Morning Tailgate: Donte Whitner's Impact on MNF

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Safety Donte Whitner's battle with NFL rules continued on the league's biggest stage.

The 49ers defensive backfield leader was called for both an unnecessary roughness penalty and unsportsmanlike conduct infraction after one second-quarter play that preceded the Falcons first touchdown in San Francisco's eventual 34-24 win over Atlanta on "Monday Night Football."

Whitner jarred the ball loose on a would-be completion from Matt Ryan to Steven Jackson on 2nd-and-goal from the seven-yard line. Instead of facing a third down, the Falcons received the ball at the two-yard line and scored on a left-side sweep with Jackson on the very next play.

Postgame, Whitner said he disagreed with referee Walt Coleman's call on the field and that he would for further instruction from the NFL.

"I went and led with my shoulder," he said of his high-impact hit on Jackson. "That's what they teach you on day one. That's textbook."

Whitner, who previously incurred similar penalties in Week 4 at St. Louis and in Week 15 at Tampa Bay, said Jackson wasn't a defenseless receiver and didn't feel the brunt of his helmet.

While he was involved in perhaps the most unfortunate play of the 49ers Candlestick-closing victory, Whitner was also a part in the most fortunate. He served as the personal caravan for NaVorro Bowman, during the linebacker's game-saving, 89-yard interception return for a touchdown.

"I was looking around to see if one of the receivers was going to catch him," said Whitner, who was eyeing Falcons wideout Drew Davis during the play. "Our defensive coaches always tell us, 'When you get an interception, you have speed behind you, wide receivers and running backs trying to catch you and knock the ball out,' so I just wanted to protect him, let him get in and celebrate.

"Thank goodness we made this play because it started looking dim for a minute."

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chroniclewrote about Bowman's fitting send-off.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Beehighlighted Michael Crabtree's contributions.

Taylor Price of 49ers.comfeatured Colin Kaepernick's clinching performance.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.comnoted Kaepernick giving way to Frank Gore.

Jimmy Durkin of the San Jose Mercury Newsfocused on the play of Tramaine Brock.

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TWEET ABOUT IT:

Honored to be a part of the final regular season game at The Stick & to accomplish a team goal of reaching the postseason. Lot of work left. — Anquan Boldin (@AnquanBoldin) December 24, 2013

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