and five Super Bowl titles.
“There’s a lot of history in this stadium,” Bowman said. “For this to be the last game, we cannot leave it with an ‘L.’ ”