Santa Claus must have shown up a night early. There’s really no other way to explain the San Francisco 49ers last-minute playoff-clinching victory on ESPN Monday Night Football last night. The Atlanta Falcons had recovered an onside kick and looked like they would upset the 49ers in the last regular-season game at Candlestick Park. Then some miracle — or Santa — resulted in the pick-six heard ’round the world that snuffed the Falcons’ comeback and clinched a playoff spot for the San Francisco 49ers. Preliminary reviews of the NORAD Santa tracker proved inconclusive, but Rudolph and Co. surely left hoof prints somewhere near Candlestick Park.
The San Francisco 49ers led for much of the game last night on Monday Night Football, but Atlanta made a late-game push behind the outstanding play of Falcons QB Matt Ryan. Ryan tried to will his team to victory in the 2013 NFL season’s Monday Night Football finale. He finished the game 37-48, an astonishing 77% completion percentage, and had 348 yards passing with two touchdowns. After a TD to Roddy White with 8:42 remaining and a two-yard score by Tony Gonzalez with 2:09 left, the Falcons recovered an onside kick after some inexplicable errors by the San Francisco 49ers special teams unit.
Down by three with a full two minutes to go, Atlanta looked to be on its way toward forcing overtime or winning MNF outright. A Falcons victory would’ve forced a winner-take-all game next week between the 49ers and Cardinals, with the loser missing out on the playoffs. But then 49ers fans everywhere redeemed their “good list” credits and caused Santa to start up his sleigh a day early. The NORAD Santa tracker was supposed to see a lot of play today, Christmas Eve, not on Dec. 23. Had we all been looking at the Santa tracker though, we surely would’ve tracked Mr. Claus on a direct route from the North Pole to Candlestick Park.
With 1:10 remaining and the 49ers scratching their heads about how they’d gotten into this position, 49ers inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman intercepted Falcons QB Ryan’s pass and flew 89 yards downfield for a playoff-clinching touchdown. While a dogpile ensued in the end zone, we at DailyGame glanced at the TV and thought immediately of Christmas Eve and Christmas trees. There were the 49ers wearing red, Santa’s favorite color, celebrating on the bright-green turf with accents of gold (ornaments).
Which is why we loaded up the Santa tracker this morning. Currently the NORAD program is tracking daylight hours, basically showing Santa flying his sleigh across Asia and making his way toward European chimneys. Since the Santa tracker only monitors live data, there’s no way to track his previous path. But if there were a NORAD archive, it would surely have tracked St. Nick over Candlestick Park last night.
Maybe the jolly old elf just wanted to take in an NFL game. Maybe he wanted to be part of an historic Monday Night Football. Or maybe, just maybe, he wanted to deliver a present early to San Francisco 49ers fans worldwide. The Niners looked on the verge of an epic collapse. Then Santa, dressed an awful lot like an inside linebacker, made a special delivery one night early. With two minutes to go, nobody thought the 49ers’ 34-24 victory was possible. So Niners fans, when you load up the Santa tracker today with your kids, make sure you give him a silent nod of thanks. That rotund bearded guy granted your playoff-bound Christmas wish.