- Bill Williamson, ESPN Staff Writer
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SAN FRANCISCO -- A review of four hot issues from the San Francisco 49ers' 34-24 win over Atlanta:
Bowman redemption: Inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman has arguably been the 49ers’ best player this season. That’s why it was so shocking when he put himself in position to be the goat of the game Monday night. However, it was less shocking when Bowman came up with the biggest moment of the game and perhaps San Francisco’s season moments later. 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 with 1:10 to go.
Playoff bound: The 49ers, who are 11-4 and have won five straight games, have qualified for the playoffs in all three seasons under coach Jim Harbaugh. With their thrilling win, they closed out the last regular-season game played at Candlestick Park the right way. There is still a slight chance there could be playoff football at Candlestick. 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.
Kaepernick, Crabtree shine in second half: The 49ers scored 31 of their 34 points in the second half. A big reason why is quarterback Colin Kaepernick and receiver Michael Crabtree. Crabtree had one catch for 3 yards in the first half. He came back with four catches for 99 yards in the second half. Kaepernick averaged 12.8 yards per passing attempt in the second half after averaging just 6.3 in the first half.
Pass defense shaky: The San Francisco defense has been special for most of this season, especially in the second half of the season. Yes, San Francisco had its moments defensively against Atlanta and it made the big plays when needed, but the Falcons produced in the air. Matt Ryan completed 37 of 48 passes for 348 yards. Receiver Roddy White had 12 catches for 141 yards. Is this alarming? Not unless it continues into the playoffs. Ryan was dumping off a lot of short passes. It simply may be chalked up to a bad night for the 49ers’ pass defense, but it is worth monitoring moving forward.