Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Kaepernick & Dawson Clutch in Final Seconds of 23-20 Win Over Cardinals; 49ers Clinch Fifth Seed in Playoffs

In the final week of the 2013 regular-season, the San Francisco 49ers won for the sixth consecutive time with a 23-20 edge of your seat thriller over the Arizona Cardinals. With the victory, the 49ers clinched the fifth seed in the NFC Playoffs.

Colin Kaepernick drove the 49ers from their own 36-yard line with 18 seconds left in the fourth quarter for the win. Kaepernick had two completions to setup the game-winning field, one to Anquan Boldin and the other to Quinton Patton. Phil Dawson kicked a 40-yard field goal for the win.

In the first quarter the Niners looked like an offensive juggernaut jumping out to a 17-0 lead. Boldin had six receptions for 106 yards and one touchdown and he outgained Arizona’s offense all by himself in the opening quarter.

With a big lead heading into the second frame, the 49ers were in full control after dominating in all phases to open the game. However, the 49ers offense would not score another touchdown and would go 2-for-12 on third down conversions the rest of the game. Kaepernick was able to drive his offense inside the red-zone three times, however, he could not punch it in for a touchdown. The three drives ended with a field goal made, field goal missed and a failed fourth down conversion.

Kaepernick ended the game with one some of his best stats of the season. He passed for 310 yards, two touchdowns and had a 111.2 passer rating. Boldin was the other star on offense with nine receptions for 149 yards and one touchdown. One of Anquan’s receptions was for 63 yards.

The Cardinals began to answer back in the second quarter with a 49-yard completion to wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. On the same drive, quarterback Carson Palmer threw a one-yard TD pass to tight end Jake Ballard on fourth-and-goal with less than five minutes before halftime. Arizona headed into halftime down 17-7.

On the second play of the fourth quarter, kicker Jay Feely nailed a 49-yard field goal to erase the Niners’ lead to just one touchdown, 17-10. Feely missed a 47-yarder with just over seven minutes remaining that would have made the score 17-13. However, with the 49ers offense puttering out for a third-straight 3-and-out after the miss, Arizona’s offense took advantage of the miscues. Palmer found wideout Andre Roberts for a 34-yard touchdown to tie the score at 17 all with 3:20 left in the game.

San Francisco would score their first points since the first quarter with a 56-yard field goal by Dawson with 1:45 left. The career-long matching kick put the Niners up 20-17. The back-and-fourth nature of the game continued with the Cardinals booting a 49-yard field goal to tie the game for a second time with 29 seconds to go.

On the ensuing kickoff, returner LaMichael James gave the Niners a big boost with a 41-yard return. With San Francisco at their own 36-yard line and two timeouts, Kaepernick had more than enough time to drive his offense to field goal territory for Dawson. The game-winning field goal was setup with 18-yard pass to Boldin, followed up by a 29-yard reception by Patton. Dawson came on with two seconds left to win the game, 23-20, with a 40-yard field goal.

Linebacker NaVorro Bowman continued his quest for Defensive Player of the Year with another monster performance. He had a single-season career high second interception in as many games to end a Cardinals drive in the first quarter. In the third quarter, Bowman kept the Niners in control by ripping the football out of the hands of running back Rashard Mendenhall and recovered it at Arizona’s 37-yard line. All totaled, NaVorro finished with ten tackles, a sack, interception, forced fumble and fumble recovery.

Notable Stats and Facts:

With the Seattle Seahawks win, it ended the 49ers two-year reign as division champions.

San Francisco will be the No. 5 seed and will once again battle against the Green Bay Packers for the second straight playoffs. This time around the Niners will travel to Green Bay to play the NFC North winners in the Wild Card round.

Twenty of Kaepernick’s 21 touchdowns have gone to Davis (13) and Boldin (7) this season.

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