San Francisco 49ers advance to their third straight NFC Championship game and need to win on the road again if they want to reach back to back Super Bowls, after beating the Carolina Panthers 23-10.
It was a day that the 49ers really showed their title credentials as their star players really come to the fore, and left Cam Newton struggling to find a rhythm. Slowly throughout the afternoon the overall class and experience in playoff situations shone through.
Anquan Boldin caught 8 passes for 136 yards, and Frank Gore rumbled for 84 yards on 17 carries. Colin Kaepernick was steady as he passed for one score and ran for one more. If there is one team in the NFC that can beat the Seattle Seahawks on their own turf it’s this San Francisco team.
The early going was a defensive struggle and Phil Dawson was his reliable self as he put the 49ers ahead 6-0 at the end of the first quarter with two long range field goals. Carolina then started to move the ball and Steve Smith hauled in a 31 yard pass from Newton, the Graham Gano chipped the Panthers further ahead, and at this point they were deserving of their lead. After this though they were to struggle to gain any momentum.
Vernon Davis showed great poise and presence when catching a fastball from Kaepernick. With his right foot down he dragged his toes down before springing himself out of the end zone. The play was originally called incomplete, but the booth review overruled the call on the field, and the 49ers led 13-10 at the break.
The San Francisco defence then stifled the Panthers and really took the life out of the game, making the crowd silent. When Kaepernick dashed in from 4 yards out the Niners were ahead 20-10. Dawson got his fourth field goal of the day midway through the last period of play, and that was that.
Carolina have been good entertainment this year and were real contenders, but this 49ers team seems to be on a mission now, and they will fancy their chances in Seattle next week.