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Around The NFC West - Season's End

A look at the division brethren of the Cardinals with 2014 coming to a close

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Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch fights through Rams' tacklers as Seattle beat St. Louis to clinch the NFC West title..

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Last time out: 49ers 20, Cardinals 17

Final record: 8-8 overall, 2-4 in division

Snapshot: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick hit fullback Bruce Miller for a 3-yard touchdown with 25 seconds left in the third quarter for the only score of the second half. Kaepernick finished 15-of-26 for 204 yards and two touchdowns while adding seven carries for 63 yards.

Notable: Running back Frank Gore had 25 carries for 144 yards in what could be his final game with the franchise, as he is an upcoming free agent. Coach Jim Harbaugh was doused with Gatorade late in the game and given a game ball. It was announced following the game he and the organization mutually agreed to part ways.

Quotable: Harbaugh on his four years with the team: "As I described it, this has been the time of my life. That song, 'Had the Time of My Life.' I did. I really did. I had a lot of fun."

Season synopsis:The 49ers had Super Bowl aspirations but never quite found a groove. The defense was hit hard by injuries and suspensions, as star linebackers Aldon Smith and Patrick Willis missed a significant chunk of the season, and linebacker NaVorro Bowman didn't play at all. San Francisco was 7-4 after a win over Washington on Nov. 23 but subsequently lost its next four and was eliminated from the playoffs. The constant speculation about Harbaugh's status was a distracting theme throughout the season, and the new coach will have a team which could look very different, with several high-profile players heading to free agency or considering retirement.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Last time out: Seahawks 20, Rams 6

Record: 12-4 overall, 5-1 in division

Snapshot: Seattle was shut out in the first half and went into the break trailing 6-0, but scored the final 20 points to clinch the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC. Linebacker Bruce Irvin had a 49-yard interception return for a score with 9:50 left in the fourth quarter to secure the victory.

Notable: Running back Marshawn Lynch had 14 carries for 60 yards, including a 9-yard touchdown to break a 6-6 tie early in the fourth quarter. The Seahawks held five of their final six opponents to seven points or less.

Quotable: Coach Pete Carroll, on winning nine of 10 games down the stretch to capture a second straight NFC West title, via the Associated Press: "All you guys kept talking about how you can't do this and you can't get to this point again and you can't come back and all this stuff. You can. You can do it. And we did it to this point. And we'll see how we'll do in the playoffs. We got back to division champs and that's pretty rare. I'm really proud of that."

Next up: The Seahawks have a first-round bye and will host the lowest-seeded NFC team in the divisional round

Season synopsis: The Super Bowl defense started slowly, as a surprising two-point loss to the Rams dropped the Seahawks to 3-3 in mid-October. Before that game, star wideout Percy Harvin was traded to the Jets, and the Seahawks looked to be in some trouble. The rest of the way, though, they were back to their dominant selves. Seattle will have home field advantage up to the Super Bowl, and will aim to become repeat champions.

ST. LOUIS RAMS

Last time out: Seahawks 20, Rams 6

Final record: 6-10 overall, 2-4 in division

Snapshot:  St. Louis hung tough by taking a six-point lead into the second half but couldn't hold on. The running game accumulated only 42 yards on 19 carries, an average of 2.2 per rush. Quarterback Shaun Hill was 26-of-37 for 243 yards and was intercepted twice.

Notable: The Rams pulled off surprising upsets of the Seahawks, Broncos and 49ers earlier in the year, but couldn't add another to the list. Once the Seahawks won, it ended the Cardinals' hope of claiming the NFC West title. St. Louis finished under .500 for the eighth consecutive year.

Quotable: Coach Jeff Fisher on the 6-10 finish, via StLouisRams.com: "I think we're moving in the right direction. I think all the work that we put in this offseason is all going to contribute to the success that we have in the future. You're never going to like 6-10 season, but I think we're building. I know we're building."

Season synopsis: There was optimism surrounding the Rams in the offseason, especially after they added tackle Greg Robinson and defensive tackle Aaron Donald with their pair of first-round picks. The defense mostly played well, but the offense was hurt when starting quarterback Sam Bradford went down before the season with a torn ACL. Hill and Austin Davis each saw time under center, but the Rams had trouble consistently scoring points all year. The schedule was grueling, as the Rams played 11 games against opponents .500 or better, and while they had wins over the Seahawks and Broncos, the team was inconsistent. The defensive pieces are in place but St. Louis' decision at quarterback will be one of the NFC West's biggest offseason storylines.



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