The 49ers finished the 2022 season with a 6-0 record in the NFC West and a 13-4 regular season record with their 38-13 win over the Cardinals on Sunday.
It marked the first time since 1997 the 49ers finished the season undefeated in the division and the first time since the division realignment in 2002.
The win also extended the 49ers' win streak to 10 games, the longest winning streak the 49ers have finished a season on in franchise history.
It was an overall positive day in Santa Clara, with five winners to highlight in the 49ers' trouncing of the Cardinals.
Winner: The 49ers' defense
After consecutive weeks of showing some vulnerability, the defense bounced back with one of their best performances of the season. The defense had an ominous start, allowing a 77-yard touchdown to AJ Green on the Cardinals' second play from scrimmage to give Arizona an early 6-0 lead.
The 49ers' defense went on to allow only 175 yards and forced four turnovers, including three interceptions, from that point on. The Cardinals’ 255-yard output marks the fewest total yards the 49ers' defense has allowed since allowing 238 to the Chargers back in Week 10, and the four turnovers were the most forced by the 49ers since Week 13 against Miami.
It seemed like the expected result against the injured Cardinals’ offense but it was a good sight to see after allowing 500 yards last week to Jarrett Stidham and the Raiders.
Winner: S Tashaun Gipson
After helping put away the Raiders last week with his interception in overtime, Gipson had two more on Sunday against the Cardinals. Gipson found himself on the end of two overthrows by David Blough, once in the first quarter that led to a 49ers touchdown and once in the second quarter that led to a Robbie Gould field goal.
The two interceptions were the fourth and the fifth of his season, passing Talanoa Hufanga for the most on the 49ers this season. Gipson’s five interceptions are the most he’s had in a season since he intercepted six passes for the Browns back in 2014.
Listen to Gipson explain how this is the most fun he’s ever had playing football:
“It’s so humbling… I’d be lying to you if I told you there weren’t times where I lost a little faith.”— 95.7 The Game (@957thegame) January 9, 2023
Tashaun Gipson on going from not having a job late in camp to being a starting safety on a 13-4 team and contributing w/multiple interceptions. pic.twitter.com/2V4pDFN6e0
Winner: RB Elijah Mitchell
Sunday was maybe the most ideal way to draw up Mitchell’s return from his Week 12 knee injury. He only had five rushing attempts but averaged 11 yards per attempt for 55 yards and the first multi-touchdown game of his young career.
His longest run of the day, a 37-yard run, set up his second touchdown, a six-yard run, to put the 49ers up 15 early in the third quarter. His touches were sporadic, with two at each end of the first quarter, just one in the second, and his final two in the third, but he managed to produce in his designed limited role.
Mitchell and Deebo Samuel made their anticipated returns to the 49ers' offense on Sunday, giving them two more healthy options in their already stacked offense entering the postseason.
Winner: TE George Kittle
After having just one multi-touchdown game in the first 90 games of his career, Kittle has three such games in the last four weeks. Kittle was the 49ers' most targeted receiver on Sunday but finished with just 29 yards on his four receptions. But his two touchdowns are what stood out.
They came inside the Cardinals' 5-yard line, a four-yard touchdown near the end of the second quarter to put the 49ers up eight and his second late in the third to put the 49ers up 25. The touchdowns were numbers 10 and 11 on the season, easily setting a career-high and becoming the first 49ers receiver with at least ten touchdown receptions in a season since Vernon Davis in 2013.
Winner: 49ers and the No. 2 seed
With the 49ers' win over the Cardinals and the Eagles' win over the Giants on Sunday, the 49ers clinched the No. 2 seed in the NFC. They’ll face the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday for a third time this season, with Seattle defeating the Rams and the Lions beating the Packers on Sunday. The second seed in the NFC will guarantee a second home playoff game in the Divisional Round if the 49ers are able to defeat the Seahawks on Saturday.