Kaepernick lifts 49ers over Panthers 23-10

Kaepernick lifts 49ers over Panthers 23-10 (Image 1)
Kaepernick lifts 49ers over Panthers 23-10 (Image 1)

Colin Kaepernick raced
into the end zone, then pretended to rip open his shirt with both hands
imitating Cam Newton's Superman touchdown celebration.

Three years of frustration had come to a head.

“Just a little shoutout,” Kaepernick said.

To whom?

“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.

Anquan Boldin had
eight catches for 136 yards and Frank Gore ran for 84 yards on 17
carries for the 49ers (14-4), who will visit Seattle next Sunday looking
for a return trip to the Super Bowl.

“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.

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.

Carolina spotted San Francisco a 6-0 lead with two
defensive penalties — an unnecessary roughness on safety Mike Mitchell
and a headbutt on cornerback Captain Munnerlyn — leading to field goals.

NOTES:
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.

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