49ers clinch NFC West; shutout St. Louis 26-0

The 49ers trounced the beat-up St. Louis Rams 26-0 on Sunday to become the NFL’s second team to secure a playoff berth behind unbeaten defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay.

The 49ers are NFC West champs and back in the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

“We want to make it to the championship. It’s something we’ve been wanting for a long time,” Vernon Davis said. “This is the reason why I’m here. It means a lot to me.”

This step, this game today is for all those strong and mighty men who have been carrying the flag for this many years,” Jim Harbaugh said. “Each year that they’ve been here, thinking that was going to be the year, the year we go to the playoffs, and there’s disappointment when you don’t make that.”

Frank Gore helped run San Francisco (10-2) right into the postseason, becoming the 49ers’ career rushing leader by passing late Hall of Famer Joe Perry and finishing with 73 yards.

Alex Smith threw second-half touchdowns of 52 and 56 yards to Michael Crabtree and Kyle Williams and David Akers kicked four field goals to help Harbaugh join George Seifert (1989) and Steve Mariucci (1997) as the only rookie coaches in franchise history to win the division.

Injury note: The only downer came when Willis left the game in the first half with a right hamstring injury that Harbaugh afterward said he didn’t consider serious.

Rookie watch: Aldon Smith collected two sacks, giving him 9.5 for the season.

Next: Sunday December 11 @ Arizona Cardinals, 1:05 PT.

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