Unless the San Francisco 49ers get another home game in the playoffs, then last night on Monday Night Football, the Niners blew out the Candlestick in a fiery way near the end of regulation. I'll get back to that momentarily. I need to school you guys real quick as to the significance of that play and the place it happened.
Candlestick Park is a very famous sports and entertainment stadium where some of the best and craziest moments in sports history have occurred. The stadium opened in 1960 and housed the S.F. Giants of Major League Baseball until they moved on to a modern day baseball field in the year 2000. Hello Fenway Park! Wrigley Field? I mean geez, even the Yankees got a new stadium. Anyway, my beloved 49ers began play at Candlestick in 1971 and gave their fans 5 Super Bowl Championships.
This historical stadium was home to some of the greatest players in sports history. Guys like Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Steve Young, Ronnie Lott, Willie Mays and Willie McCovey just to name a few legends that graced this beautiful field with their presence. Candlestick Park has an incredible past including "The Catch" by Dwight Clark to win the NFC title game and eventually go on to win the Super Bowl. The Beatles gave their final performance there and the great earthquake in 1989 that shook the stadium when the Giants hosted their cross town rival Oakland Athletics in the World Series.
Candlestick Park has hosted two World Series in total but 8 NFC Championship games in a 40 year time span. That's amazing! Unfortunately, but at the same time happily, this will no longer be where the San Francisco 49ers call home. They will take their talents to Santa Clara, California, keeping the same name of the team of course next season in 2014.
It must be done! As great a ball park as Candlestick is and eventually will be, it is time to move on up, or down actually as Santa Clara is southeast of San Fran. But hey, the players have a new field, stadium, locker room, upgraded facilities, state of the art technology and a more fan friendly place for the die hards of this great franchise to enjoy watching at the brand new Levi's Stadium. That's the only part that kills me. I hate the names of these new stadiums. I understand the reasoning for it...everybody wants to get paid but come on! I will forever call it Candlestick Park.
Last night against the Atlanta Falcons, the 49ers gave their faithful fans one more fantastic dramatic finish that ended in a Gold Rush victory. The Niners led late in the 4th quarter 27 - 17 as the Falcons began to drive down the field. After a slew of penalties, missed tackles and poor play calling, Matt Ryan finally found Tony Gonzalez in the end zone to cut the 49ers lead to 3 with just a little over 2 minutes to play.
Head Coach Mike Smith opted to go for the onside kick instead of kicking off with 2 timeouts remaining. As luck would have it for a team with no luck this season, the Falcons recovered the ball due to a fair bounce, a misread by Navarro Bowman and a great hustle play by Jason Snelling to recover the onside kick.
Now the Falcons are in business and start to move down the field again. They get into close range of the Niners red zone and have momentum on their side. But the Niners had Navarro Bowman on their side and knew he had to make up for his special teams blunder. Boy did he ever! With 1:10 remaining in the game down by 3 points, Atlanta is thinking touchdown as opposed to a field goal and actually come back and win this game. Maybe they got a bit too confident or perhaps cocky as Matt Ryan threw into tight coverage trying to make a play down by the Niners 10 yard line. The ball was thrown a little too hard, bounced off Harry Douglas' hands and into the waiting arms of pro bowler Navarro Bowman who picked off the tipped pass for an 89 yard game winning touchdown.
Bowman knew he messed up on special teams and had to make up for it somehow. He did in a big way by not only winning the football game but guaranteeing the 49ers make the playoffs for a 3rd straight season. And that my friends is how you put the lights out at Candlestick Park.