San Francisco 49ers secure No. 5 seed, will play Pack


For a second consecutive January, the 49ers will face the Green Bay Packers in a playoff bout.

On the strength of Anquan Boldin's best game since his San Francisco debut in the season opener, the 49ers squeaked past the Arizona Cardinals with 23-20 victory to earn the NFC's No. 5 seed.

Playoff schedule
The first two rounds of the NFL's postseason schedule for the 2013 season were released Sunday night. More ...

Here's what else we learned in the regular-season finale:

1. Having won six consecutive games, the 49ers will enter the postseason as the NFL's hottest team and the Seahawks' biggest threat to the Super Bowl. Coinciding with Michael Crabtree's return, Colin Kaepernick has produced a passer rating over 108.0 in five of his last six games. This is a different offense than the one that was held under 200 yards in consecutive losses to the Panthers and Saints in early November.

2. Pay no mind to Frank Gore's low rushing output. Calais Campbell and the Cardinals' defensive front seven have been shutting down featured backs for over two months now.

3. Rivaling teammate Patrick Willis and the Panthers' Luke Kuechly as the league's premier inside linebacker, NaVorro Bowman recorded a sack, forced fumble, fumble recovery and an interception six days after his pick six clinched a victory over the plucky Falcons.

4. The Cardinals missed out on joining the 1985 Broncos and the Matt Cassel-led 2008 Patriots as the only teams kept out of the playoffs with an 11-5 record. Regardless, Bruce Arians' debut in the desert was an unqualified success.

5. Carson Palmer's resurgence in November and December means Arizona can concentrate on upgrading the offensive line rather than searching for a veteran upgrade at quarterback. It would still behoove Arians and general manager Steve Keim to search for a future signal-caller in the second or third round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

6. One slight concern for the 49ers is their pass defense. The 348 and 407 yards surrendered by Matt Ryan and Palmer the past two weeks are the two highest totals all season.

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