49ers surging during December stretch run
For everyone who figured the San Francisco 49ers might stumble
after reaching the Super Bowl considering their tougher schedule,
added pressure and a much-improved division nemesis, the reigning
NFC champions are headed back to the playoffs.
With plenty of momentum.
Despite a pair of earlier two-game skids, they still have a
chance at another NFC West crown, if all goes right in Week 17. Not
too far off from the way they hoped it would go down the December
San Francisco (11-4) is riding a five-game winning streak after
a thrilling 34-24 win against Atlanta on Monday night. If the
Niners win at Arizona on Sunday and Seattle loses at home to St.
Louis, they would capture a third straight division crown in
”It means a lot,” linebacker Patrick Willis said. ”One of the
things we talked about all year is that we knew what it was going
to be like. Everybody expected us to just coast right through the
season and be easy. But as you know we went through a little bit of
adversity, and people were like, `Well, maybe they’re not the team
that we thought they were.’ But we just stayed together and we have
another chance now to go make something happen.”
In a ceremonious and nostalgic send off for Candlestick Park’s
regular-season finale – with the football and baseball dignitaries
of past decades in the house – fans departed from Candlestick Point
late Monday with a glimmer of hope there still might be one more
game in the iconic venue. It would happen if the 49ers win,
Seahawks lose and Carolina falls at Atlanta.
Such a scenario seemed an afterthought only a few weeks back,
when San Francisco was 8-4, the Seahawks (12-3) sat at 11-1 and
were poised to be the runaway NFC West winner.
There was a time the 49ers were in jeopardy of missing the
”It’s great, especially to get the win that gets us back in the
tournament, to get back where we left off last year, and hopefully
we can get the job done,” running back Frank Gore said. ”That was
a great win, and it took all of us to get the job done, and I think
that’s what it’s going to take for us to move forward to get it in
this tournament. It’s going to take all of us to make plays to get
back to where we left off last year.”
Things can change fast in this league.
Just when the Falcons were driving with a chance to win after
Matt Ryan led two late touchdown drives, Tramaine Brock broke up a
pass to Harry Douglas. Linebacker NaVorro Bowman grabbed the ball
for an interception and ran 89 yards for a touchdown with 2:09
”I was, and still am, happier than a pig in slop,” coach Jim
Harbaugh said on two occasions Monday, revealing a new catchphrase
one day after celebrating his 50th birthday with a wild, crucial
Nobody wanted to lose in a festive farewell for The Stick.
Afterward, 49ers CEO Jed York scurried up on stage in the north
end zone to stand alongside his successful uncle, former owner
Eddie DeBartolo Jr. In that moment, with a sellout crowd cheering,
the past and future of a storied franchise stood together with the
same mission of winning Super Bowls for years to come.
DeBartolo, the honorary captain for Candlestick Park’s likely
last hurrah, handed the game ball to York. Then, a fireworks show
followed, with Boyz II Men playing ”It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye to
Yesterday” in a concert fitting of the iconic venue that hosted
the Beatles’ final gig.
The 49ers hope there is much more to cheer before the season
For months last winter, and into spring and summer offseason
workouts, the 49ers were stung by how close they came to the
franchise’s sixth championship. San Francisco lost 34-31 to the
Baltimore Ravens, missing three chances from the 5-yard line with
less than 2 minutes remaining.
The loss snapped San Francisco’s perfect 5-0 Super Bowl
DeBartolo has no problem making bold predictions about this
”This team is on a mission, I can see it,” he said. ”I think
they’re a team of destiny this year. There will be no
first-and-goal on the 5. They’re going. They’re going to win the
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