The Arizona Cardinals bragged their way to an 11-5 record during the week and labeled themselves the best team in the NFC, but limped off the field Sunday sporting a 10-6 tag and a ticket home for the offseason as the San Francisco 49ers whipped their butts yet again, 23-20.
The Niners roared out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter, mostly on the heroics of Anquan Boldin (9 catches for 149 yards), and AZ spent the entire game trying to catch up. They finally tied it with 38 seconds left in regulation, only to see a big kickoff return by LaMichael James, then two quick passes — one to Boldin for 18 yards and Quinton Patton’s sensational one-handed grab for 29 yards, that set the Niners up for Phil Dawson’s game winning FG as time expired.
And thus endeth the 2013 NFL regular season. The 49ers finished with a 12-4 record and the fifth seed in the playoffs, closing things out with a six game winning streak. They’ll now have to win four more in a row to hoist the Lombardi in February. Not impossible, but a bit daunting. Especially with a defense that is experiencing another late season melt down. The pass rush has disappeared and the secondary is getting torched. The offense is amazing one quarter and non-existent the next. Not usually a recipe for postseason success.
Their first opponent will once again be the Packers, this time up in Green Bay on the Sunday afternoon late game. The Niners have beaten the Pack three straight times. Can they make it four? If they do, it will probably be off to Seattle the following week for a rematch with the Seahawks in a game that FOX and America is drooling to see.
It was a fun day around the league. The first team to gag away their postseason hopes was Miami, who managed to lose to Buffalo and the Jets, after beating the Patriots. Next up were the Ravens, who were routed by Cincinnati. That left San Diego a chance to seize the last wild card spot in the AFC by simply beating the second stringers of KC. They did — barely, in overtime, complete with some horrific officiating blunders that kept them alive.
In the NFC, the Bears wheezed out against the Packers, no surprise. But the fun game was Sunday night with Philadelphia at Dallas for the NFC East title. This one went down the the wire with Kyle Orton appropriately channeling Tony Romo by throwing a killer game ending interception with less than two minutes to go in a 24-22 game.
That wasn’t the fun part, though. It was the camera shot of Dallas owner Jerry Jones up in his suite reacting to the interception by turning his back to the cameras and engaging in the familiar head bobbing F-bomb exclamatory sequence. I counted three bob thrusts before the cameras politely pointed elsewhere. The third one had some emphatic shoulder heave to it, with a slight body turn that hurled that F-bomb straight into the floor with maximum gusto. Quite entertaining. And yet another patented, lose on the final weekend, 8-8 season for the Cowboys.
And so, another excellent, yet somehow frustrating 49er season comes to an end. Twelve teams are now 0-0 and the fun begins anew. One of these entities is going to win three or four straight games and go home a winner. Everyone else will be walking off the field doing the head bob F-bomb dance.