1:05 PM ET, January 12, 2014
Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
Colin Kaepernick leads Niners past Panthers, back into NFC title game
Three years of frustration had come to a head.
More 49ers-Panthers Coverage
The 49ers and Seahawks have been on course to meet in the NFC Championship Game with a berth in the Super Bowl on the line. The rivals wouldn't have it any other way, writes Ashley Fox. Story
There are few flaws in the 49ers and that was on display against a Carolina team that is among the league's best. The problem for Carolina? The 49ers just may be the very best, writes Bill Williamson. Blog
After a season when the Panthers learned how to become winners, coming to grips with a playoff loss was hard to accept, writes David Newton. Blog
• Clayton: NFC title game Q&A
• Quick Take: Seahawks | 49ers
• Williamson: Kaepernick's 'Superman'
• SN: Seahawks vs. 49ers | Overview
• Gallery: Photos from divisional round
• Betting: Seattle 3.5 point favorite
"Just a little shoutout," Kaepernick said.
"I think you know the answer," Kaepernick said with a grin.
Kaepernick said he "will never forget" that he was selected in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft, 35 spots behind Newton, the Heisman Trophy winner and the top pick that season.
On Sunday, he outplayed his quarterback counterpart, throwing one touchdown pass and running for another score as the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Carolina Panthers 23-10 to advance to the NFC title game for the third straight season.
Kaepernick completed 15 of 28 passes for 196 yards in the divisional playoff win, avenging his worst statistical performance of the season two months ago against the Panthers.
"That's not the first, nor will it be the last time somebody does that," Newton said of Kaepernick's copycat display before leaving the postgame podium.
"I think we're the two teams that everybody was looking at from the beginning," Kaepernick said. "It's going to be a knockdown, drag-out game."
The 49ers will have their hands full.
San Francisco (14-4) split two games with the Seahawks this season, but lost 29-3 at CenturyLink Field in September.
The 49ers were missing receiver Michael Crabtree in that lopsided loss. Crabtree only had three catches for 26 yards against Carolina, but Boldin said he drew plenty of double teams that allowed him to get open.
"That's the great thing about our team -- we have weapons all around," Boldin said. "You try to take one guy out and you still have two or three guys left who can make big plays."
The 49ers held Newton in check, intercepting him twice and sacking him five times while stopping the Panthers (12-5) twice on the 1-yard line in the first half.
That's More Like It
After playing their worst offensive game of the season against the Panthers in Week 10, the Niners bounced back and returned to form Sunday.
Newton finished with 267 yards passing and had 54 yards on 10 carries, but the Panthers only found the end zone once -- on a 31-yard TD strike to Steve Smith.
It was a rough playoff debut for Newton.
Linebacker Ahmad Brooks stopped Newton on a fourth-down sneak early in the second. Later, Brooks vaulted over the line and past Newton -- he was called for offsides, but the 49ers showed the Panthers it wouldn't be easy.
"Terrible ending to a great season," Newton said.
Almost fittingly, he misfired into the end zone on the final play of the game.
Kaepernick was held to 91 yards passing, 16 yards rushing and sacked six times in the first meeting with Carolina, a 10-9 loss at Candlestick Park.
But he played efficient football Sunday.
"We had to get settled down," Kaepernick said. "We came out, they did some unorthodox things against us. We settled down, we got into our rhythm, we started making plays."
San Francisco led 13-10 at the half when Kaepernick scored midway through in the third quarter on a 4-yard touchdown run off a read option.
The Panthers couldn't answer, failing to score in the second half.
The 49ers took a 13-10 lead into the locker room after Vernon Davis caught a 1-yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone from Kaepernick with 5 seconds left in the first half.
Davis was initially ruled out of the end zone on a play where 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh raced on to the field, drawing a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. Harbaugh said he wasn't disputing the catch, but rather that the play clock continued to run after the play.
All turned out fine for the 49ers though, as officials overturned the call ruling Davis dragged his left foot and scored.
Television replays showed the 49ers had 12 men in the huddle with backup tight end Vance McDonald racing to the sidelines before the ball was snapped. Referee Carl Cheffers defended the call telling a pool reporter the ball hadn't been spotted -- although Fox television replays seem to indicate otherwise.
It's the second time since 2008 the Panthers lost at home in the divisional playoffs after winning the NFC South and claiming a first-round bye with the No. 2 seed. ... 49ers FB Will Tukuafu left with a leg injury in the first half and didn't return.
Team Stat Comparison
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
|Yards per play||4.8||6.0|
Yards per pass
Yards per rush
|Red Zone (Made-Att)||2-4||0-3|
|Defensive / Special Teams TDs||0||0|
|FG||9:18||Phil Dawson 49 Yard Field Goal is Good|
Drive info: 13 plays, 49 yds, 5:48
|FG||4:38||Phil Dawson 33 Yard Field Goal is Good|
Drive info: 6 plays, 31 yds, 1:44
|TD||13:47||Steve Smith 31 Yard Pass From Cam Newton (Graham Gano Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 1 plays, 31 yds, 0:07
|FG||4:47||Graham Gano 24 Yard Field Goal is Good|
Drive info: 13 plays, 73 yds, 8:59
|TD||0:14||Vernon Davis 1 Yard Pass From Colin Kaepernick (Phil Dawson Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 12 plays, 80 yds, 3:36
|TD||8:59||Colin Kaepernick 4 Yard Run (Phil Dawson Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 8 plays, 77 yds, 4:32
|FG||7:46||Phil Dawson 34 Yard Field Goal is Good|
Drive info: 13 plays, 73 yds, 7:58
The 49ers defense has done its part, allowing 15 points per game and 303 yards per game in 2 postseason games. Their pass defense is allowing nearly 100 fewer passing yards per game compared with last postseason, aided by an improved pass rush:[+]
Cam Newton finished the regular season with a league-worst 7.6 yards per attempt and 28.1 completion percentage (second worst) on throws at least 15 yards downfield. Newton started the game 4-for-4 on those throws before throwing a game-clinching interception targeting Greg Olsen downfield. Newton was 1-for-4 for 9 yards and both interceptions when under duress. Newton was sacked five times, a total he reached three times in the regular season (Carolina 0-3 in those games).[+]
Cam Newton Passing 15+ Yds Downfield, 2013
The Panthers ran eight plays inside the San Francisco 10-yard line during the game and did not score a touchdown. The Panthers did not score after Ron Rivera elected to kick a field goal on 4th-and-goal from the 2-yard line with 3:41 left in the first half (a delay of game penalty pushed the ball back to the 7 before the kick).
Frank Gore had 30 yards on 10 rushes in the first three quarters (3.0 yards per rush), including 13 yards after contact. In the fourth quarter, Gore had 7 rushes for 54 yards (7.7 yards per rush), including a 39-yard rush that set up San Francisco's last field goal.
Ahmad Brooks has 4.5 of the 49ers 9 sacks this postseason, tied for the most sacks by a 49ers player in a single postseason since sacks have kept officially since 1982. He had 0 sacks in his final 5 regular season games
Panthers: fall to 0-4 this season when allowing 21 points or more... 12-1 when allowing 20 points or fewer
Anquan Boldin caught 8-of-12 targets for 136 yards and seven of Kaepernick's 11 passing first downs. Kaepernick threw four total passes after halftime, all completions to Boldin. Boldin is no stranger to playoff success, averaging 5.5 catches, 92.3 yards and 4.7 first downs per playoff game since the start of last year's playoff run with the Ravens. He's averaged 4.8 catches for 67.8 yards and 3.5 first downs during the regular season since the start of 2012.[+]
Colin Kaepernick by Target, Sunday
49ers passers were pressured (sacked or under duress) on 11-of-26 first-half dropbacks Sunday (24 percent) as the 49ers dropped back to pass on 26-of-36 plays (72 percent). Taking a lead into halftime, the 49ers dropped back to pass only six times in the second half, none under duress. Kaepernick was 3-of-9 for 30 yards under duress Sunday, all in the first half. When not pressured, Kaepernick was 12-of-19 for 166 yards and a touchdown.[+]
49ers Play Calling Sunday
The 49ers picked up five first downs Sunday on penalties committed by the Panthers' defense, including three on third down. The five first downs via penalty were tied for the most allowed by the Panthers' defense this season (Week 11 vs Patriots).
Colin Kaepernick went 6 of 8 for 136 yards on passes more than 10 yards with none of those passes broken up. Kaepernick went 0 of 6 on those passes in Week 10 against the Panthers, including an interception and a dropped interception.[+]
All the discussion with the Panthers offense seems to be squarely on Newton, but it's Carolina's running game that could decide things. In the Panthers 6 playoffs wins, they've topped 100 rushing yards in each. In their 4 playoff losses, they haven't reached that 100-yard mark once.[+]
Panthers Postseason History
Carolina pressured Kaepernick on 5-of-8 dropbacks (4 under duress, 1 sack) on the opening drive. The Panthers sent at least five rushers on four dropbacks, getting pressure on all four (including the sack).
Cam Newton is 24-15 in his career when his team rushes for at least 100 yards (.615). He is 1-8 (.111) when the Panthers post fewer than 100 rush yards.
Steve Smith is the 16th player in NFL history with 10 postseason TD (8 receptions, 1 rush, 1 return).
The Panthers were 10-13 (76.9%) on 4th down this season, the best conversion percentage in the NFC. This included 8-of-9 on 4th and 1 and 2-of-2 on 4th and goal. Cam Newton had converted 5 straight 4th-and-1 rushes...the last time he failed to convert in such situations was Week 2, 2012 vs the Saints.
Colin Kaepernick: 24 attempts at halftime, his most in any game of his career in 1st half, regular or postseason (previous high was 23)
The Panthers have only trailed at halftime twice this season... They trailed the Saints by 15 (lost by 18)... And in Week 10 against the 49ers, they trailed 9-7 and won the game, 10-9.
Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton have both seen added pressure on more than 38 percent of their dropbacks this season, ranking in the top four among qualified quarterbacks. But Kaepernick has had more success against the blitz, with 13 touchdown passes and the second-highest Total QBR against added pressure this season.[+]
Passing vs 5 or More Rushers This Season
Since Michael Crabtree made his season debut in Week 13, Colin Kaepernick has the third-highest Total QBR in the NFL and has posted a Total QBR of at least 65 in 5 of the 49ers' last 6 games.[+]
The 49ers scored a TD on their 18th drive of the season against the Panthers defense (5th drive today, 13 in Week 10).
Vernon Davis now has 7 career postseason receiving touchdowns, 2nd-most in 49ers postseason history behind Jerry Rice (19). His 7 touchdowns are tied for the most by a tight end in postseason history[+]
The 49ers do not have a rushing first down this half... Week 12 this season against the Redskins was the only other game since the start of 2012 they didn't have a rushing first down at halftime.
Kaepernick has been under pressure (duress or sacked) on 10-of-25 dropbacks. His career high for a full game is 13 (twice).
Both Cam Newton & Colin Kaepernick would love to get a do-over from their poor performances in their Week 10 matchup in San Francisco... While Kaepernick posted career worsts in passing yards, sacks, and Total QBR in the 10-9 loss, Newton was not much better... The Panthers' QB completed a season-low 50% of his passes with a Total QBR just under 20.[+]
Since 2000, three Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks have made a playoff start. Two tore their ACL and the other has made just one start since his game. Cam Newton hoping things play out differently.[+]
ESPN Stats & Information