In one emphatic finish, NaVorro Bowman, Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers sealed their postseason berth in a celebratory regular-season finale at Candlestick Park.
Bowman returned an interception 89 yards for a touchdown with 1:10 remaining, and the 49ers clinched a playoff spot with a wild 34-24 victory against the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night in the likely final game at The Stick.
Tramaine Brock broke up a pass intended for Harry Douglas and Bowman got his hands on the ball and took off. He was joined in the end zone by his teammates.
"I always say a lot of plays are made when you run to the ball," Bowman said. "That's all I was doing was just running to the ball, trying to make a tackle, and it popped up and I was able to make a play for my team."
Matt Ryan threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Roddy White with 8:42 remaining and a 2-yard score to Tony Gonzalez with 2:09 left as the Falcons (4-11) made things interesting until the end.
Atlanta's Jason Snelling recovered the ensuing onside kick as the Falcons got the ball back and were driving for a potential go-ahead score when San Francisco (11-4) capitalized with its biggest takeaway yet.
Kaepernick ran for a 4-yard touchdown and threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin, and Frank Gore had a 1-yard touchdown run as the 49ers clinched a third consecutive playoff season and fifth consecutive victory.
They put up 169 yards in the third quarter after managing just 113 in the first half as the crowd fell momentarily quiet.
San Francisco still has a slim chance at winning a third consecutive NFC West crown if St. Louis wins at Seattle and they beat Arizona on the road.
During an evening of fanfare and famous faces for Candlestick's ceremonious farewell, Kaepernick took charge as his team made good on coach Jim Harbaugh's mantra for the week: "We don't want to be the guys who screw up the final game in Candlestick."
"Best birthday present I've ever gotten, second only to being born," quipped Harbaugh on his 50th birthday.
The 49ers are set to move into $1.2 billion Levi's Stadium at team headquarters in Santa Clara while Candlestick waits out its implosion day, likely in late 2014.