Westbrook carries 49ers back into NFC West race

Don’t look now, but the left-for-dead San Francisco 49ers, a popular pick by many to win the NFC West, are alive again in the race.

No, the 49ers are not back to .500. We haven’t heard if team president Jed York has popped off again about winning the division. But the Niners are in the mix and they’re back after pummeling the rival Arizona Cardinals on Monday night, 27-6 at University of Phoenix Stadium.

The 49ers opened the season 0-5 and they’ve climbed to 4-7 a week after an embarrassing home loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They’re now one game back of the St. Louis Rams and Seattle Seahawks in the division with five to play, making it possible for them to gain ground.

Brian Westbrook, a free-agent addition late in summer who’s hardly been used, was the main cog as he rushed for 136 yards and a touchdown. It was one of the biggest rushing games for the former Philadelphia Eagle in his career, and he entered the night with only nine carries in the previous 10 games. He was forced into action when Frank Gore left with a hip injury in the first quarter.

The Cardinals (3-8) have lost five in a row and appear headed to a losing season after winning the division crown the last two years.

The road will not be easy for the Niners, who dug themselves a massive hole to start the season. They travel to Green Bay this week. They will host Seattle in Week 14 and play at St. Louis in Week 16, must-win games if they want to climb to the top of the NFC West and perhaps save the job of coach Mike Singletary.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

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