SANTA CLARA -- National TV, one of his idols in attendance, 50th birthday, the final regular-season game at Candlestick Park.

How could things get any better for 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh?

The 49ers made Harbaugh wait most of Monday night before providing the answer, with cornerback Tramaine Brock breaking up a pass and linebacker NaVorro Bowman turning it into an 89-yard, victory-clinching touchdown with a little more than a minute left.

"I was, and still am, happier than a pig in slop," Harbaugh said Tuesday at a news conference.

The coach spent an inordinate amount of time talking about the magnitude of Bowman's play, comparing it to defensive lineman Justin Smith's forced fumble in a victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011.

San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh reacts to a penalty call against his team during the second quarter of an NFL football game against the Atlanta
San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh reacts to a penalty call against his team during the second quarter of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons, Monday, Dec. 23, 2013 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. (D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group) ( D. ROSS CAMERON )

"I'll remember that until the day I die," said Harbaugh, who also was thrilled by seeing idol Willie Mays at the game. "I got it at 50. I couldn't have had a better birthday present right at the halfway point. I'm shooting for 100, so I got it right at the halfway point. Happier than a pig in slop."

Later, again when talking about Bowman's play, Harbaugh paused and burst into spontaneous laughter.

Bowman's interception return was the finishing touch on a 34-24 victory over the Atlanta Falcons and helped the 49ers clinch a playoff berth for the third consecutive season.

At the time, the Falcons were at the 49ers' 10-yard line and seemed destined to at least tie the score. Bowman's heroics changed the game, if not the 49ers' season.

TV cameras caught Harbaugh jumping for joy, removing his headset and running down the sideline as Bowman sprinted toward the end zone.

"It's the defensive equivalent to as good as it gets in a football game," Harbaugh said. "It's the best thing I've been associated with anything that's happened to my team."

Harbaugh said he isn't in to ranking things. However, he made it clear that this is right up there with Vernon Davis' winning catch against the New Orleans Saints in the playoffs two seasons ago.

"I don't know how many kind of plays a coach has like that in his career," Harbaugh said. "It's probably so few that you're going to remember them your entire coaching career. That was one of those memorable plays."

  • The 49ers clinched a playoff berth and remain in contention for one of the NFC's top two seeds.

    They need a victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday and the St. Louis Rams to defeat the Seattle Seahawks to secure the NFC West title for the third consecutive season and a first-round bye.

    If the 49ers win, the Seahawks lose and the Carolina Panthers lose or tie against the Falcons, the 49ers would get the top seed and home-field advantage for the NFC playoffs.

  • Sure-handed receiver Michael Crabtree said he isn't part of the "hands team" for onside kicks.

    "It's probably something that we could add," Harbaugh said when asked why Crabtree wasn't on the field when a Falcons onside kick skidded past Bowman and bounced into the hands of a Falcons player.

  • Phil Dawson's franchise record for consecutive successful field goals reached 26 with two on Monday. He still has a ways to go before breaking the NFL record held by Mike Vanderjagt, who connected on 42 in a row for the Indianapolis Colts from 2002-04.

  • Running back Frank Gore scored on a 1-yard run late in the fourth quarter on a play that he lobbied quarterback Colin Kaepernick to call.

    "Kap trusted Frank enough to change the play," Harbaugh said. "As long as it works, then they're right. So, how many have that influence with Kap? Frank Gore does."

    Harbaugh said he likes it when players such as Gore interject and push their idea, especially when it works.

    "When a player feels strongly about something, we tend to agree with them unless we have evidence to the contrary," Harbaugh said.

    Follow Steve Corkran on Twitter at twitter.com/CorkOnTheNFL.

    SUNDAY'S GAME

    49ers (11-4) at Arizona
    (10-5), 1:25 p.m. FOX