SAN FRANCISCO -- Shouts of "Bye Week!" erupted in the 49ers' locker room Sunday, signaling their status as the NFC playoffs' No. 2 seed for a second straight season.
The 49ers achieved that goal in twofold fashion. First, they rallied past the Arizona Cardinals 27-13 at Candlestick Park. Next, they retreated to their locker room and watched the Minnesota Vikings post a 37-34 victory over the Green Bay Packers, who thus fell to the No.ï¿½3 seed.
Now the 49ers (11-4-1) earn an extra week to prepare-and rehabilitate, in defensive tackle Justin Smith's case for a partially torn left triceps tendon-before hosting a divisional-round game Jan. 12 at 5 p.m.
The 49ers will host either the No. 3 Packers (11-5), No. 5 Seattle Seahawks (11-5) or the NFC East champion, which was being determined Sunday night between the Dallas Cowboys (8-7) and host Washington Redskins (9-6). The lowest remaining seed will visit the top-seeded Atlanta Falcons (13-3).
Before the playoff-bound Vikings became their heroes, Michael Crabtree served in that capacity for the 49ers, producing their first two touchdowns among his eight-catch, 172-yard afternoon.
"It feels good, but I'm just focused on the playoffs, with how bad I did last year," Crabtree said. "I feel I get another chance. I'm ready to win."
Although Crabtree had a touchdown catch in the 49ers' 36-32 playoff-opening win over the New Orleans Saints, he had only a 3-yard catch in the NFC Championship game loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
Crabtree, the first 49er since Terrell Owens in 2003 to tally at least 1,000 receiving yards in a season, isn't the only one looking to make amends in these playoffs.
"After something like that, getting so close, it burns," right tackle Anthony Davis said. "Everyone has a fire, of how close we were and what we're capable of now."
Not lost amid their bye-week celebration was Sunday's other prize: a second straight NFC West championship. Players, coaches and executives received red caps commemorating the franchise's 19th division title, and their first back-to-back crowns since 1994-95.
"That was our mission and the thing we wanted to accomplish," said Jim Harbaugh, who became only the third coach in NFL history to win two straight division titles after inheriting a losing team.
Linebacker Patrick Willis said the 49ers "don't take for granted" their NFC West title, but he then defined why it was so important to overtake the Packers for the No.ï¿½2 seed and accompanying bye.
"It gives us a chance to get healthier in areas and hopefully get one of our marquee guys back in Justin (Smith)," Willis said.
Smith insisted he'll attempt a comeback in the playoffs after missing the past two games.
"It's starting to feel better. I'll be ready to roll," Smith said while watching the Vikings-Packers game.
After getting crushed 42-13 at Seattle a week earlier, the 49ers defense seemed to miss Smith again early as the Cardinals pulled out to a 6-0 lead.
Adding to their early-game concerns was kicker David Akers, whose troubling season resumed as he missed 44- and 40-yard field-goal attempts. That dropped Akers to 8 of 18 from at least 40 yards this season.
"We'll evaluate the position," Harbaugh said of Akers' status. "It's his job to make the field goals. And it's not up to his standard."
Akers rebounded after halftime to make 43- and 26-yard field goals. But his foot also got clipped by a Cardinals defender on a point-after kick. Thereafter, the 49ers went for it twice on fourth-and-6 inside Cardinals territory, and each time they converted with a Colin Kaepernick pass to Crabtree.
Kaepernick, in his seventh straight start, passed for a career-high 276 yards by completing 16 of 28 passes with no interceptions or fumbles.
Frank Gore pushed the 49ers' lead to 24-6 with 12:59 remaining, scoring on a 2-yard run that gave him a franchise-best 51 career rushing touchdown.
After that, the 49ers' defense produced two takeaways, with Ray McDonald forcing a fumble that Donte Whitner recovered and Tarell Brown notching his second interception this season.
Justin Smith's absence coincided with the lack of any sacks for a third straight game from Aldon Smith, who finished with a franchise-record 191/2 this season and three shy of the league record.
The 49ers scored 27 consecutive points before Brian Hoyer capped his first career start with a 37-yard touchdown pass to Michael Floyd with 1:59 remaining.
Those closing minutes were a mere formality. So with 5:57 remaining, quarterback Alex Smith entered to relieve Kaepernick, drawing the crowd's appreciative applause in Smith's first snaps since an Oct.ï¿½11 concussion.
While Smith led the 49ers to victory in last season's playoff opener, it will be Kaepernick's task in two weeks. Kaepernick, meanwhile, enjoyed Sunday's festivities to the max, including the postgame film session of the Vikings-Packers tilt.
"It was a little nerve-racking watching them play," Kaepernick said. "We would have been a lot better off it we handled business last week and kept the ball in our court."
Alas, the 49ers' proverbial ball is still in play as they try ending a 17-season drought without a Super Bowl championship.