After a rough 6 quarters that started with a second half meltdown in New England and carried over into a full on letdown vs. Seattle, the 49ers righted the ship in week 17 with a win over Arizona.
The victory gives San Francisco it's second division tittle in as many seasons, but perhaps most importantly, it gives them a week off during Wild Card Weekend in order to get some of their key components healed up. They played Sunday again without Justin Smith, an anchor to their defensive front, and although it wasn't exposed much vs. the lowly Cardinals, you saw the effect it had on the defense playing without Smith vs. the Seahawks last week. The other notable 49er who was coming off a concussion in week 16 was Vernon Davis, but he managed to suit up and play the majority of the game vs. Arizona. Still though, Vernon didn't contribute much offensively and really hasn't been a big part of the offensive focus since Colin Kaepernick took over under center. With Mario Manningham out for the year, and Randy Moss fading more and more as the season wears on, the 49ers need a few guys to step up and provide Michael Crabtree with some support in the passing game. On the plus side, Crabtree had a career day vs. Arizona, and appears ready to go into the postseason as the focal point of their aerial attack. Still, if the 49ers can't get some other guys going, they'll be in a similar spot as they were last January, when they just couldn't get anything done through the air.
As for the guy throwing the passes, Kaepernick had a nice rebound game Sunday vs. Arizona after a mediocre showing vs. Seattle last weekend. Kaep completed 16 of 28 for 275 yards and 2 TD's, both to Michael Crabtree who finished with 172 yards receiving. The 2nd year quarterback again showed his athleticism and the reason why Jim Harbough is so fond of him, making some excellent off-balance throws running to his left. He looks ready and confident heading into his first ever postseason as a starter, and the 49ers will be expecting a lot more out of him than your average 2nd year player with 7 starts under his belt. Although we didn't see any costly ones in the final week of the season, Kaep is still a young QB who's going to make some mistakes, but he's got enough big-play ability to overcome them. Plus, he really hasn't had a bad game yet since taking over as starter. We'll be breaking down the playoffs a lot more in the coming weeks, but as long as the 49ers defense plays more like they did in Week 17, and less like they did vs. Seattle and New England, you have to like their chances vs. anyone the NFC is lining up, including Atlanta.