Streaking 49ers carry momentum into playoffs

The way things have gone for the San Francisco 49ers the last

six weeks, of course they were going to find a way to pull out a

wild one in Arizona.

Phil Dawson’s 40-yard field goal as time expired Sunday gave the

49ers a 23-20 victory over the Arizona Cardinals that has the

reigning NFC champions riding a six-game winning streak heading

into their first-round playoff game at Green Bay.

Unlike the previous two seasons, when San Francisco won the NFC

West, the fifth-seeded 49ers (12-4) are going in as a wild

card.

”Now we have to do what Baltimore did, go from the bottom and

try to win,” cornerback Carlos Rogers said.

Arizona (10-6) had a shot at the playoffs but needed to beat San

Francisco and have New Orleans lose to Tampa Bay. Neither occurred,

and the Cardinals – in their first year under coach Bruce Arians –

had to settle for a 10-win season, something that’s happened only

twice before since the franchise moved to Arizona in 1988.

”It’s just the beginning, that’s how you have to look at it,”

linebacker Daryl Washington said. ”Next year it’s time to go all

the way.”

Here are five things learned from San Francisco’s close

victory:

BOLDIN IS GOLDEN: Anquan Boldin is headed to the playoffs. His

two former teams – Arizona and Baltimore – are not.

Boldin caught nine passes for 149 yards and a touchdown against

the Cardinals, the team that traded him to the Ravens after the

2009 season. He had six catches for 104 yards and a score in the

first quarter alone.

”What a football player. You can sum it up right there,” 49ers

coach Jim Harbaugh said. ”Football player. He’s all of it.

Leadership, big-play ability, competitiveness. Competitive always,

great talent.”

It was Boldin’s first game back in Arizona since being traded

away, but he said that held no significance to him.

”It’s another team, division opponent,” he said. ”For me,

there wasn’t any added motivation. I’m motivated by winning and

that’s it.”

RESILIENT CARDINALS: Arizona didn’t fold after falling behind

17-0 in the first quarter.

That wasn’t surprising to Arians or his players. The team was

coming off a victory at Seattle and had won seven of eight going

into Sunday’s finale.

”When we were down 17-0 no one looked at each other and

panicked,” defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. ”Everybody

looked for the solution and bought in on the solution and started

playing ball. I take my hat off to my teammates. I have been in

this organization for 10 years and I’ve been on some teams that in

a game like that they would have checked out.”

MAGNIFICENT BOWMAN: San Francisco linebacker NaVorro Bowman did

just about everything a dominating defender can do.

First, he intercepted a pass to set up a 49ers touchdown. Then

he ripped the ball from the arms of running back Rashard Mendenhall

and recovered the fumble. Finally, he sacked Carson Palmer at a

crucial point late in the game.

Bowman won’t disagree with anyone who says he should be the NFL

defensive player of the year.

”It’s the last game of the season, so I’m going to say yes,”

Bowman said. ”The reason why is me and Pat (Willis), we do so much

and work so hard to be the best and lead our team. That’s all we’ve

been doing, and I think that’s what you want in a defensive player

of the year, so that’s why I think I deserve it.”

PALMER’S SEASON: Palmer got off to a rough start but finished

the game strong with some big numbers.

The 11-year NFL veteran completed 28 of 49 passes for 407 yards

and two touchdowns with one interception. That pushed him past

4,000 yards for the fourth time in his career. He became the first

player in NFL history to do it for three teams: Cincinnati, Oakland

and Arizona.

”Personal goals are always nice,” Palmer said. ”That wasn’t

one of my personal goals. I wasn’t worried about it, or thinking

about it. I was thinking about wins and losses.”

Palmer struggled early in the season with Arians’ offense.

”I’m proud of how we were resilient on offense because it took

us a while,” Palmer said. ”It took us weeks to get going.”

PATTON’S CATCH: Colin Kaepernick didn’t hesitate to go to rookie

Quinton Patton at a crucial point in the game, and the young

receiver came through for San Francisco.

”He’s our guy – my guy,” Harbaugh said. ”He’s definitely one

of us. I couldn’t be more excited for him.”