Dawson's FG on final play lifts 49ers over Cardinals
Glendale, AZ (SportsNetwork.com) - Phil Dawson more than made up for missing his first field goal in 27 tries.
Dawson nailed a game-winning 40-yard field goal as time expired and the San Francisco 49ers edged the Arizona Cardinals, 23-20, in the regular- season finale.
Dawson split the uprights from 56 yards out to give San Francisco a 20-17 lead with 1:45 remaining.
The Cardinals, though, answered with a Jay Feely 43-yard field goal to knot the tilt with 29 ticks on the clock.
LaMichael James nearly broke the ensuing kickoff, however, before being dragged down from behind by NFC Pro Bowl special teamer Justin Bethel as the 49ers began at their own 36-yard line.
Colin Kaepernick threw a strike to Anquan Boldin on an out route for an 18- yard gain before lofting a pass along the right sideline for fourth-round rookie Quinton Patton, who came down with the 29-yard reception over cornerback Antoine Cason.
Dawson's boot came a snap later.
Although San Francisco headed to the desert with its playoff fate already secured following Monday's 34-24 triumph over the Atlanta Falcons, a win coupled with a Seattle Seahawks loss would've allowed the 49ers to win their third straight NFC West title.
Seattle, though, beat the St. Louis Rams Sunday to clinch the division.
The 49ers will settle with the fifth seed instead and will visit the fourth seeded and NFC North champion Green Bay Packers in the Wild Card round next Sunday at 4:40 ET.
"Players, coaches don't control who you play, where you play, when you play. The thing you control is how you play," San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh said.
The former Cardinal Boldin had nine receptions for 149 yards and a touchdown in his first game back in Glendale since Arizona dealt him to the Baltimore Ravens after the 2009 season.
Kaepernick was 21-of-34 for 310 yards and two touchdowns for the 49ers (12-4), who closed the year with six straight wins -- a strong finish during a sometimes up-and-down season which included a pair of two-game losing streaks.
After returning a playoff-clinching interception 89 yards for a touchdown in Monday's win over Atlanta, 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman tallied a sack, an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in the triumph.
Carson Palmer completed 28-of-49 passes for 407 yards with a pair of touchdowns and an interception for Arizona (10-6), which recorded just its third 10-win campaign since the franchise relocated in 1988.
Larry Fitzgerald hauled in six passes for 113 yards and Michael Floyd caught six passes for 91 yards in defeat.
"Obviously, we're disappointed in the outcome of the ballgame," Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians said. "We came up short, give the 49ers credit."
The 49ers stormed out of the gate to race out to a 17-0 first-quarter lead.
After Dawson knocked through a 27-yard field goal to cap San Francisco's initial 8-play, 53-yard drive, Bowman picked off Palmer on the second play of Arizona's ensuing series.
Boldin, who had six receptions for 106 yards in the opening frame, hauled in a 4-yard TD pass to increase the 49ers margin to 10-0.
Feely then missed wide right from 37 yards out on Arizona's next touch.
On a 3rd-and-4 from the San Francisco 34, Boldin hauled in a quick out along the right sideline near the first-down marker. He eluded cornerback Jerraud Powers and raced down the middle of the field for a 63-yard gain.
Kaepernick then flipped a 3-yard TD pass to Vernon Davis in the back of the end zone a play later.
Arizona finally got on the board with 4:50 left the second quarter, when Palmer hit Jake Ballard for a 1-yard score to make it 17-7.
The 49ers then moved the ball all the way to the Arizona 6-yard line, but Dawson misfired from 24 yards away with 24 ticks on the clock to end his field-goal streak.
After a scoreless third quarter, Feely's 49-yard field goal on the third play of the fourth whittled Arizona's gap to 17-10.
The Cardinals defense then forced a punt, but 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks stuffed Rashard Mendenhall for a 1-yard loss on a 3rd-and-1 from the San Francisco 24. Arians then elected to kick the field goal instead of going for a 4th-and-2, but Feely missed the 43-yard kick to the right.
Arizona's defense again came up big, though, forcing a three-and-out as the Cardinals got the ball back at their own 40 with 5:48 to go.
Palmer was sacked by Bowman for an 8-yard loss on a 2nd-and-5 from the Niners' 26, but then found Andre Roberts for the game-tying 34-yard score on a go route along the left sideline with 3:20 to play.
The 49ers have won nine of their last 10 meetings against the Cardinals ... San Francisco running back Frank Gore, who ran for 14 yards on 13 carries, was the only 100-yard rusher Arizona allowed this year. He accomplished the feat in Week 6.
12/30 01:03:12 ET
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