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Finish Is Mirror Image For Cards

Drop 27-13 decision in San Francisco to wrap up 2012


Cornerback Patrick Peterson can't hold on to an end-zone interception Sunday in front of 49ers wideout Randy Moss during the Cardinals' 27-13 loss.

SAN FRANCISCO – For a while Sunday, the Cardinals gave the crowd at Candlestick Park a scare as they waited for the 49ers to win and capture the NFC West title.

Eventually, though, the Cards didn't have enough. They didn't have enough on offense to break through after some good field position early in the game, they didn't have enough defense to hold off the 49ers' offense – wide receiver Michael Crabtree in particular.

So the Niners ended up with a 27-13 victory to sew up the division championship, and the Cardinals (5-11) end their season knowing they have the seventh pick in April's draft and a lot of unknown beyond that.

The Cards will meet for a final time Monday morning. Some kind of change figures to be coming, but when it might come -- and in what form – is an unknown.

"Today's game kind of mirrored the season," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "We couldn't do enough, especially early, and then we made mistakes in the second half that really hurt us."

Whisenhunt, knowing his job status has been consistently speculated upon, reiterated there was nothing he could do about the situation.

"You understand this is part of the business," Whisenhunt said matter-of-factly. "We haven't won enough games this year. That's the bottom line. It doesn't matter you have had injuries, that you have had changes in personnel, that you are playing rookies. That's the way it goes.

"Our guys have played hard all year. I am proud of that."

Asked directly if he thought he would return in 2013, Whisenhunt said "I've got a contract, so I think that's the way you have to look at it."

Sunday's lineup certainly wasn't the one Whisenhunt expected to be working with at this point in the season. The already-ravaged offensive line lost right guard Pat McQuistan to an ankle injury early in the game, forcing rookie Senio Kelemete into his first playing time of the season.

Brian Hoyer got his shot to start at quarterback, finishing 19-of-34 for 225 yards, a touchdown and an interception while often targeting rookie Michael Floyd. Floyd has his best game as a pro: Eight catches for 166 yards and a late touchdown, the Cards' first passing touchdown since Larry Fitzgerald caught one Week 8 in Green Bay.

William Powell, starting in place of Beanie Wells, had 50 yards rushing in the first half on 12 carries, but only had two carries for two yards in the second half. Wells was active but did not play after Whisenhunt said he wanted to stick with Powell.

Defensively, the Cards stymied the 49ers (11-4-1) early, but eventually, quarterback Colin Kaepernick found Crabtree often. The wide receiver set a career-high with 172 yards, on eight catches and two touchdowns. Crabtree's back-to-back catches of 31- and 49-yards in the second quarter was all San Francisco needed for their first touchdown.

Kaepernick was efficient (16-of-28, 276 yards, no interceptions) and while the Niners didn't dominate on the ground, they were aware the Cards weren't going to keep up offensively. After the Cardinals used a couple of Jay Feely field goals to take a 6-0, the 49ers scored the next 27 points.

With two straight division championships, the 49ers become the measuring stick for the Cardinals going forward. Whisenhunt said he believed, with some players coming back from injury and with a few key additions, "we have a chance to be a good team."

But that will involve some changes. Players seemed to understand that as they wrapped up after their final game of the season.

"We need something to look forward to," defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. "It can't be the same situation. It can't be the status quo."

That starts with an attempt to settle the quarterback position. Hoyer was the fourth starter at QB for the Cardinals this season and Whisenhunt had acknowledged many times there was not enough consistency there.

"It's just a quarterback's league," said wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who had two catches for 13 yards to cap a frustrating season. "You look at Indianapolis. (Quarterback) Andrew Luck is probably rookie of the year. They were 2-14 (last year) and now they are a playoff team."

There are other areas that will need attention, free agents that must be addressed. It will start with whatever might happen with the front office and coaching staff.

Either way, 2012 is in the rear-view mirror, a season that started with such promise with a 4-0 start.

"There's no relief," guard-turned-center-because-of-injuries Adam Snyder said. "This is what we get paid to do. I think if we look back at the season, inconsistencies, there are things we can get better at. Injuries hurt us, but now we have to look back and make stuff right."

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