NFL: San Francisco 49ers make play-offs with win at last game at Candlestick Park
By Paul Higham Twitter: @SkySportsPaulH. Last Updated: 24/12/13 7:39am
Colin Kaepernick and Anquan Boldin celebrate a touchdown
The San Francisco 49ers produced a fitting farewell to regular season football at their Candlestick Park home with a dramatic finish to their 34-24 win over the Atlanta Falcons that booked their place in the play-offs.
With just a three-point lead and with the Falcons down at their 10-yard line, the 49ers produced the thrilling finish the home fans desired as Navorro Bowman intercepted quarterback Matt Ryan and took it 89 yards for the clinching touchdown.
The 49ers moved on to 11-4 for the season and secured their play-off place with the win, and they could yet run out again at The Stick if they win at Arizona on the final Sunday while St Louis pull off an upset win in Seattle.
San Francisco could yet earn a first round bye and home field advantage with the same set of results plus a Carolina loss at Atlanta - but the most likely scenario is that their 42-year stay at Candlestick has ended.
It was a fitting end for a stadium that saw the team dominate when winning five Super Bowls - and it also provided a superb 50th birthday present for head coach Jim Harbaugh.
"That's been the best thing I've ever seen happen in a football game," Harbaugh said. "Best birthday present I've ever gotten, second only to being born. That was awesome."
The Falcons pounded out a 10-3 half time lead behind Steven Jackson's two-yard TD run, but the Niners responded with 31 second half points - their most since 1985 - with Anquan Boldin catching a ten-yard TD throw as he went over 1,000 yards receiving for the sixth time in his career.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick then ran in a score himself from four yards before Roddy White replied for Atlanta when catching a 39-yard TD pass from Ryan.
Frank Gore's one-yard score was cancelled out by Tony Gonzalez, and when Atlanta then recovered an on-side kick they had the game at their mercy before Bowman saved the day.
"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. So I'm glad we got the W."
From next season San Francisco will play at their new $1.2 billion Levi's Stadium near their headquarters in Santa Clara, which will stage the Super Bowl in 2016.