NFL: San Francisco 49ers win NFC West after beating Arizona Cardinals
By Paul Higham Twitter: @SkySportsPaulH. Last Updated: December 31, 2012 2:24am
Michael Crabtree: Career day for the 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers wrapped up the NFC West title on the back of a career day from receiver Michael Crabtree during their 27-13 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
Crabtree caught two touchdown passes as the 49ers ended their season in great style with a win that also gave them the week off next week as the second seeds in the NFC following Green Bay's loss in Minnesota.
The 49ers had let their lead slip in the division leading to Sunday being a must-win if they were to win the West and fend off Seattle to relegate the Seahawks to a wild card and an away tie in the play-offs.
Crabtree caught TD passes of 49 and seven yards and recorded 172 yards receiving to become the team's first 1,000-yard receiver since Terrell Owens back in 2003.
New quarterback Colin Kaepernick also had a career-best 276 yards and it could be his blossoming relationship with Crabtree that could push the 49ers one further than their NFC Championship game appearance last season.
The hard-hitting San Francisco defence is still present, along with Frank Gore's bruising running - as he showed with a team record 51st rushing touchdown coming with a two-yard charge.
Arizona could only muster a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, with Brian Hoyer starting as the fourth choice for the Cardinals this season after a dreadful run of 11 defeats in 12 games which could cost coach Ken Whisenhunt his job.
One facet of San Francisco's game not firing is the kicking game, with David Akers missing two more field goals to make it four misses in his last eight attempts.
The main bright points were securing a bye and also the performance of Crabtree and Kaepernick - who was ironically replaced late in the game by Alex Smith.
Smith led the team to the Championship game last season and had been amongst the most accurate QBs in the league before he was replaced by the more exciting Kaepernick with his play-making ability.
Time will tell if that move pays off but the 49ers have a week off to come up with a game plan for their first play-off game on the weekend of January 12/13.