First division title since 2002 for 49ers

Published: Sunday, Dec. 4 2011 10:00 p.m. MST

San Francisco's Ted Ginn Jr. (19) looks to make a move while returning a punt against the Rams on Sunday.   (Associated Press) San Francisco's Ted Ginn Jr. (19) looks to make a move while returning a punt against the Rams on Sunday. (Associated Press)

SAN FRANCISCO — Frank Gore ran San Francisco right into the playoffs, becoming the 49ers' career rushing leader in a 26-0 shutout over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday. The win wrapped up the franchise's first NFC West crown and postseason berth since 2002.

Alex Smith threw second-half touchdowns of 52 and 56 yards to Michael Crabtree and Kyle Williams and David Akers kicked four field goals for San Francisco (10-2) as coach Jim Harbaugh joined George Seifert (1989) and Steve Mariucci (1997) as the only rookie coaches in 49ers history to win the division.

The only downer came when star linebacker Patrick Willis left the game in the first half with a right hamstring injury.

BRONCOS 35, VIKINGS 32: At Minneapolis, Tim Tebow led yet another late rally, passing for a season-best 202 yards and two third-quarter touchdowns to help the Denver Broncos win their fifth straight game. Matt Prater kicked two field goals in the final 93 seconds for the Broncos (7-5), who moved into a first-place tie in the AFC West with a loss by the Oakland Raiders. Christian Ponder set Minnesota's single-game rookie record with 381 yards passing, including a pair of touchdowns to Percy Harvin, but his sideline throw with 1:33 remaining was intercepted by Andre Goodman to set up the winner.

San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore (21) runs against the St. Louis Rams during the first quarter of an NFL football game in San Francisco, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2011. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma) (Associated Press) San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore (21) runs against the St. Louis Rams during the first quarter of an NFL football game in San Francisco, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2011. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma) (Associated Press)

STEELERS 35, BENGALS 7: At Pittsburgh, Ben Roethlisberger passed for two touchdowns and set a team record for career completions against error-prone Cincinnati. Pittsburgh (9-3) swept the season series from Cincinnati (7-5) for the second straight year behind a 28-point explosion in the second quarter fueled by Roethlisberger, running back Rashard Mendenhall and a 60-yard punt return for a score by Antonio Brown. Mendenhall and wide receiver Mike Wallace scored two touchdowns for the Steelers, who won for the seventh time in their last eight games.

CARDINALS 19, COWBOYS 13 (OT): At Glendale, Ariz., LaRod Stephens-Howling caught a short pass from Kevin Kolb and zipped 52 yards for a touchdown in overtime, snapping the Cowboys' four-game winning streak. It marked the third time since 2008 that the Cowboys have lost in Arizona in excruciating fashion. Dan Bailey missed a 49-yard field goal at the end of regulation that would have won it for Dallas.

TEXANS 17, FALCONS 10: At Houston, rookie T.J. Yates threw a touchdown pass in his first NFL start, Arian Foster rushed for 111 yards and Houston overcame another hamstring injury to Andre Johnson. The Texans (9-3) have won a franchise-record six straight games, a remarkable feat considering they're down to their third-string quarterback and have played the bulk of their streak without their star receiver. Johnson left in the third quarter after hurting his left hamstring.

PATRIOTS 31, COLTS 24: At Foxborough, Mass., Rob Gronkowski caught two touchdown passes then scored on a lateral and New England then withstood a fourth-quarter rally to keep Indianapolis winless. Trailing 31-3, the Colts rallied with a touchdown run by Donald Brown and two scoring passes from Dan Orlovsky to Pierre Garcon, the last a 40-yarder with 36 seconds to go. But Deion Branch recovered the onside kick.

DOLPHINS 34, RAIDERS 14: At Miami, Reggie Bush rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown and once-woeful Miami won for the fourth time in the past five games. Matt Moore had a hand in two TDs for Miami, and Kevin Burnett returned an interception 34 yards for a score. The surge by the Dolphins (4-8) comes after they lost their first seven games. In the past five games they've outscored opponents 139-54.

TITANS 23, BILLS 17: At Orchard Park, N.Y., Chris Johnson rushed for 153 yards and two touchdowns as Tennessee remained in the playoff chase. Johnson scored on runs of 48 and 4 yards to match his season touchdown total. It was his third 100-yard rushing game in four outings. Rob Bironas did the rest, hitting three field goals, including a 44-yarder midway through the fourth quarter to put the Titans (7-5) ahead 23-10.

CHIEFS 10, BEARS 3: At Chicago, Tyler Palko shook off two miserable starts and threw for 157 yards and a touchdown even though he was briefly lifted for Kyle Orton. Orton came on to start the second quarter and immediately left the game with an injured finger on his right hand. Palko connected with Dexter McCluster on a wild 38-yard pass to end the first half on a ball that got deflected by Brian Urlacher and Chris Conte, giving the Chiefs a 7-3 lead. Chicago (7-5) played most of the game without running back Matt Forte, who injured his right knee.

JETS 34, REDSKINS 19: At Landover, Md., Mark Sanchez hit Santonio Holmes for a 30-yard touchdown pass with 4:49 to play, and Shonn Greene added a pair of insurance scores. The win improves the Jets to 7-5 and keeps them in the hunt for an AFC playoff berth. New York played another mistake-filled game and had only 168 total yards after three quarters. They trailed 16-13 after Washington's Graham Gano made his third field goal with 7:52 remaining.

RAVENS 24, BROWNS 10: At Cleveland, Ray Rice rushed for a career-high 204 yards, breaking loose on a game-changing 67-yarder in the third quarter, and the Ravens kept pace with Pittsburgh atop the AFC North. Rice and Ricky Williams had short touchdown runs and Lardarius Webb returned a punt 68 yards for a TD for the Ravens (9-3), who toyed with the Browns (4-8). Baltimore racked up 290 yards rushing.

SAINTS 31, LIONS 17: At New Orleans, Drew Brees passed for 342 yards and three touchdowns, and the New Orleans Saints won their fourth straight. Brees' performance gave him 4,031 yards on the season, making him the first quarterback in NFL history to eclipse the 4,000-yard mark in the first 12 games of a season. His touchdown passes went for 67 yards to Robert Meachem, 20 yards to Lance Moore and 6 yards to Darren Sproles. He also connected eight times with tight end Jimmy Graham for 89 yards as the Saints (9-3) improved to 6-0 at home.

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