GLENDALE, Ariz. — The way things have gone for the San Francisco 49ers the last six weeks, of course they were going to find a way to pull out a wild one in Arizona.
Phil Dawson’s 40-yard field goal as time expired Sunday gave the 49ers a 23-20 victory over the Arizona Cardinals that has the reigning NFC champions riding a six-game winning streak heading into their first-round playoff game at Green Bay.
Unlike the previous two seasons, when San Francisco won the NFC West, the fifth-seeded 49ers (12-4) are going in as a wild card.
“Now we have to do what Baltimore did, go from the bottom and try to win,” cornerback Carlos Rogers said.
Arizona (10-6) had a shot at the playoffs but needed to beat San Francisco and have New Orleans lose to Tampa Bay. Neither occurred, and the Cardinals — in their first year under coach Bruce Arians — had to settle for a 10-win season, something that’s happened only twice before since the franchise moved to Arizona in 1988.
Broncos 34, Raiders 14
OAKLAND — The 2013 season ended with more questions than answers for the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.
The futures of the general manager, coach and quarterback remain murky. Same goes for rest of the roster, too. From the top to the bottom, nobody delivered a strong lasting impression.
Peyton Manning directed Denver to a 31-0 lead before sitting out the second half, and the Broncos routed the Raiders 34-14 in the season finale.
Raiders owner Mark Davis had said he would wait until after the season to make decisions about whether to bring back general manager Reggie McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen. He never surfaced in the postgame locker room.
Allen has an 8-24 record in two seasons with the Raiders (4-12), who have been hampered by bad contracts and bad drafts in the final years of late owner Al Davis’ tenure. No Raiders coach has even been brought back after two straight losing seasons.
Oakland also has struggled to find impact players in the first two drafts under McKenzie and done little in free agency because of financial restrictions. The Raiders had more than $50 million of “dead money” on their salary cap, meaning about 40 percent of their cap went to players no longer in the organization.
“It’s been a tough couple of years on everybody,” Allen said.