49ers power past Panthers into NFC title game

The 49ers advanced to their third straight NFC Championship Game on Sunday as tough defense and Colin Kaepernick led San Francisco to a 23-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium.

Kaepernick passed for 196 yards and a touchdown to Vernon Davis while adding 15 rushing yards including a score after which he mocked Cam Newton’s superman celebration before performing his trademark “Kaepernicking” bicep kiss. Regarding today’s effort, Kaepernick said post-game:

“We settled down, we got int our rhythm and we started making plays.”

Carolina’s points came on a 31-yard touchdown strike from Newton to Steve Smith in the second quarter along with a Graham Gano field goal, but Davis’ score late in the second put San Francisco up 13-10 at halftime and the 49ers never relinquished the lead. Anquan Boldin was key, hauling in eight receptions for 136 yards while getting into the heads of defenders with his consistent post-catch smack talk. Frank Gore pounded the rock all game rushing 17 times for 84 yards. Meanwhile Phil Dawson was money connecting on all three of his field goal attempts. Head coach Jim Harbaugh commented on the game afterward:

“It was a real struggle, an arm wrestling struggle. Defense got a shutout in the second half and the special teams came up big as well.”

Vic Fangio’s defensive unit registered five sacks and nine hits on Newton while also deflecting five of his passes and intercepting two others. Ahmad Brooks led the way with 2.5 sacks while NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis had 11 tackles apiece. Willis picked off Newton in the first half and Dontae Whitner recorded a crucial fourth quarter interception that severely stifled any chance the Panthers had for a comeback. The 49ers (12-4) move on to face the Seahawks (13-3) in Seattle for the NFC Championship and Super Bowl berth next Sunday.


Follow @SFBay and @drewmorita on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the San Francisco 49ers.