Bowman, whose first responsibility was to blitz the quarterback over the center, was rebuked at the line of scrimmage and rolled outside toward a Matt Ryan pass to Harry Douglas with 1:31 on the clock and the Falcons driving for a go-ahead score.
49ers cornerback Tramaine Brock and Douglas fought over the pass before the ball slowly floated, rolled or was deflected (maybe all three) over Douglas’ head and into the hands of Bowman who picked the ball out of the air, in stride, and ran it 89 yards for the touchdown.
This isn’t the first time Bowman has thwarted a Falcons' red-zone scoring opportunity. Hell, it’s not even the first time in the last 12 months.
In last season’s NFC Championship Game in Atlanta—exactly 338 days ago—Bowman stepped into a Ryan pass intended for Roddy White and broke it up. That play started on San Francisco’s 10-yard line as the Falcons were trying to take the lead with just over a minute to play. Bowman even said he knew that play was coming, according to CSN Bay Area.
Bowman didn’t know Monday’s play was coming, but it’s safe to say Falcons fans expected it.
The now 4-11 Falcons haven’t had much go right this season. Bowman stripped away Atlanta’s shot at a revenge win Monday and sent the 49ers into the playoffs with a 34-24 victory. If it hadn’t been Bowman it would have been someone else, possibly even the Falcons themselves.
Atlanta started the season with high hopes; the highest, actually. But this team has been plagued by injuries, horrible play in the trenches and a ton of inopportune moments of agony.
Call it bad luck if you’d like. Call it the football world correcting itself. Atlanta did win a ton of football games last season on fourth-quarter and even on last-minute, come-from-behind drives. Call it crazy, because only the certifiable could have predicted the type of downfall the Falcons have experienced this season.
In Week 2 Atlanta’s new running back Steven Jackson, playing against his former team the St. Louis Rams, injured himself scoring a touchdown. Injuries happen all the time and in many different situations, but while scoring against your former team?
In Green Bay in Week 14, Douglas again was at the epicenter of a monumentally bad mishap. With 17 seconds to play and the Falcons down by one point and driving, Douglas mishandled a perfectly thrown pass directed toward the left sideline. The pass hit Douglas in the hands then caromed off his chest and away from him.
This has been life for the Falcons this season. Even the staffers agree.
And that's pretty much the way it's gone this season. 2014, please get here already. #ATLvsSF— Daniel Levak (@FalconsDLevak) December 24, 2013
Bowman’s interception wasn’t the only example of Monday’s game mirroring the entire Falcons season. Rookie right tackle Ryan Schrader was flattened on a play in pass protection. Schrader’s man never got to the quarterback, but Schrader lying on his backside looking up at the play perfectly epitomized how the season has gone for this offensive line.
This is not where you want your right tackle to be on 3rd and 13 pic.twitter.com/tOU46fOTZV— Brian McIntyre (@brian_mcintyre) December 24, 2013
Atlanta’s offensive line has been knocked on its ass, collectively...repeatedly. Just like this team has been brutalized, decimated and blown apart.
Ryan threw for 348 yards against the 49ers, but the running game was held to just 61 yards on the ground. Typical Falcons football in 2013.
Atlanta’s defense gave up a 45-yard run to Kendall Hunter and a 47-yard pass to Michael Crabtree. Just add those two big plays to the ever-growing pile of big plays that have hurt the Falcons this season.
If you missed the first 14 games of Atlanta’s season, there’s no need to go back and catch up. Just watch Monday night’s game against the 49ers and know this is exactly how it’s gone all season—a few good plays mixed with more than enough bad and hope crushed by the reality that there’s not enough talent left to win.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.