5 winners from the 49ers season-finale: Tashaun Gipson and the Niners are a match made in heaven

5 winners from the 49ers season-finale: Tashaun Gipson and the Niners are a match made in heaven

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.

This marked the first time since 1997 the 49ers finished the season undefeated in the division and the first time since the division was realigned in 2002.

The win also extended the 49ers’ hitting streak to 10 games, the longest 49ers’ hitting streak to end a season in franchise history.

It was an overall positive day in Santa Clara, with five hitters to highlight in beating the 49-ranked Cardinals.

Winner: 49th Defense

After back-to-back weeks of showing some weakness, the defense bounced back with one of their best performances of the season. The defense got off to 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 continued to allow just 175 yards and forced four turnovers, including three interceptions, from that point. The Cardinals’ 255-yard production marks the fewest total yards the 49ers’ defense has allowed since allowing 238 to the Chargers in Week 10, and the four turnovers were the most forced by the 49ers since Week 13 against Miami .

It looked like the expected result against the Cardinals’ injury-plagued offense, but it was a good sight to see after allowing 500 yards last week for 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 turnovers 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 his fourth and fifth of the season, passing Talanoa Hufanga for the most at 49 this season. Gipson’s five interceptions are his most in a season since he broke up six passes for the Browns in 2014.

Hear 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 when I lost a little bit of faith.”

Tashaun Gipson going from not having a job late in camp to being a starting safety on a 13-4 team and contributing multiple interceptions. pic.twitter.com/2V4pDFN6e0

— 95.7 The Game (@957thegame) January 9, 2023

Winner: RB Elijah Mitchell

Sunday was perhaps the most ideal way to frame Mitchell’s return from a Week 12 knee injury. He had just 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 in each end of the first quarter, just one in the second and the final two in the third, but he managed to produce in his projected limited role.

Mitchell and Deebo Samuel made their anticipated returns to the 49ers on Sunday, giving them two more healthy options in their already stacked offense entering the postseason.

Winner: TO George Kittle

After having just one multi-touchdown game in the first 90 games of his career, Kittle has three such games in the past four weeks. Kittle was the 49ers’ most targeted receiver on Sunday, but finished with just 29 yards on his four receptions. But it was his two shots that stood out.

They came inside the Cardinals’ 5-yard line, a four-yard touchdown near the end of the second quarter to put the 49 up eight and a second late in the third to put the 49 at the 25. The drives were Nos. 10 and 11 in the season, easily setting a career high and becoming the first 49ers receiver with at least ten receptions in a season since Vernon Davis in 2013.

Winner: 49th and no. 2

With the 49ers’ win over the Cardinals and the Eagles’ win over the Giants on Sunday, the 49ers clinched the No. 2 in NFC. They will face the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday for the third time this season, with Seattle defeating the Rams and the Lions defeating 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.

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