5 things to know after 49ers beat Falcons 34-24

NaVorro Bowman got burned on an onside kick that could have cost

the 49ers a win, and the thought of that stung.

For a few plays is all.

Everything changed in a hurry when San Francisco’s standout

linebacker ended up with a loose ball in his hands and ran 89 yards

to seal a 34-24 victory against the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night

and another 49ers playoff berth in the final regular-season game at

iconic Candlestick Park.

”I was the guy who missed the ball on the onside kick,” Bowman

said. ”My coach (Jim Leavitt) just said let it go, move on to the

next play. It kind of stayed on my back, but I was able to overcome

it and make a play.”

Tramaine Brock broke up a pass intended for Harry Douglas and

Bowman grabbed the ball and started running.

”Just kind of pick-and-roll like,” coach Jim Harbaugh said.

”That’s the best thing I’ve ever seen happen in a football game.

It might have been close to `The Catch.”’

Bowman certainly added a memorable moment to the long list of

them at The Stick, where Dwight Clark’s winning catch from Joe

Montana in the 1981 NFC championship game that sent San Francisco

to its first Super Bowl title – ”The Catch” – was honored as the

No. 1 play ever as they were counted down during each 2013 home


”Somebody just mentioned to me they’re going to have to redo

the top-10 plays at Candlestick,” Bowman said, laughing.

Here are five things we learned from the 49ers’ fifth straight


SURGING SAN FRANCISCO: Anquan Boldin knows all about the

supposed challenges facing a team that reached the last Super Bowl.

He won a ring last February for the Baltimore Ravens against his

current 49ers.

He believes San Francisco (11-4) is poised for another special

run and playing its best football at the perfect time.

What seemed unthinkable only a few weeks back, the Niners still

have a chance at a third straight NFC West title and first-round

playoff bye.

They will be division champions if they win at Arizona next

Sunday and the Seattle Seahawks lose at home to St. Louis.

”There’s a lot of history of teams that make it to the Super

Bowl don’t always do so well the next season,” Boldin said. ”So

for us to be consistent and get in the playoffs, getting in the

playoffs gives us a chance.”

CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR: Maybe that narrow loss to San Francisco in

the NFC title game last season was a sign of things to come in 2013

for Atlanta (4-11). The Falcons won eight games a year ago by less

than seven points to reach the conference championship game that

they lost 28-24 to the 49ers. Atlanta has lost six games this

season by fewer than seven points and that doesn’t include this

game, where they were 10 yards away from taking the lead before the

deflected interception delivered another crushing defeat.

”Same old story for us,” tight end Tony Gonzalez said. ”The

whole year we’ve been fighting and fighting, clawing and scratching

to put ourselves in good position to go out there and get it done.

We just didn’t come up with the play.”

ONSIDE KICK: After failing to stop the 49ers on their first four

second-half drives, Falcons coach Mike Smith didn’t hesitate to

call for an onside kick after cutting the deficit to 27-24 with

2:09 to play even with all three timeouts remaining. It helped that

a personal foul moved the kickoff to the 50. But Smith said he was

calling for the onside kick anyway and the move paid off when Jason

Snelling made a one-handed recovery at the 30.

”The way that we had played defense there in the second half,

it had no bearing on it,” Smith said. ”We had a tough time

stopping them.”

KAEPERNICK’S MOMENT: Colin Kaepernick has left his mark on

Candlestick Park in one short year as an NFL starter, maybe not

close to the legacies of Hall of Fame quarterbacks Joe Montana and

Steve Young before him, but a mark nonetheless.

Trailing 10-3 coming out of halftime, Kaepernick delivered the

kind of clutch second half that made all of the former greats in

attendance confident about the franchise going forward.

San Francisco put up 169 yards of offense in the third quarter

alone after managing 113 the entire first half. Kaepernick ran for

a 4-yard touchdown and threw a 10-yard score to Boldin.

While his line wasn’t overly impressive – 13 for 21 for 197

yards with three sacks – he kept his team on a nice roll with one

game left before the playoffs.

”He kept the chains moving, whether it be with his legs or his

arms,” Boldin said.

IMPROVED PASSING GAME: Tight end Vernon Davis got poked in the

right eye and was limited to no catches for the first time all

season, while also having his streak of consecutive games with a

touchdown catch snapped at five.

Still, Boldin and Michael Crabtree did their part to carry the

load in an improving passing game.

Boldin had six catches for 72 yards and Crabtree five for 102 in

his fourth game back following a lengthy recovery from Achilles


”Our guys didn’t want to lose,” Davis said. ”They wanted the

game. So as a team we came together collectively and just kept

pounding away.”

AP Sports Writer Josh Dubow contributed to this report.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org