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Sunday, December 30, 2012
Wrap-up: 49ers 27, Cardinals 13

By Mike Sando


Thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals following the 49ers' 27-13 victory Sunday at Candlestick Park:

What it means: The 49ers claimed their second consecutive NFC West title while giving themselves a shot at securing the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs and a first-round playoff bye. They'll be the second seed if Minnesota defeats Green Bay in a game that was ongoing as the 49ers defeated Arizona. If the Packers win, the 49ers will enter the playoffs as the third seed, setting up a wild-card home game against Chicago.

What I liked: The Cardinals were competitive early in a game without meaning for them. They dominated the first quarter, even. The 49ers got outstanding play from receiver Michael Crabtree. Those two things stood out most to me.

Crabtree won multiple matchups with Patrick Peterson, the Cardinals' Pro Bowl cornerback. He moved past 1,000 yards receiving for the season and gave the 49ers badly needed consistency from a position diminished by injuries.

Crabtree was a leading reason the 49ers were able to overcome a slow start and put away the Cardinals with about a quarter to spare.

What I didn't like: The 49ers couldn't generate enough on offense early in the game. Arizona held a 128-15 advantage in yardage through one quarter. That seemed inexcusable given what the Cardinals had to work with offensively and what the 49ers had to gain with a strong performance.

The Cardinals had enough trouble keeping pace without turnovers. Rookie receiver Michael Floyd lost a fumble early in the fourth quarter. Arizona wasn't going to mount a comeback to win the game at that point, but the turnover made a bad situation worse.

Floyd wasn't the only 2012 first-round receiver to cost his team in this game. The 49ers' little-used A.J. Jenkins dropped a pass on third down in the first half.

A TD pass, finally: The Cardinals completed a pass for a touchdown for only the third time since Week 7. Brian Hoyer's 37-yard scoring strike to Floyd pulled Arizona within two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

What's next: The Cardinals finished the regular season with a 5-11 record. We now wait to see whether the team makes changes to its front office and/or coaching staff. The 49ers start preparing for the playoffs.