The San Francisco 49ers did something that they have never done before this week. They won on the road in the playoffs for the second time. No other 49er team has won two games on the road in one playoff season. In doing so, the 49ers defeated the Carolina Panthers 23-10. This game was a very physical game that was a good test for the 49ers.
Jim Harbaugh summed it up pretty well in his post game press conference.
“It was a struggle. A real arm wrestling kind of struggle. The guys did great up front. Defensively, the guys getting a shutout in the second half was great as well. Keeping them out of the end zone in goal line, that was a statement. Great football game. No question about it. A physical struggle.”
Things went much better for the 49ers offense in this game. They came out and got Frank Gore going in the second half. Gore only had seven carries for 17 yards in to start the game. He ended up with 17 carries for 84 yards including a 39 yard run in the fourth quarter. The 49ers controlled the clock late in the game.
Michael Crabtree made a couple of nice catches earlier but statistically, he was not a factor. The X factor for the 49ers was Anquan Boldin. Boldin is one of those players that thrives on trash talk. It fuels him. The Panthers had plenty of talk as Captain Munnerly, Qunetin Mikell and Mike Mitchell had plenty to say after the whistle. Boldin got a bit carried away on a couple of plays. He pushed Mikell’s helmet to the ground and head butted Mitchell on another. He ended the day with eight catches for 136 yards. Colin Kaepernick was able to have a better game since his full arsenal of weapons were available to him. He cited that as a difference this time around.
“We had two tight ends in this game, we had Crabtree back. Aldon Smith was back for us too. There were a lot of components that we had this time. We came out in the second half, fixed those things and executed. It’s always good to get a win and we are one step closer to where we need to be.”
The defense stood strong in this game. They had a pair of goal line stances in which they didn’t allow the Panthers to score from as close a the two yard line. They only allowed Deangelo Williams to gain 13 yards on the day.
Navorro Bowman mentioned how the defense is such a prideful unit.
“We pride on keeping teams out of the end zone. If we can hold up at the goal line four downs in a row, that lets you know that we are here to play and that it’s going to be a long day. As the game goes on, we wake up as a defense. We get stronger. We started understanding what they were doing later in the game and playing to it, making plays.”
The second half provided an example of how dominant the 49ers can be. They shut down the Panthers offense and kept them to only ten points on the day. The pass rush was dialed up as Aldon Smith, Ahmad Brooks and Ray MacDonald started to get to Cam Newton. Brooks ended up with two sacks on the day.
This sets up what pretty much everyone has been waiting for, an NFC Championship game between the 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks.
Patrick Willis had his first post season interception.
Ahmad Brooks has continued his stellar play by adding 2.5 sacks. He has a total of 4.5 sacks in the two games that the 49ers have played in the playoffs so far this season.
Colin Kaepernick got some payback against the Panthers for mocking his touchdown celebration when he scored a rushing touchdown. Kaepernick mocked the Cam Newton “Super Man” celebration and zipped it up before he broke into his Kaepernicking pose.
Tedd Ginn had four catches for 104 yards. 59 of those yards came on the last play of the game.
Once again, the 49ers did not allow 100 yards rushing to any running back. That streak will be tested next week when they face Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks.
Phil Dawson continues to be clutch for the 49ers. He was successful on two field goals, one a 49 yards attempt and the other was a 33 yard field goal.
Jim Harbaugh became the first head coach since the merger in 1970 to lead his team to a conference championship in his each of his first three seasons.
With the win against the Panthers, QB Colin Kaepernick becomes just the 4th QB in NFL history to win each of his first three playoff starts on the road [Jake Delhomme, Car.; Tony Eason, NE; Ben Roethlisberger, Pit.].