Jim Harbaugh awakened Tuesday, the morning after he turned 50, wondering where the NaVorro Bowman interception ranked on the ladder of great moments in what the San Francisco 49ers coach described as “the first half” of his life.
Harbaugh concluded Bowman’s play may be unmatched.
“It’s the defensive equivalent of as good as it gets,” a downright giddy Harbaugh said Tuesday. “The best thing ever to happen to a team I’ve been associated with.”
At one point, Harbaugh broke out in laughter recalling the 49ers’ 34-24 win against the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night. Bowman’s fourth-quarter interception return clinched a playoff berth for San Francisco for the third time in as many seasons under Harbaugh.
“I was and still am happier than a pig in slop,” Harbaugh said.
Bowman caught a tipped ball by San Francisco cornerback Tramaine Brock and took it 89 yards for a touchdown to seal the game with 1:10 to go.
Bowman broke back into coverage after rushing the passer. Harbaugh said few players have the athletic ability and instincts to pull off that type of play. Harbaugh likened it to one that defensive tackle Justin Smith made against the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011. Smith went from chasing the quarterback to running several yards down the field to force a fumble and seal a win.
Bowman said he knows plays like that are few and far between for coaches to experience in their careers.
“[Bowman] made a tremendous play, and I’ll remember that until the day I die,” Harbaugh said.
- Covered AFC West for five seasons for ESPN.com
- Covered Broncos for Denver Post
- Also covered Vikings, Packers, Seahawks