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49ers beat Falcons 34-24 in thrilling Candlestick finale

  • San Francisco cornerback Tramaine Brock (26) breaks up a pass intended for Atlanta receiver Harry Douglas in San Francisco on Monday. 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman (53) picked off the pass and returned it for a touchdown. (TONY AVELAR / Associated Press)

SAN FRANCISCO — Let it be entered into the record that NaVorro Bowman made the last great play at Candlestick Park. You know all about The Catch. How do you like The Pick?

Bowman, in position to be the goat of the game after letting a late onside kick get past him, plucked a tipped ball out of the air and sped 89 yards for a game-saving touchdown, sending the 49ers to a 34-24 victory over the Atlanta Falcons and wrapping up this team's third consecutive postseason appearance.

“I love history,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. “I appreciate history as much as anyone, but for the men that were in the arena, it's about the future. This game was about that, what our destiny was. We're coming face to face with our destiny, and that's what the game was about.”

San Francisco 49ers vs. Atlanta Falcons

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The Niners' precise immediate destiny won't be sorted out until next weekend, with several scenarios in the air, but Harbaugh's team is playoff-bound. For much of this game, that was anything but a certainty.

The 49ers took a 10-point lead early in the fourth quarter, but the 4-10 Falcons wouldn't go away. They scored on a 39-yard deep strike from Matt Ryan to Roddy White with 8:34 left. The 49ers countered with a run-based drive and finished it on Frank Gore's 1-yard plunge with 5:04 remaining.

Still it wasn't over. The pesky Falcons, who took the 49ers to the wire in the NFC championship game last January, scored again on a short pass from Ryan to tight end Tony Gonzalez at the 2:09 mark — and then recovered the onside kick after it got past Bowman.

The crowd, in a celebratory mood from the outset in the final football game at Candlestick, was stunned as the Falcons moved in position for an easy field goal — or even a go-ahead touchdown. Then cornerback Tramaine Brock broke up a pass to Harry Douglas, and Bowman retrieved the carom and was off to the races.

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