Dawson’s Peak- Phil Dawson kicked his third field goal of the day, a 40-yard boot as time expired to give the San Francisco 49ers a 23-20 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. The 49ers victory is their sixth straight and caps a 12-4 regular season as the 49ers fought off a late rally by the Cardinals before a sold out house at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The 49ers with the win clinch the fifth seed in the NFC playoff bracket and will enter this post season as one of two wild card teams. The 49ers will meet the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay next Sunday on Wild Card weekend. Dawson’s last second kick was his second field goal after the two minute warning as Arizona’s Jay Feely kicked a 43-yard field goal to tie the game for the Cardinals with 34 seconds remaining. Dawson drilled a 56-yard field goal with 1:45 remaining to give the 49ers a 20-17 lead. After Feely’s field goal with 34 second remaining tied the game the 49ers got a clutch kickoff return of 45-yards by LaMichael James from deep in the end zone which allowed the red and gold to set up shop at their own 36. 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick completed two passes to Anquan Boldin and Quinton Patton respectively picking 47 yards to the Arizona 22 yard line setting up what would be Dawson’s game winning kick. Dawson did miss a 24 yard field goal attempt in the second quarter which ended his streak of 27 straight kicks made, but would more than make up for this by the game’s end.
Big 49ers First Quarter- The 49ers looked as if they were going to take control of the game early on as they jumped out to a 17-0 lead before the first quarter had ended. Dawson kicked his first field goal of the day on a 27-yard kick capping the 49ers first possession of the day, which was a eight play drive which featured a steady diet of Boldin and Patton which gained a combined 53-yards on the series first four plays. The 49ers second possession would come about quickly when NaVorro Bowman made his second interception in two games, this time picking Cardinals QB Carson Palmer setting up the 49ers deep in Arizona territory at the Cardinals 22-yard line. Five plays later Kaepernick found the former Cardinal Boldin again, this time for a four-yard touchdown pass to increase the red and gold lead to 10-0. After a tough series for the Cardinals which ended in a missed Feely field goal attempt, the 49ers used a good portion of the remaining 3:15 of the opening quarter to their advantage. Once again moving the ball quite effectively the 49ers embarked on another drive that did not require as many plays thanks to a 63-yard pass play from Kaepernick to Boldin on a third down and four. This gave the 49ers a first and goal and the Cardinals four yard line. On the next play Kaepernick found Vernon Davis in the end zone for another touchdown pass to put the 49ers up 17 points by the quarters end. The 49ers defense was all over the Cardinals offense as they seemingly just could not string any drives to speak of in the opening quarter.
Cardinals Recover- Arizona who’s defense only allowed 10 points to the Seahawks in Seattle in Week 16 was shocked with the 49ers first quarter assault on the scoreboard. However the Cardinals defense would recover and for the second and third quarters do an effective job of limiting the 49ers offense giving their own offense a chance to get back into the game. On their second possession of the second quarter the Cardinals put together an 88-yard drive which was highlighted by a 49-yard pass play from Palmer to the ever reliable veteran wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Later in the drive the 49ers were able to hold the Cardinals on a third and goal from their one yard line however Arizona decided to forego the field goal and go for the touchdown. The 49ers defense could not deny Arizona as the Cardinals made good on a successful fourth down conversion when Palmer found Jake Ballard in the back of the end zone to cut the red and gold lead to ten points. The 49ers took possession of the ball after the Arizona scoring drive and proceeded to move the ball from their own 20 to the Cardinals six-yard line which featured a 19-yard pass play to Anthony Dixon, plus a 14-yard pass play to Joe Staley. The 49ers even benefited on a roughing the passer penalty of the pass play to Dixon. However the 49ers drive stalled and Dawson missed a short 24 yard field goal just before the end of the half. The defense for the 49ers had a strong first quarter and followed it up with a reasonably strong second half that carried into the final quarter. However with the 49ers leading 17-10 in the final period the Cardinals with faint playoff hopes refused to give up or give in. Feely, who kicked a 49-yard field goal early in the final quarter to cut the red and gold lead to seven also missed a 43-yard try with 7:39 remaining. On the Cardinals next series a 34-yard pass play from Palmer to Andre Roberts gave Arizona the game tying touchdown as Roberts' over the shoulder catch beat the coverage by Trumainne Brock and Carlos Rogers.
49ers Clutch Field Goal Drives- The 49ers would respond the Cardinals game tying touchdown with a field goal drive staring from their own 21 yard line. Kaepernick would complete a 16 yard pass play to Davis. Two plays later Kaepernick and Boldin hooked up again 17 yard pass play as the 49ers drove the Arizona 38 before Dawson drilled his 56-yard field goal inside of the two minute warning. After the Cardinals rallied for the game tying field goal with 34 seconds remaining it turned out that the 49ers just had enough time to make one last series following James kickoff return from deep in the 49ers own end zone. Yet another connection by Kaepernick to Boldin picked up 18 yards to the Arizona 46. After a delay of game penalty to the 49ers, Kaepernick dropped back and found Patton open for a huge 29-yard pass play to the Cardinals 22 setting up Dawson’s game winning kick at the final gun.
49ers Stats- Kaepernick on the afternoon completed 21 of 34 passes for 310 yards for one of his better games of the season. Boldin, playing his first game in Arizona since he was traded away from there to Baltimore in 2009 caught nine passes for 149 yards and a touchdown. Davis on the day had three catches for 45 yards and a touchdown while Patton made two catches for 34 yards. Michael Crabtree caught three passes for 29 yards. The 49ers had a difficult time however running the ball thanks to the Cardinals being very tough on the run statistically. Despite having 13 carries Frank Gore could never really get loose and only gained 14 yards on the day. Patton picked up 26 yards on an end around play during the 49ers first scoring drive of the day in the opening quarter. Defensively the 49ers held up despite the fact Palmer on the day would throw for 407 yards completing 28 of 49 passes. Flitzgerald also led the Cardinals with 6 catches for 113 yards while Michael Floyd also had six catches for 91 yards. NaVorro Bowman has nine tackles on the afternoon while Eric Reid also had nine tackles. Aldon Smith. Patrick Willis and Trumainne Brock had four tackles each while Ahmad Brooks, Donte Whitner and Ray McDonald each had three apiece.
49ers Next Game- The 49ers will be taking on the Green Bay Packers at the “Frozen Tundra” of Lambeau Field next Sunday, January 5th, 2014 at 1:30pm PT (3:30pm CT in Green Bay). The Packers won the NFC North Division with a 33-28 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday and are the fourth seeded team in the NFC. The 49ers beat the Packers 34-28 in the season opener back on September 8th. Aaron Rogers is off the injured list and back on the field after an eight week absence. This will be a tough test for the 49ers who have never in their franchise history won a playoff game in Green Bay. The game will be carried nationally on FOX.
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