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San Francisco 49ers beat Rams, aid playoff hopes

The San Francisco 49ers strengthened their grip on a playoff spot Sunday with a workmanlike win over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday at Candlestick Park. The loss effectively extinguishes any postseason hopes for the 5-7 Rams.

Here's what we learned in the Niners' 23-13 win:

1. Keep an eye on the Niners in the NFC. The Seahawks and Saints are seen as the favorites to come out of the conference, but San Francisco has the personnel to embarrass anybody. The win combined with an Arizona Cardinals loss puts the 49ers in sole possession of the sixth and final playoff spot in the NFC. We don't expect it to slip away.

2. Welcome back, Michael Crabtree. The wide receiver made an impact in his 2013 debut, setting up a third-quarter touchdown with a 60-yard catch and run. The play served as evidence that Crabtree is not back to full speed (this was to be expected), but his presence played a role in big days from both tight end Vernon Davis and wide receiver Anquan Boldin.

3. Quarterback Kellen Clemens doesn't have the talent level to carry the Rams, but he has no chance when his wide receivers don't catch the ball. Tight end Jared Cook and wide receiver Chris Givens are not going to enjoy group film study this week.

4. A bad afternoon for premier left tackles. The 49ers' Joe Staley went to the locker room in the first quarter with a right knee injury. He was limping noticeably after the game and is headed for an MRI on Monday. The Rams' Jake Long was knocked out of the game with a concussion in the second half.

5. Rams wide receiver Tavon Austin's run of inspired play came to a close. He was held to 25 yards on four catches and one rush for 10 yards. He also threw one terrible incomplete pass on a trick play. Don't expect to see that one again.

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