GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Phil Dawson's franchise-record string of 27 consecutive field goals ended with a missed 24-yard chip shot. The San Francisco kicker made up for it, to say the least, at the end of a wild 23-20 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday that clinched the NFC's No. 5 playoff seed.
Now the 49ers take a six-game winning streak into their first-round game at Green Bay.
"We would like to carry that momentum," said Anquan Boldin, who had a big game against his former team. "It felt like a playoff game. We came in here and won a tough game, so hopefully that will continue."
The 49ers (12-4) led 17-0 after one quarter, but needed two field goals from Dawson in the final 1:45. The first one matched his career long of 56 yards, the second was a 40-yarder to win the game as time expired.
"You live and learn on every kick, try to figure what I did wrong and apply that to future kicks," Dawson said. "I am glad it came down to the end to help our team win."
The teams combined for 16 points in the final 3:20.
After Dawson's 56-yarder put San Francisco up 20-17 with 1:45 to go, Jay Feely — who had missed two earlier — made a 43-yard field goal to tie it at 20 with 34 seconds left.
That turned out to be plenty of time for the 49ers.
LaMichael James' 45-yard kickoff return and two quick completions by Colin Kaepernick set up Dawson's winner.
"It doesn't matter how (we won)," San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh said, "by any means necessary."
The crucial completion to set up the winning field goal, a 29-yard sidelines throw, went to rookie Quinton Patton, who in a season slowed by injury had just one catch before Sunday.
Arizona (10-6) rallied from a 17-0 first-quarter deficit to tie it on Carson Palmer's 34-yard touchdown pass to Andre Roberts with 3:20 remaining.
Boldin caught nine passes for 149 yards and a TD in his first game back since Arizona traded him to Baltimore after the 2009 season.
To make the playoffs, the Cardinals needed to beat San Francisco and have New Orleans lose to Tampa Bay. Neither occurred, leaving Arizona, in its first year under coach Bruce Arians, to settle for just its third 10-win season since the franchise moved to the desert in 1988.
"That comeback was as good as I've been around against a very good football team," Arians said. "It just shows what they've been through, their persevering and fighting for 60 minutes. The thing that's really bad about the NFL is how abruptly it ends. We were really hoping to be playing next weekend and obviously we're not."