In the 2013-14 run for the Super Bowl, Atlanta trailed San Francisco 24-27 with 2:09 left in the game. But there was more at stake than the ticket to the big dance. The game was December 23 in San Francisco at Candlestick Park, which was opened in 1960 for Major League Baseball’s San Francisco Giants, who played there until 2000. The ‘Stick’ had been the 49ers home field since 1971. There was a lot of history made in that stadium. The Beatles played their final concert there. Sadly, for some of us, it was at Candlestick that Joe Montana made his miraculous touchdown pass to Dwight Clark in 1982 to win their first Super Bowl against the Dallas Cowboys. And at this game this past season the nostalgia was high because it was the final Monday Night Football game at Candlestick, the 36th and the most at any NFL stadium, and the last time the 49ers would play on this field. No one but Falcon fans wanted the history to be punctuated with a defeat.
So, you can image the intensity as the Falcons tried an onside kick, trailing by three points, with just over two minutes left in the game. And maybe you can imagine NaVorro Bowman’s feelings when he ran toward the bouncing ball and watched it slide past him, like an elementary kid on the playground who doesn’t know how to catch. Once it escaped his grasp, an Atlanta player grabbed it and gave the Falcons the perfect stage to kill the clock and win the game. Imagine how NaVorro felt, lying there on the turf that would soon be demolished, hearing the shocked silence of the crowd.
Atlanta took about 30 seconds to drive the ball to the 10-yard line, where the only question was whether they would take a field goal to tie or punch it across the goal line to win. NaVorro was still on the field, in his linebacker position, surely fighting the sickening feeling in his stomach and the blaming voices in his head. Then the fat lady sang with an unexpected note.
Matt Ryan dropped back for a quick pass. The 49ers brought an all-out blitz. NaVorro moved behind the line toward the quarterback. The ball was thrown, but it wasn’t caught, not yet. It hit the Falcons’ receiver in the chest, but the 49er defender hit the receiver in the back. The ball dribbled off his chest, through his hands, tumbled slowly off his helmet, and then there he was. NaVorro had run from in front of the quarterback to behind the receiver just in time to scoop the ball out of the air, tuck it, and ride the deafening roar of the resuscitated ‘Stick’ faithful 90 yards to the end zone. He sealed the victory. He wrote the final scene of Candlestick’s history. And he redeemed his mistake.
Feel free to watch the highlights: NaVorro Bowman Redemption Highlights
In the postgame interview, he slowed his heartbeat enough to say this: I have always been taught that if you move toward the ball, good things will happen. Apparently, that is true. Always move toward the ball.
As you continue on your journey with Christ, I think that is good advice; it’s a secret to growth: just keep moving toward the thing that the game of life is all about. Just keep moving toward Jesus and good things will happen. God promises to do that (see Romans 8:28-30). When you fail, don’t quit. It’s not over. When you doubt, don’t stutter. There is still hope. When you win, don’t relax. There is still more to do. God is at work, and he has a plan for you. It’s an incredible plan. Just keep moving toward Jesus. Who knows what your next story could be.