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San Francisco’s Defense Saves Their Postseason Hopes

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 23: Inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman #53 of the San Francisco 49ers returns an interception for a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Atlanta Falcons during a game at Candlestick Park on December 23, 2013 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

(Credit, Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

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By Matthew Asher

The Falcons wanted to make the final regular season game at Candlestick Park a memorable game. While they did succeed at that, it was the San Francisco 49ers who were able to close out their now old home field with a Monday Night win, 34-24.

The Good
Roddy White gets an A.

Roddy White finally has started to look like the Pro Bowl wide receiver from the years past. Ryan targeted White 15 times and Roddy was able to catch 12 passes for 141 yards and one touchdown.  Ryan himself had a decent game, finishing with 37 of 48 completions for 348 yards and two touchdowns. Both interceptions Ryan threw were in the last two minutes of the game, so his night could have been much better.

Atlanta’s pass defense gets a B.

You can’t fault Atlanta defense for this loss. The secondary did their part in limiting the San Francisco offense to fewer than 200 passing yards and just one touchdown through the air.  Vernon Davis didn’t record a single reception all night even though he was targeted three times. The Falcons also managed to sack Colin Kaepernick three times, putting even more pressure on their vaunted running game to win the game.

The Bad
Atlanta’s run defense gets an F.

Unfortunately, that’s just what ended up happening in the game.  Atlanta actually gave up more rushing yards in the game (199) than total passing yards (197). Frank Gore was responsible for 97 yards on 21 carries and one touchdown. San Francisco’s other two rushers, quarterback Colin Kaepernick and running back Kendall Hunter each picked up an additional 51 rushing yards. Kaepernick also scored a rushing touchdown in the third quarter.  As a team, San Francisco averaged 6.6 yards per carry on 30 total attempts.

The Ugly
The closing minutes of the game get a D.

Trailing 17-27 late in the fourth quarter, Matt Ryan was able to take the Falcons 80 yards down the field in less than three minutes to cut the lead to 24-27 after Tony Gonzalez caught a touchdown pass. It was at this point when the insanity truly ensued.

Atlanta was able to recover the ensuing onside kick attempt. Thanks to a personal foul penalty by San Francisco penalty on the touchdown play, Atlanta was able to recover the onside kick on the 49ers 20-yard line. Two plays later Atlanta was down to the 49ers 11-yard line and ready to take the lead.

Ryan threw a pass intended for Harry Douglas. Navarro Bowman stepped in front of the pass and returned it 89-yards for the game-clinching win.

With this win, San Francisco still has a chance at getting a top seed in the playoffs and a chance for at least one more game at Candlestick Park. For the Falcons, their final game of the 2013 season will take place next week at home as they take on the Carolina Panthers. Just like with San Francisco, a Carolina win over Atlanta could give Carolina at least one playoff game at home. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 pm EST.

For more Falcons news and updates, visit Falcons Central.

Matthew Asher is a freelance journalist. From an early age, sports have played a major role in his life. He graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in Journalism. After college he spent 2 years working with CNN Sports and still occasionally writes sports articles for several publications both in the United States and Canada. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

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