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Monday, December 23, 2013
Rapid Reaction: San Francisco 49ers

By Bill Williamson


SAN FRANCISCO -- A few observations from the San Francisco 49ers' 34-24 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night.

What it means: The 49ers, who are 11-4 and who have won five straight games, have qualified for the playoffs in all three seasons under coach Jim Harbaugh. And the possibilities abound. The 49ers can still be the No. 1, No. 2, No. 5 or No. 6 seed in the NFC. They will win the NFC West and get a first-round bye if Seattle loses to visiting St. Louis and the 49ers win at Arizona on Sunday. If the 49ers beat the Cardinals, the lowest seed they will be is No. 5.

Bowman goes from goat to hero: 49ers star inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman  made a huge mistake when he let an onside kick get past him. The Falcons recovered the ball, down 27-24, with 2 minutes, 9 seconds to play. The Falcons quickly moved inside the red zone and appeared ready to tie the game or take the lead. But Bowman redeemed himself dramatically as he caught a tipped ball (after a nice play by San Francisco cornerback Tramaine Brock) and took it 89 yards for a touchdown to seal the game. It was a signature Candlestick Park play.

Party night: The 49ers went out in style in the final regular-season game at Candlestick. It was a party atmosphere all night, with plenty of 49ers stars of the past and present on hand as well as a variety of tributes. It was also a terrific 50th-birthday gift to Harbaugh.

Stock Watch: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick and receiver Michael Crabtree took over in the third quarter, when the 49ers outscored Atlanta 10-0. Kaepernick hit Crabtree four times for 99 yards in the period. Kaepernick had three big runs in the second half for 35 yards.

Ground game: Atlanta scored to make it a 20-17 game with 8:34 to play in the fourth quarter before Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter combined on a six-play, 76-yard touchdown drive -- all six plays were on the ground -- to give San Francisco a 27-17 lead with about five minutes to go.

What's next: The 49ers visit the red-hot Cardinals. Arizona can still make the playoffs if it wins and the Saints lose at home to Tampa Bay on Sunday.