Around the NFC West: 49ers 8-8

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Alex Smith finished with his highest passer rating of the season Sunday. Barrows: "Of course, it certainly didn't feel like his best performance. When you're outplayed in the first half by Keith Null, how can it? In truth, it was another up-and-down game from Smith that leaves everyone wondering the same thing they've been wondering for five years -- can he be the QB of the future?"

Also from Barrows: more thoughts on the matter.

Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers left much unsettled after an up-and-down season.

Also from Ostler: 49ers defensive end Justin Smith downplays his 3.5-sack performance.

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers should feel good -- and bad -- about their 8-8 record. Mike Singletary: "As much as we wanted to be in the playoffs this year, our immaturity showed probably why we are not in the playoffs," Singletary said. "What I'm very excited about is on both sides of the ball, we are not far away. We are hoping in the offseason, we will put something special together."

Also from Crumpacker: The 49ers' defense deserves credit for how it played this season. Crumpacker: "With Sunday's 28-6 win over the Rams, the 49ers finished 2009 with a defense that did not allow a touchdown in five games, best in the NFL. The 49ers also had seven games in which an opponent scored 10 points or fewer."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers' offense was too predictable in the first half, with the team running 12 of 18 times on first and second downs. Alex Smith: "The first half was not good enough, very unproductive. I don’t even know what our statistics were, but very unproductive. We didn’t get enough done. We came out in the second half and did some more things, moved the ball better and finished off some of those drives. I think in the first half we were a little more run first – run on first and second downs and throw on third. In the second half, I think that changed quite a bit. There was a little more balance. We threw the ball a little more on first and second downs. That’s kind of what I noticed."

Also from Maiocco: Vernon Davis ties Antonio Gates' record for touchdown receptions while the San Francisco defense dominates.

More from Maiocco: a postgame report card with "B" grades for Smith and the coaches even though the first-half performance by the offense was "horrendous".

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers "barely budged" from last season, improving by one game in the standings.

Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News questions whether finishing 8-8 counts as progress for the 49ers.