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
”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
Here are five things learned from San Francisco’s close
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,
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
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
”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.”