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Lowell Cohn: 49ers saved by NaVorro Bowman, their best player

  • San Francisco 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman (53) runs for an 89-yard touchdown after intercepting a pass in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in San Francisco, Monday, Dec. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Either they'd be in the playoffs or they'd be out. No post season no nothing. And Ryan dropped back and stood tall and threw a pass over the middle to receiver Harry Douglas — strange call that pass over the middle — and Niners' cornerback Tramaine Brock tipped the ball and it squirted, it fled, it flew into the air.

And there was Bowman. Catching it. With a gasp he ran down the field, steamed 89 yards into the end zone. At the edge of the end zone, he leaped, flew onto the ground for the score. He looked like a kid doing a belly flop. The sheer joy of it.

And the Niners won — would win. Bowman, their best player, saved them.

San Francisco 49ers vs. Atlanta Falcons


How fitting.

As Bowman stood up and gathered himself — green grass stains streaking his jersey — and as he started to jog along the west sideline toward his teammates who were going out of their skulls, Jim Harbaugh rushed over to him on the field. On his face, Harbaugh had a grin as big as Alaska. He yelled something at Bowman. He ran over to Bowman.

He put his arm around Bowman's back — near Bowman's waist. And he held on. God, did Harbaugh hold on. He escorted Bowman back to the bench refusing to let go of this man who saved his season.

Afterward, Harbaugh came to the interview room, the smile still there. It's like the smile was now permanent on his face. I asked what he thinks of Bowman. Harbaugh lifted his cap, ran his hand across the top of his head. He smiled even more.

"That's been the best thing I've ever seen happen in a football game," he gushed. "It might've been close to 'The Catch.'"

Note: Harbaugh turned 50 on Monday. "And it's the best birthday present I've ever gotten," he said. "Second only to being born. That was awesome."

We understand his point. So much depends on being born.

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