Jim Harbaugh spent his last days at age 49 preparing for the Candlestick finale, and the results did not disappoint. You may have been expecting a ho-hum blowout, but Candlestick Park preferred to go out in it's own way: with another memorable and spectacular finish. Harbaugh said it himself that this was "the best birthday present" he's ever gotten "second only to being born".
I personally thought that this type of game would bode better for the Niners as a team. Blowout wins look nice on the stat sheet and on highlight reels, but they have a way of over-inflating a team's confidence level which is dangerous come playoff time. You want to go in confident, but not at the expense of underestimating opponents. That's why #1 seeds faltering in the post-season is a fairly common occurrence, especially when they clinch early and their last few games are meaningless.
It was clear from the opening kickoff that Atlanta was treating this as their "playoff game" and that atmosphere continued from start to finish. Because it had playoff intensity, it forced the 49ers to kick in that extra gear when it mattered. San Francisco totally dominated the second half, outscoring Atlanta 31-14. This comes as a great tune-up for the post-season and I have no doubts that the last game against Arizona will have the same intensity. Winning these types of games is exactly the momentum that the 49ers need to make a deep run to the Championship.
So I'm sure deep in his heart, Coach Harbaugh is thanking Atlanta, thanking Candlestick Park for giving him and his team exactly what they need going forward. And before I get to the links, I'd like to tell everyone to enjoy this Christmas eve and may you and your families have a blessed holiday season. Go Niners!
49ers-Falcons: What we learned (Yahoo)
And just to see what it's like for the other team... | Falcons wage major battle before falling 34-24 to 49ers (AJC)
Dose: Rowdy Roddy (Yahoo)
Candlestick's Curtain Call