49ers Survive Falcons With Game-Winning Pick-Six

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Navorro Bowman returns an interception 89 yards for the game-sealing touchdown

The Atlanta Falcons lost another tough one with a 34-24 defeat at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers. The game marked the final regular season contest played by the 49ers in Candlestick Park. The Falcons got off to an early lead, pulling ahead by a score of 10-3 at halftime. But the 49ers then scored 17 unanswered points before the Falcons got get back on the scoreboard. Ultimately the Falcons were in position to pull ahead, having marched the ball inside the 49ers’ 10-yard line with 1:31 left to go in the game. But Matt Ryan’s pass to Harry Douglas was tipped off 49ers cornerback Tramaine Brock into the hands of linebacker Navorro Bowman, who then returned it 89 yards for a touchdown, sealing the game for the 49ers.

Ryan led the way completing 37 of 48 passes for 348 yards, two touchdowns, and a pair of interceptions. Steven Jackson led the team in rushing with 53 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown. Roddy White led receivers with 12 catches for 141 yards and a touchdown. Tony Gonzalez caught eight passes for 63 yards and a touchdown. Douglas finished with five catches for 46 yards, while Drew Davis had three catches for 70 yards. Matt Bryant hit on his lone field goal attempt from 35 yards out. Matt Bosher punted five times for an average of 48.8 yards with two kicks placed inside the 20-yard line. Robert McClain averaged 16.5 yards on a pair of punt returns, while Jacquizz Rodgers had 50 yards on two kickoff returns. The Falcons offense was able to generate 402 total yards, mostly coming in the air. They also were able to convert eight of 15 third down attempts and scored touchdowns on half of their four red zone trips.

Defensively, the Falcons gave up 379 total yards, including 199 yards on the ground. The defense got off to a good start, limiting 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to just 69 yards passing in the first half. The 49ers also only had 52 rushing yards and were only able to convert one of five third downs in the first half. But that changed in the second half, as San Francisco generated 266 total yards, including 147 on the ground. They also were able to convert on three of four third down attempts and had no issues moving the ball at will against the struggling Falcons defense. Joplo Bartu led defenders with 11 tackles, including one for loss. Thomas DeCoud (5 tackles); Jonathan Massaquoi (1 tackle, 1 sack); Robert McClain (2 tackles, 1 pass deflection); William Moore (5 tackles); Stephen Nicholas (10 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 pass deflection); Corey Peters (1 tackle, 1 sack); and Paul Worrilow (5 tackles) had noteworthy games.

The game did not start great for the Falcons, although a two-yard run by Jackson was able to convert their first third down attempt of the game. But on their next third down try, Ryan’s pass to Roddy White was off the mark and the team was forced to punt. The 49ers were able to move the ball into Falcon territory, but their drive was stalled when Corey Peters tripped up Kaepernick for a sack on 3rd-and-2. That forced the 49ers to settle for a 49-yard field goal try from Phil Dawson, which was good to give San Francisco an early 3-0 lead.

On the ensuing series, Falcons offense was once again able to convert their first third down try but failed on the second. Tony Gonzalez was stopped just shy of the sticks on 3rd-and-13 to force a 56-yard Matt Bosher punt that forced the 49ers to start their drive at their 8-yard line.

But the 49ers were able to move the ball despite the poor starting position. On the third play of the drive, Robert Alford nearly had Kaepernick on a cornerback blitz, but the quarterback was able to avoid the rush and throw the ball downfield to Vernon Davis. But the pass was incomplete due to Davis not getting both feet in bounds on the catch. But two plays later, Kapeernick was able to deliver a 22-yard strike to Anquan Boldin despite taking a big hit on the play. A seven-yard run by Frank Gore on the ensuing play put the ball in Falcon territory. The 49ers were able to close out the first quarter with a 17-yard pass from Kaepernick to Kassim Osgood. That set up a 3rd-and-1 to kick off the second quarter. But pressure by Jonathan Babineaux flushed Kaepernick, who was tripped up from behind by Stephen Nicholas for the sack. That forced an Andy Lee punt.

The Falcons took over and the offense got itself into gear. On 3rd-and-6, pressure forced Ryan to step up in the pocket where he was able to find a streaking Drew Davis. Davis made a couple of defenders miss after the catch for a big 59-yard gain that put the ball down at the 49ers’ 5-yard line. Three plays later, Jackson found pay dirt with a 2-yard touchdown run to give the Falcons a 7-3 lead.

Neither team was able to find much success on their next series, swapping punts with the 49ers taking over at their 13-yard line with 2:25 left in the half. The 49ers fared no better on that series with a three-and-out thanks to Robert McClain breaking up a third-down pass to Boldin. That was followed up by a nice return by McClain for 22 yards which gave the Falcons favorable field position at the 49er 47-yard line. On the third play of the series, Ryan’s pass to Tony Gonzalez was broken up by Patrick Willis. But two plays later, Gonzalez was able to convert on third down to move the chains on a four-yard catch. That gave Atlanta the ball at San Francisco’s 26-yard line with 26 seconds left. On the next play, Carlos Rogers nearly picked off a pass to Gonzalez, but dropped the interception giving the Falcons another chance. Jason Snelling was bottled up for a two-yard loss on the next play. But Harry Douglas got that yardage back with an 11-yard gain on a screen on 3rd-and-12. That set up a field goal from Matt Bryant, who connected on the 35-yard attempt as time expired in the first half. The Falcons held a 10-3 lead at halftime.

The 49ers were resurgent on the opening series of the second half. After a offside penalty on Osi Umenyiora prevented the Falcons from getting off the field on third down, Kaepernick hit Michael Crabtree on a 47-yard pass thanks to a broken tackle by McClain. Kaepernick dialed up Crabtree again two plays later on a 19-yard catch, putting the ball at the Falcons’ 10-yard line. On the very next play, Boldin scored on a 10-yard catch and run off a screen pass to tie the game up 10-10.

After gaining 19 yards on the opening play of the ensuing series on a Roddy White catch, the Falcons offense stalled. Steven Jackson was bottled up for a one-yard loss on 3rd-and-1, and the Falcons were forced to punt on a four-and-out. On the next 49ers possession, Crabtree once again snuck behind the defense for a 22-yard gain to put the ball deep in Falcon territory. On the next play, Kaepernick’s pass to an open Vernon Davis was off the mark, preventing the touchdown. The Falcons defense responded with Kaepernick running into Jonathan Massaquoi as he looked to avoid pressure in the pocket, leading to a sack and nine-yard loss. But on 3rd-and-19, Paul Worrilow was flagged for a questionable pass interference call, giving San Francisco a first down in the red zone. But the Falcons defense held, bottling up the three consecutive runs by the 49ers and forcing a 30-yard kick from Phil Dawson, which was good. That pushed San Francisco’s lead to 13-10.

But Atlanta responded with another three-and-out after Ryan scrambled to avoid pressure and was forced to throw the ball away on third down. After the Bosher punt, the 49ers were able to move the ball into Falcon territory thanks in large part to a 22-yard scramble by Kaepernick as the third quarter came to a close. A few plays later at the start of the fourth quarter, Kaepernick was able to get another 9 yards on an option run to get the ball in the red zone. Three plays later, Kaepernick found the end zone a four-yard run on a QB keeper up the middle. That push the 49ers’ lead to 20-10 with 12:34 left in the game.

The Falcons offense finally got in gear, beginning with a nice 30-yard kickoff return from Rodgers. That was followed by a pair of third down conversions on catches by White. The latter of which was a 18-yard catch on a deep throw from Ryan. Then on the next play, Ryan found a streaking White in the end zone for a 39-yard bomb for the touchdown. That cut the 49ers’ lead to three points with 8:34 to go in the game.

The 49ers running attack then took over. Frank Gore took the first three plays of the series for a combined 29 yards. Kendall Hunter then burst off the right side for a 45-yard gain that put the ball at the two-yard line. Two plays later, Gore dove into the end zone for the touchdown, pushing the lead back to two scores with 5:04 remaining.

The Falcons started strong on the next drive, with a nine-yard run by Jackson to kick things off on first down. But the running game stalled, and the Falcons were forced to go for it on fourth down. Thankfully, White showed up again to make a six-yard grab on 4th-and-2. On the next play, Ryan found White again on a 22-yard gain to put the ball into 49er territory. Three plays later, a 15-yard catch by Gonzalez on a crossing pattern put the ball in the red zone. Harry Douglas then made a 9-yard grab to inch the team closer. White converted another critical down, this time a 3rd-and-1 on a 5-yard screen catch to get the ball down to the two-yard line. Ryan then scrambled to find Gonzalez in the end zone on the next play, once again cutting the 49ers lead to three points.

With little more than two minutes remaining on the clock, the Falcons lined up for the onside kick. Bosher’s squib kick made a perfect bounce underneath the expecting hands of Navorro Bowman, and into the waiting arms of Jason Snelling. Snelling’s recovery gave Atlanta the ball at San Francisco’s 30-yard line. Ryan hit Douglas on first down for an 11-yard gain, followed by a nine-yard catch from Gonzalez. But on 2nd-and-1 from the 49ers’ 10-yard line, a blitz rushed Ryan’s throw to Douglas, who was outmuscled for the ball by Tramaine Brock. The ball tipped up in the air and into the arms of Bowman, who sprinted 89 yards for a touchdown. That play essentially sealed the 49ers win, now with the score 34-24 with 1:10 left in the game.

The Falcons were able to move the ball downfield on the next series. And with five seconds left, Ryan attempted a hail mary that was picked off by Brock in the end zone, ending the game.

The Falcons will return home to the Georgia Dome to face divisional rival Carolina Panthers in the season finale. The game will mark what is expected to be the final game of Gonzalez’s career.

About the Author

Aaron Freeman
Founder of FalcFans.com