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49ers win NFC West with 27-13 victory over Arizona

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49ers win NFC West with 27-13 victory over Arizona

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) His new red NFC West champion hat on backward, Donte Whitner stayed put at his locker with eyes glued to the Packers-Vikings game on the television above him - the matchup that would determine San Francisco's playoff positioning.

The safety rooted for Minnesota's Adrian Peterson with multiple chants of, ``Break a long one, AP!''

The scene was the same around the 49ers' cramped locker room after their 27-13 win against Arizona on Sunday - and everybody cheered when Blair Walsh's 29-yard field goal sailed through the uprights for the Vikings as time expired to give San Francisco a first-round playoff bye.

The 49ers had to wait all of about 15 minutes once their game ended to really start celebrating.

Albeit briefly, considering Jim Harbaugh is their coach. He will get this group back to work in a hurry to prepare for the NFC divisional playoffs at home the night of Jan. 12.

Yet on this day, Harbaugh offered plenty of praise for the offensive tandem of Colin Kaepernick and Michael Crabtree.

``I thought Michael and Colin really got us going,'' he said. ``That was a great spark those guys gave us.''

Crabtree's career day and dazzling catch-making display sent San Francisco to a second straight division title and into the playoffs with some much-needed momentum.

Crabtree caught touchdown passes of 49 and 7 yards and finished with a career-high 172 yards on eight receptions, leading the 49ers to another rout of Arizona after a slow start.

Kaepernick threw for a career-best 276 yards and two TDs as the Niners (11-4-1) did their part to control their postseason fate - then waited all of about 15 minutes to watch Minnesota beat Green Bay and give San Francisco the NFC's No. 2 seed and a week off before hosting a divisional playoff game.

``It means a lot,'' linebacker Patrick Willis said. ``I was just telling some of the guys that it's something we don't take for granted. I don't.''

Frank Gore ran for a 2-yard score early in the fourth quarter for his franchise-best 51st touchdown rushing, breaking a tie with mentor Roger Craig and late Hall of Famer Joe Perry.

With yet another new face under center, the Cardinals (5-11) lost for the 11th time in their last 12 games in what might have been Ken Whisenhunt's final game as coach. Brian Hoyer went 19 of 34 for 225 yards and a late TD toss in his first NFL start as Arizona's fourth quarterback this season.

He couldn't keep up with Crabtree and Kaepernick.

Crabtree's outstanding outing was the best by a 49ers receiver since Terrell Owens' 166-yard performance on Nov. 25, 2002, against Philadelphia.

``My dude made it happen,'' Crabtree said, looking at Kaepernick. ``I'm really focused on these playoffs.''

Crabtree caught a 31-yard pass to set up his team-leading eighth TD reception on the next play. The sequence put him over 1,000 yards, giving San Francisco its first 1,000-yard receiver since T.O. in 2003.

On the next series, Crabtree made a pretty, one-handed grab with his right hand along the left sideline on third-and-11 for a 19-yard gain and first down. He made a 14-yard catch on fourth down late in the third, and later converted another fourth down with a reception of 7 yards.

What a boost for an injury-depleted receiving corps missing Mario Manningham for the rest of the season because of a knee injury. Plus, tight end Vernon Davis was limited a week after sustaining a concussion.

Struggling San Francisco kicker David Akers missed wide left on a 44-yard field goal attempt midway through the second quarter, then did it again with nearly the same kick - from 40 yards this time - 24 seconds before halftime. Akers put his hands on his knees and closed his eyes in frustration as boos rained down from the sellout crowd at Candlestick Park.

He missed for the fourth time in his last eight spanning three games and 13th time in 40 tries after setting an NFL single-season record with 44 field goals in 52 attempts last year. Akers bounced back by nailing one from 43 yards early in the second half but was later clipped in his kicking foot by Arizona's Justin Bethel. Akers stayed in the game, then booted a 26-yard field goal with just more than 9 minutes remaining.

Coach Jim Harbaugh didn't rule out a change.

``We'll evaluate that,'' he said. ``It's his job to make the kicks.''

Hoyer exhibited poise in the early moments. He completed seven of his first 13 passes and three straight - for 7, 15 and 12 yards - during one drive as Arizona took a 3-0 lead on Jay Feely's 35-yard field goal late in the first quarter. Feely added a 31-yarder early in the second to make it 6-0.

The Cardinals outgained the 49ers 129-15 in the opening quarter and held San Francisco without a first down.

But that didn't last long.

Arizona ended a six-game stretch without a touchdown pass when Hoyer hit Michael Floyd on a late 37-yard score. Floyd had eight catches for 166 yards.

The Cardinals pounded the ball toward the right side of San Francisco's defensive line where Pro Bowler Justin Smith had been stout against the run all season before getting hurt two weeks ago. Now, San Francisco has an extra week for Smith to heal.

``Today's game kind of mirrored our season,'' Whisenhunt said. ``I'm proud of the way our team's worked. You understand this is part of the business. We haven't won enough games this year.''

Former starting quarterback Alex Smith made what could have been his final appearance in a 49ers uniform when he entered the game with 5:57 to go - playing to chants of ``Let's Go, Alex!'' and ``Alex! Alex!''

``It was humbling,'' Smith said. ``It was very surreal.''

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Capitals re-sign Madison Bowey leaving Tom Wilson the lone remaining RFA

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USA TODAY Sports

Capitals re-sign Madison Bowey leaving Tom Wilson the lone remaining RFA

Defenseman Madison Bowey re-signed with the Capitals on Thursday, inking a two-year extension that will carry an average of $1 million.

Bowey carried a cap charge of $703,333 last season.

The 23-year-old appeared in 51 games for the Caps in 2017-18, amassing 12 assists, 24 penalty minutes and a plus/minus rating of minus-3.

Bowey also suited up in nine contests for AHL Hershey, though he finished the season as one of the Black Aces during Washington's run to the Stanley Cup.

With Bowey back in the fold, the Caps now have six of seven defenseman from last season’s roster under contract. (Veteran Brooks Orpik remains an unrestricted free agent.)

Bowey had an uneven first year in the NHL—he didn’t play following the late-February addition of Michal Kempny—but the Caps expect that the 6-2, 198-pound right-shot blue liner will become reliable full-time player with more seasoning.

Bowey’s deal leaves Tom Wilson as the Caps' only remaining unsigned restricted free agent. The sides are in discussions on a multi-year extension.

Including Bowey’s extension, the Caps have roughly $7.3 million in salary cap space remaining, according to www.capfriendly.com.

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Carmelo Anthony traded to Hawks, who will buy him out, in three-team deal involving Dennis Schroder

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Carmelo Anthony traded to Hawks, who will buy him out, in three-team deal involving Dennis Schroder

The stage has been set for Carmelo Anthony to hit free agency, as the 10-time All-Star was traded to the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday in a three-team deal, one that will lead to a subsequent buyout of his contract. ESPN first reported the news and noted that the Rockets are the favorites to sign him.

The full deal sends Dennis Schroder from the Hawks to the Thunder in exchange for Anthony and a protected first round pick, and sends Mike Muscala from Atlanta to Philly. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot will go to the Thunder from Phily and Justin Anderson will go from the Sixers to the Hawks.

That's a complicated deal, but it ultimately frees Anthony up to choose a new team. He was set to make $27.9 million from the Thunder next season, but the Hawks are footing the bill to let him walk.

Anthony's skills have declined now that he's 34 years old. Last season, he averaged 16.2 points on 40.4 percent shooting, way down from the 22.4 points he averaged the season before with the Knicks.

Still, Anthony could help a team looking for a scoring punch and the Rockets would like some more help in their quest to take down the Warriors. If he signs there, he will join friend Chris Paul and the 2017-18 MVP, James Harden. 

Houston has been the logical landing spot for Anthony ever since news broke that the Thunder were looking for a way out of his contract. If he doesn't go there, perhaps the Lakers would make sense. LeBron James is going to need a lot more help than the roster he currently has around him to make some noise in the crowded Western Conference.

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