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.

After a lackluster (and that's being generous) first half that staked the Falcons to a 10-3 lead, the 49ers took control after halftime and asserted their superiority. Colin Kaepernick led the charge. He passed for 76 yards on San Francisco's first possession of the third quarter, a figure that included a 47-yard catch-and-run by Michael Crabtree and a 10-yard scoring toss to Anquan Boldin on a hitch-screen.

That drive tied the game at 10-10.

The next time the 49ers had the ball, they moved 68 yards, helped by a 22-yard connection between Kaepernick and Crabtree and a questionable pass-interference call on Atlanta's Paul Worrilow, and finished with Phil Dawson's 30-yard field goal for a 13-10 lead.

Then Kaepernick resorted to his legs. Still nursing that three-point advantage, he scrambled for 22 yards, ran again for nine and scored on a 4-yard designed quarterback run up the middle.

The game started as you might have expected, with the 49ers driving to a field goal. Kaepernick looked pretty good on the possession, and when it bogged down, the reliable Dawson put it through from 49 yards.

Then the 49ers went to sleep on offense. Kaepernick came under consistent pressure. He misfired a few times, was sacked twice before halftime and when he did find an open receiver, the guy couldn't always reel it in. Vernon Davis failed to get his second foot inbounds on one throw downfield, and his backup, Vance McDonald, stumbled and fell on his own big chance.

The Falcons, meanwhile, didn't look much like the team that has fallen apart in 2013.

Early in the second quarter, Ryan found Drew Davis with a short pass over the middle and rookie safety Eric Reid missed the tackle, allowing Davis to break freefor a 59-yard gain.

After a double-foul on Donte Whitner — one for an illegal hit to the helmet, one for arguing that call too vehemently — Steven Jackson ran it in for a 2-yard touchdown, and the Candlestick knew it was in for a grinder. As usual in this iconic stadium, their team was able to pull it out.


You can reach Staff Writer Phil Barber at 521-5263 or