The 49ers Faithful have spoken. Now it’s time for one final vote.
In recent weeks, 49ers.com has brought you the top 5 takeaways, touchdowns, sacks, big hits and big plays and asked for the Faithful to vote for their favorite plays of the year. For the last round of voting, a winner will emerge from the Final Five candidates as picked by the 49ers Faithful.
The Final Five features a great mix of breakneck offensive plays, bone-crushing defensive plays and game-changers. Until 5 p.m. PT on Monday, you can vote for the 2012 Play of the Year at the bottom of this blog post. Let’s take a look at the top play for each category.
1. Dashon Goldson’s open-field hit vs. the Arizona Cardinals
When pushed to choose one of Goldson’s best tackles in 2012, the open-field, jarring hit delivered on Cardinals wideout Early Doucet stood above the rest. It also took place in front of a national viewing audience on “Monday Night Football.”
With the 49ers maintaining a 24-3 lead in the fourth quarter, Goldson put the exclamation mark on a dominant defensive outing. Arizona quarterback John Skelton looked to dump off a quick slant pass to Doucet, but it wasn’t such a good idea.
Goldson saw the route developing and patiently waited his turn to strike. The 49ers safety timed up a perfect open-field hit that would leave Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott thoroughly impressed.
Doucet wasn’t able to hold on to the football. Not many play-makers this past season could maintain possession once the 49ers safety known as “The Hawk” applied an open-field hit.
2. Aldon Smith’s 5.5 sacks on MNF vs. the Chicago Bears
Jason Campbell probably doesn’t have fond memories of the evening of Nov. 19. As the quarterback of the Bears, Campbell was pummeled repeatedly by linebacker Aldon Smith, who set a “Monday Night Football” and 49ers single-game record with 5.5 sacks.
Smith already had a history of showing up on the Monday night stage, posting 4.5 sacks in his first two contests, but he blew those performances out of the water with an all-time great effort. It didn’t matter if he came from the left side or the right side, Smith was going to get to the quarterback.
The marquee outing highlighted Smith’s 19.5-sack regular season, which eventually earned him first-team All-Pro honors and the first Pro Bowl invite of his career. It also proved to be a big reason for the team’s 32-7 win over the Bears, who entered the contest with a 7-2 record.
3. Ahmad Brooks’ interception return for a touchdown vs. the New Orleans Saints
San Francisco intercepted respected Saints quarterback Drew Brees twice in a Week 12 road victory. Both takeaways were returned for touchdowns, too. Donte Whitner’s 42-yard pick-six was impressive, but it didn’t get the nod over Ahmad Brooks’ 50-yard interception return.
Brooks, a 6-foot-3, 259-pound outside linebacker, correctly read Brees’ eyes as he dropped into coverage. The pass-rushing linebacker wound up in the quarterback’s throwing lane and somehow managed to pluck a quick pass from Brees out of the air and return it 50 yards untouched for a touchdown.
The 49ers trailed 14-7 at the time of Brooks’ game-changing play and never looked back from it. San Francisco out-scored New Orleans 17-7 after the defensive touchdown, an impressive athletic play turned in from one of the most physical players on the front seven.
4. Colin Kaepernick’s 56-yard TD Run vs. the Green Bay Packers
Erik Walden thought James had the ball, but he was wrong. The Green Bay defensive end was lined up against the right side of the 49ers offensive line in the third quarter, with the score knotted at 21 in the NFC Divisional Round.
Kaepernick kept the ball in James’ belly for a second, before pulling it back to himself and sprinting around Walden and down the right seam untouched for a 56-yard touchdown, thanks in part to a great downfield block by Ted Ginn Jr. By the time Bruce Miller engaged Walden near the line of scrimmage, Kaepernick was long gone to give the 49ers a 31-24 lead in the eventual 45-31 win in the final game of the season at Candlestick.
Kaepernick’s big run was the highlight of his record-setting evening, as he carried the ball 16 times for 181 yards and two touchdowns to post the highest single-game quarterback rushing total in league history. It also jumpstarted a 21-0 run by the 49ers to put the game out of reach.
5. NaVorro Bowman’s 4th-down Stop vs. the Atlanta Falcons
The situation was simple: Get a stop and go to the Super Bowl.
The 49ers held a 28-24, fourth-quarter lead at the Georgia Dome in the NFC Championship, when the Falcons faced a 4th-and-4 at San Francisco’s 10-yard line. When the Falcons broke the huddle and Roddy White lined up in the right slot, Bowman knew the ball was headed his way.
So the two-time All-Pro linebacker held his ground against the talented wideout, who tried to cross in front of his face near the first-down marker. Bowman swatted the pass to the ground with his left hand and his teammates raised their arms in unison, celebrating their ticket to New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII.
UPDATE: Congratulations to Colin Kaepernick for winning the vote for 2012 Play of the Year!
Tags: Ahmad Brooks, Aldon Smith, Colin Kaepernick, Dashon Goldon, Navorro Bowman
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