The last game of the 2013 regular season between the San Francisco 49ers and the Arizona Cardinals was a good one. The 49ers beat the Cardinals on a literal last second field goal from Phil Dawson that also propelled the 49ers to the 12-4 and the fifth seed in the playoffs. Both teams played well and both teams poorly. It was a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type of game for both teams.
Let’s start with the obvious. Even after missing his first field goal in 27 straight tries, Phil Dawson ends up in the good category. Dawson has been a breath of fresh air this season after the downfall of David Akers last season. Dawson was 3-4 on the day, including to clutch kicks at the end of the game. The 49ers should be much more confident in their kicker going into the playoffs this year than last year.
Although, he might want to forget about the entire middle of the game, Colin Kaepernick had a good game. He got off to a hot start and made two clutch throws on the final drive that led to the game winning field goal. Kaepernick threw for 310 yards and two touchdowns, and finished the game with 111.2 QB rating. Kaepernick has appeared to have regained his confidence once Crabtree came back, and is now picking up steam for the playoffs.
Anquan Boldin was probably the best pick up in the off-season. The 49ers traded a sixth round pick to the Ravens for Boldin, and it’s clear that the 49ers won that trade. Boldin caught nine passes for 149 yards and one touchdown against his old Arizona team, and finished the year with 1,179 yards and seven touchdowns. If not for Boldin, the 49ers passing offense would have been even more of a disaster and the 49ers may have not even made the playoffs. Last year, Boldin carried the Ravens’ offense to a Super Bowl win, and the 49ers are hoping he can do it again this year.
NaVorro Bowman certainly made his case for the Defensive Player of the Year award in the last couple games. In this game, Bowman tallied one interception, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and one sack. Bowman is just the second player in the NFL do that this year and the first to do it since 2009. Bowman has been playing like a mad man recently, and the 49ers are hoping that he keeps up his elite play in the playoffs.
Shortly after Mario Manningham went on IR, Quinton Patton stepped up with a couple catches including one that led to the game winning field goal. The 49ers are going to need solid play from Patton in the playoffs.
I’ve written about this a number of times this year, and the 49ers still haven’t fixed it. It seems whenever the 49ers get a lead they become complacent. They continue to have a problem with letting teams hang around. The 49ers were up 17-0 in the first quarter, and didn’t score again until the fourth. The strategy of running out the clock and not giving up a big play on defense makes sense. Just about every team employs it. But at some point you have to go for the kill shot. You can’t just let a team come back from a 17 point deficit and then wait until they tie it to start really playing again. That’s not a strategy that will win Super Bowls. The coaches were probably running a very vanilla game plan for this game, but this has been a problem all year.
The 49ers offense seemed content in running the ball straight into Arizona’s top rated run defense for almost three straight quarters. The 49ers’ running backs only gained 22 yards on 17 carries. That is a terrible stat line. Yes, the Cardinals have a great run defense, both the 49ers pride themselves on pushing other teams around. If they 49ers want to win the Super Bowl, they’re going to have to find a way around obstacles.
The 49ers’ defense allowed the opposing quarterback to throw against them for the second game in a row. That is not a streak you want to have going into the playoffs. Carson Palmer had over 400 yards and two touchdowns yesterday. The front four seemed incapable to get any pressure onto Palmer for the entire game. Palmer was only sacked once, and that was by NaVorro Bowman on an inside linebacker blitz. Again, the play calling was very basic, so hopefully in the playoffs they cause more havoc up front and play tighter in the secondary.