San rancisco ins est
9ers ro ast ardina s to earn first-ro nd ye
SAN AN IS O Barechested Joe Staley and Mike Iupati jumped up and down wearing only their shorts, each offensive lineman doing his best to will the Vikings to victory from afar.
The 49ers — sporting fresh red NFC West champion caps after beating the Arizona Cardinals 2713 on Sunday — crammed into the cozy confines of their locker room and became Minnesota’s fiercest cross-country cheering section. When Blair Walsh’s 29-yard field goal sailed through the up- rights for the Vikings as time expired to give San Francisco a playoff bye, the tiny dressing area in Candlestick Park’s south corner erupted into a crazy, celebratory scene.
“C’mon, baby, bye week!” shouted defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois.
The Vikings certainly deserved some thanks. So did Michael Crabtree.
Crabtree’s career day and dazzling catch-making display sent San Francisco to a second straight division title and into the playoffs with some muchneeded momentum.
Crabtree caught touchdown passes of 49 and 7 yards and finished with a career-high 172 yards on eight receptions, leading the 49ers to another rout of Arizona after a slow start.
Colin Kaepernick threw for a career-best 276 yards and two TDs as the Niners (11-4-1) did their part to control their postseason fate — then watched Minnesota beat Green Bay and give San Francisco the NFC’s No. 2 seed and a week off before hosting a divisional playoff game.
Frank Gore ran for a 2-yard score early in the fourth quarter for his franchise-best 51st touchdown rushing.
Michael Crabtree had a career best recei ing yards.