Maybe, just maybe, the San Francisco 49ers aren't done with Candlestick Park yet.
The 49ers hosted their last regular-season game at the old stadium, but the result keeps hope alive that there will be at least one more game there. San Francisco clinched a playoff berth and kept its chances of winning the NFC West alive with a 34-24 win over Atlanta.
With Candlestick legends like Willie Mays, Steve Young, Jerry Rice and Dwight Clark in attendance, the 49ers started slow but they weren't going to let the home crowd have its last memory of the old stadium be a loss. They did make it interesting at the end, however.
The Falcons seemed finished when they fell behind 27-17 in the fourth quarter. But Tony Gonzalez scored a touchdown just before the two-minute warning, and a defensive penalty meant the kickoff came from midfield. The onside kick was recovered by Atlanta, and the Falcons got down to the 10-yard line. But Harry Douglas juggled a quick pass against the blitz, it was tipped up, and NaVorro Bowman intercepted it and returned it 90 yards for the clinching touchdown.
Atlanta led 10-3 at the half, but the 49ers rallied to take a 20-10 lead on Colin Kaepernick's 4-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. Roddy White's 39-yard touchdown catch a little later cut the 49ers lead to 20-17. But San Francisco responded with a methodical drive capped off by Frank Gore's 1-yard touchdown run.
The 49ers came into Week 16 trailing Seattle by two games in the NFC West. But the Seahawks lost to Arizona, and the 49ers kept Seattle from clinching the division title with Monday night's win. If Seattle loses next week to the Rams (it sounds crazy, but consider some of the wacky outcomes we've seen the past couple weeks) and the 49ers beat the Cardinals, San Francisco will win the division and get a first-round bye.
That would mean Candlestick would host yet another playoff game, even though the odds are still pretty slim. And if Monday night was the last game, with the 49ers clinching a playoff spot with a final home win, it was a pretty nice way to send out one of the NFL's historic venues.
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