SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — In another season of coming oh so close, here is a look at some of the best and worst moments for the San Francisco 49ers during a year that ended with a loss in the NFC championship game to the archrival Seattle Seahawks on Sunday that left them at 14-5:
Best Game: The 49ers proved they could beat NFC power Seattle in a 19-17 home victory on Dec. 8 after a lopsided loss in Week 2. The victory denied the Seahawks a chance to clinch the NFC West at Candlestick Park. Frank Gore's game-saving 51-yard run set up a 22-yard field goal by Phil Dawson with 26 seconds remaining.
Worst Game: A week after opening the season by beating Green Bay, the 49ers went to Seattle and were embarrassed 29-3 — a victory that helped pave the way for the Seahawks' division title and top seed, then Super Bowl berth.
Best Play: NaVorro Bowman's 89-yard interception return with 1:10 remaining sealed a 34-24 win against Atlanta on Dec. 23 that clinched a playoff spot and made sure the 49ers were a winner in the final game at Candlestick Park.
Worst Play: Again, Bowman, but this time for a devastating left knee injury sustained by the All-Pro linebacker in the 23-17 loss at Seattle in the NFC championship game. It was a fumble recovery awarded to the Seahawks on a controversial call, and Bowman's extended left leg bent awkwardly when teammate Eric Reid tackled Jermaine Kearse after he was stripped of the ball by Bowman.
Biggest Surprise: Michael Crabtree returned — and to his talented old self to defy even coach Jim Harbaugh's expectations — for the final five regular-season games after the Niners' top 2012 wideout recovered from May surgery for a torn right Achilles tendon.