Heading into today’s NFC divisional playoff match-up between the San Francisco 49ers were the road favorites against the Carolina Panthers and each team showcases outstanding defenses and quarterbacks that can make plays with their legs.
The defenses played extremely well to start the game and Carolina held San Francisco to a 49-yard field goal on a 13 play drive. Cam Newton on the Panthers first offensive series got intercepted by Patrick Willis on a ball that got deflected by wide receiver Brandon Lafell and fortunately for Newton the turnover cost only three points.
With a 6-0 deficit the talented quarterback went to work finding Steve Smith for 28 yards, DeAngelo Williams picked up seven, Ted Ginn a former 49er picked up 14 yards on a short pass and an 11 yard run by Newton put the Panthers in a position to score from the six yard and another run of two yards in-between a three yard run by Mike Tolbert put Carolina at a third and goal situation from the one yard line. Willis and Justin Smith came up with the tackle short of the end zone and on fourth down Ahmad Brooks made the play to keep Carolina off the scoreboard.
Colin Kaepernick facing very little room after the turnover gave his offense some breathing room with a quarterback sneak that went for two yards. Back-to-back passes fell incomplete and Andy Lee punted with Ginn returning the punt 24 yards giving the Panthers great field position. Newton didn’t waste any time finding Smith on a beautifully thrown ball that covered 31 yards becoming the games first touchdown.
For Carolina their defense settled in and forced another three and out. On this drive the Panthers again were not able to find the end zone after getting to the one yard line and instead of going for it on fourth kicked a 24-yard field goal after a delay of game penalty.
By only giving up three points in the red zone the momentum went back to San Francisco. Heading towards halftime surprisingly had all three of their time outs something that hasn’t happened very often in 2013. Anquan Boldin on the drive caught passes of 12, 14 and 15 yards. A pass interference call on Drayton Florence in the end zone on Boldin put the ball at the one yard line. Frank Gore got the opportunity to punch the ball in and got stopped short and after an incompletion Vernon Davis made the touchdown reception though the play went under review.
49ers coach Jim Harbaugh picked up a 15 yard unsportsmanlike penalty for running on the field and making his displeasure known about the original call as there was conclusive evidence that Davis got his right foot in and dragged his left foot in before going out-of-bounds and left a divot as well. San Francisco led 13-10 at the half.
To open the second half the Panthers got the football and went three and out. Boldin played a huge role catching two passes for 61 yards. Gore in a first and goal situation at the four yard line nearly cost the 49ers by closing his hands prematurely before taking the handoff from Kaepernick, he did fall on the football.Kaepernick then took it in from four yard out making Florence miss on a cut and pushing the lead to 10.
Needing to put a drive together Newton did just that with Tolbert and Williams running the football. AfterLaFell picked up a first down on a five yard pass the Panthers were on the San Francisco 29. An incompletion and back-to-back sacks one by Navorro Bowman and the other by Brooks took Carolina out of field goal range. Gore got his opportunity to run the football and took advantage of that by gaining 54 yards on five carries. The 49ers got to the 10 yard line and on a third and four, Kaepernick got stopped for a six yard loss and that brought in Phil Dawson to kick his third field goal of the game and put the score at 23-10.
Carolina needed to make plays for a shot at a comeback with just under half the fourth quarter completed.LaFell caught a 13 yard pass to get the drive started after Perrish Cox nearly came up with an interception, Brooks and Tony Jerod-Eddie picked up a half sack, Ginn caught a pass for 14 yards putting the Panthers in a third and short situation. Newton and Tolbert took turns running the football and Dan Skuta seemed to have made the play of the game for the 49ers defense with a sack of 13 yards and instead got called for roughing the passer even though Newton had turned right into him.
After a completion to Ginn, Donte Whitner came up with the game sealing interception on a pass for Greg Olsen.
Newton finished the game completing 16 of 25 passes for 267 yards a touchdown and two interceptions andcarried the ball 10 times for 54 yards, Tolbert finished with eight carries and 20 yards, Smith caught fourpasses for 74 yards and the touchdown and Ginn caught four passes for 104 yards.
Defensively Luke Kuechly led the way with 10 tackles including three solo, picked up a sack and a pass defended, Thomas Davis added eight tackles including four solo and Star Lotulelei and Chase Blackburn added six total tackles.
As for Kaepernick he completed 15 of 28 passes for 196 yards and a touchdown and ran for 15 yards on eight carries and a touchdown, Gore carried the ball 17 times for 84 yards, Boldin caught eight passes for 126 yards.
Bowman picked up 11 total tackles with five solo tackles, picked up a sack and two tackles for loss, Willis also had 11 tackles to go along with five solo and the interception and Brooks had six tackles with five solo, 2.5 sacks and one tackle for loss.