Niners defeat Panthers to advance to 3rd straight NFC title game
The Niners received five first downs via penalty, and a few of them early allowed to get two quick field goals and a 6-0 lead. The Panthers then woke up and drove to the 1, but Riverboat Ron's 4th and goal decision failed. No worries though. The Niners gained just 2 yards, Ted Ginn got a big punt return, and on the next play Cam Newton made a great throw and Steve Smith made a great catch for the touchdown. On Carolina's next drive, they held the ball for over 8 minutes, but it stalled at the 3 and this time there was no Riverboat Ron moment. The field goal made it 10-6 Panthers.
At the end of the half, San Francisco marched down the field as Colin Kaepernick kept hitting Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree. At the goal line, he hit Vernon Davis for what was called an incomplete pass. Review reversed it to a touchdown, but not before Jim Harbaugh was (finally) flagged for running onto the field to complain about the original call. The 15 yards on the kickoff didn't matter because there was 5 seconds left, but it was nice to see Harbaugh finally called on one of his tantrums.
The second half started with a Carolina 3 and out, and the Niners quickly struck again. First, Boldin (who had 8 catches for 136 yards) caught a deep ball and ended up just short of the goal line. Two plays later, Kaepernick ran in it for the score and a 20-10 lead. He then mocked Cam Newton's Superman celebration because of course he did.
What came next turned out to be the pivotal drive. The Panthers were able to move down the field, but slowly and with a lot of time chewed off the clock. However, the Panthers offensive line, who had been playing well, buckled. Two consecutive sacks forced Carolina to punt. Over eight minutes of clock were gone, and the result was no points. The Niners responded with their own clock killing drive, highlighted by a big Frank Gore run. Their drive took off 7 minutes and 58 seconds, but theirs ended with a field goal.
The Panthers were in must score mode, but Newton threw a terrible pass right at Donte Whitner, who intercepted it to put it away. Then they called a fake punt because that's what the Niners do.
With that, San Francisco heads to Seattle for the NFC Championship game next Sunday at 6:00. If you thought this game was a chippy, trash talking mess, next week will be worse.