Bowman: 'It's really surreal'
Linebacker NaVorro Bowman batted down a Matt Ryan pass to thwart the Falcons' last chance at a Super Bowl berth. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
ATLANTA – Inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman knew something was off on fourth down with just 1:13 to play in the NFC Championship Game Sunday.
The Atlanta Falcons, down by four points, had driven 10 plays in just over seven minutes and stood at the San Francisco 16-yard line needing a touchdown to win, or at least just over four yards for a first down to extend the drive.
It was this 11th play of the drive where Bowman thought back and realized Atlanta was trying something different.
“I knew the ball was coming there,” said Bowman when he saw Falcons wide receiver Roddy White line up as Atlanta’s slot receiver. “He hadn't lined up at No. 3 the whole game, at the inside receiver. Any time they do that, that's what we pride ourselves in guarding guys like that.”
White tried to run a crossing route at the 6-yard line but couldn’t get any kind of separation from Bowman. There was definite contact at the top of the route, but White couldn’t find a way to put any distance between he and Bowman.
Bowman reached over White’s back shoulder with his left hand and batted Matt Ryan’s pass away. The incomplete pass ended Atlanta’s threat, giving the ball back to San Francisco with just over a minute to play.
“He was complaining asking for a flag,” said Bowman about White’s obvious antics after the play. “There's wasn't a flag, that was a clean play.”
Chalk up Bowman’s heady play to a lot of film room study, quick thinking and a good memory for what was going on around him.