NFC West: 2013 Week 17 SF at ARI Rapid Reaction

Rapid Reaction: San Francisco 49ers

December, 29, 2013
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Observations from the San Francisco 49ers' 23-20 victory against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

What it means: The 49ers are the No. 5 seed in the NFC playoffs and will play at the No. 4 seed Green Bay Packers next week. The 49ers entered the game with a slim shot at having a bye and hosting a playoff game. That didn’t happen. But the 49ers did what they had to do in a wild game -- they were leading 17-0 in the first quarter -- and kept the No. 5 seed. The 49ers are entering the playoffs as one of the NFL's hottest teams. They have won a league-high six straight games and they won 11 of their past 13 games. They finished the season 12-4.

Streak over: 49ers kicker Phil Dawson missed a 24-yard chip-shot at the end of the first half. It broke a streak of 27 straight successful field goal attempts, a franchise record.

However: Dawson more than redeemed himself with a 56-yard field goal with 1:45 remaining to give the 49ers the lead, and then hit the game winner from 40 yards as time expired.

Goodbye Candlestick: Candlestick Park is now history, unless the 49ers host the NFC title game against the No. 6 seed. That has never happened in the NFL since it adopted this format in 1990. Seattle won Sunday to claim the NFC West and the No. 1 seed. The 49ers will move into Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara next season.

Stock watch: NaVorro Bowman's defensive player of the year candidacy has only risen. He had an interception to set up a touchdown and forced a fumble, which he recovered. It was a nice response to his 89-yard pick-six to save the win last week against Atlanta. The inside linebacker has been special all season.

Big day for Boldin: 49ers receiver Anquan Boldin had nine catches for 145 yards against his former team. At one point, he had 106 of the 49ers’ 109 receiving yards.

What’s next: A rematch of Week 1 against Green Bay, which the 49ers won in a wild home game.

Rapid Reaction: Arizona Cardinals

December, 29, 2013
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A few thoughts on the Arizona Cardinals' 23-20 loss to San Francisco 49ers.

What it means: Not much changed throughout the season. Arizona showed Sunday it was still the team that liked to get down early, let its defense all but shut down the opposing offense and then, if it felt like it, the offense would come up with a big play to win. Arizona never gave up even as New Orleans was running over Tampa Bay, eliminating the Cardinals from the playoffs. There was more than that on the line in Glendale, especially against an NFC West foe that Arizona thought it should’ve beaten back in Week 6. The Cardinals also wanted to finish 11-5 to prove they were a playoff-caliber team.

Stock watch: Michael Floyd continued his tear despite shoulder and ankle injuries. He finished with 91 yards, topping 1,000 this season, on a variety of short passes as well as the deep ball he’s become known for around Arizona. Carson Palmer tried to go to Floyd early but San Francisco was ready for him. Floyd should’ve come down with a few of those but his shoulder clearly limited him. When Arizona needed a spark, however, the Cardinals went to Floyd down the middle for a 44-yard pass.

No gain for RBs: All week, the Cardinals’ defensive line qualified any comment about being the No. 1-ranked rush defense by saying they hoped it’d continue against the Niners. Arizona held San Francisco’s running backs -- Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and Anthony Dixon -- to 22 yards. A lack of a running game forced San Francisco to pass, which, in turn, allowed the Cardinals to go after Colin Kaepernick, who struggled on passes when he was chased. Every one of San Francisco's drives during the second and third quarters ended with either a punt, turnover on downs, or a missed field goal.

Slow start: It plagued Arizona throughout the first half of the season, but anyone who watched this team -- and the team itself -- thought the first-half issues were, for the most part, solved. And they had been, until Sunday. The Cardinals allowed the Niners to score on their first three drives and went down 17-0 by the time the second quarter started. From there, Arizona simply couldn’t recover.

What's next: Arizona finishes with a 10-6 record.