49ers Clinch Playoff Berth, Close out Candlestick Park in Fitting Fashion

Tyson Langland@TysonNFLNFC West Lead WriterDecember 24, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 23:  Michael Crabtree #15 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates after gaining twenty-two yards on a pass play against the Atlanta Falcons during the third quarter at Candlestick Park on December 23, 2013 in San Francisco, California. The 49ers won the game 34-24.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Even though the San Francisco 49ers' come-from-behind 34-24 win against the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football wasn’t pretty, head coach Jim Harbaugh and co. closed out Candlestick Park in fitting fashion.

Yes, the organization would have liked a more comfortable game against the now-4-11 Falcons, but the hard-fought win puts San Francisco in the postseason for third straight season. 

All-Pro inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman capped the game off with an 89-yard pick-six off Matt Ryan, making up for his botched play on the onside kick hands team. That folly gave the Falcons the ball back down 27-24 with just over two minutes remaining. 

Harbaugh said this after the game regarding Bowman's game-clinching play, according to the Associated Press (via Yahoo! Sports): "That's been the best thing I've ever seen happen in a football game. Might've been close to 'The Catch.'"

Opened in 1960, Candlestick has been home to the 49ers, San Francisco Giants and, interestingly enough, the Raiders in 1961. It's only natural, then, that a special play would end the last regular-season game for the historic stadium. 

The 2013 season was not as easy as some expected for San Francisco after its Super Bowl appearance the year prior. Without receivers Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree for much of the year, in addition to injuries on the offensive line, the team started 1-2 before reeling off five in a row.

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Losses to Carolina and New Orleans in back-to-back weeks had the 49ers at 6-4, but the team hunkered down to win five straight. 

Harbaugh's attitude and fiery approach is contagious, and he won't let the team take it easy in the season finale at Arizona.

Even though it seemed impossible a few weeks ago, the 49ers can still win the NFC West. The Rams would have to go into Seattle and beat the Seahawks, in addition to a San Francisco win. But even that seems possible at this point. 

Seattle lost for the first time at home since December 2011 versus Arizona, and that was with Carson Palmer throwing four interceptions. The Rams nearly upended the Seahawks in Week 8, falling 14-9, and they are a much more dangerous team at this stage of the season. 

Meanwhile, Arizona needs a win in the season finale and a Buccaneers win over the Saints at New Orleans to make the postseason. The Cardinals have won seven of eight, so they won't be an easy out. 

However, San Francisco is rolling. Crabtree looks to be finding his form, having registered five catches for 102 yards Monday night. And the defense is always top-notch, ranking No. 4 against the pass and No. 5 against the run, according to NFL.com

Bowman said this after the game: "There's a lot of history in this stadium. For this to be the last game, we cannot leave it with an L. So I'm glad we got the W."

Will there be more W's in the playoffs? 

With the way the 49ers have performed down the stretch, they will be a team no one wants to face in the postseason. 

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