The San Francisco 49ers shrugged off a slow start to suffocate the Carolina Panthers, 23-10. They advance to the NFC Championship Game for the third year in a row and will face the Seattle Seahawks a third time this year.
The 49ers took advantage of some Carolina penalties and a tipped interception from Cam Newton to get a couple of early field goals, but their offense stalled after a promising opening drive. Despite getting stuffed at the goal line, the Panthers' defense forced a short punt and Newton got Carolina on the board with a 31-yard bomb to Steve Smith.
Colin Kaepernick was erratic and inaccurate for most of the first half, but he put things together in time to get the lead back for the 49ers, hooking up with Vernon Davis for a score at the end of the second quarter. The 49ers took a 13-10 lead into the locker room. Carolina could have had a bigger lead, but the 49ers' defense managed to get two goal-line stands, forcing the Panthers to settle for three combined points on both drives.
San Francisco extended their lead on the opening drive in the third quarter with a touchdown run by Kaepernick. The wheels fell off for Carolina's offense, going nearly eight minutes on a drive without managing any points. That was their last real chance to get back in the game. The 49ers milked more clock and got a chip-shot field goal to put things out of reach.Jon Benne
After a listless effort for most of the first half, San Francisco's offense got on track at the end of the second quarter. Kaepernick drove down to the goal line in the final minutes and hit Vernon Davis for a touchdown to take a 13-10 lead into halftime. The 49ers held the lead for the rest of the game as Carolina's offense hit a brick wall painted red and white.
The AFC will have something to say in the Super Bowl, but the 49ers and Seahawks are the two best teams in the NFL. This could prove to be an epic showdown.
-- Niners Nation
The 49ers face a familiar foe in the NFC Championship game, squaring off with fellow NFC Westerners, the Seattle Seahawks. The two teams split their regular season series, with each team taking their respective home games. San Francisco is looking to get to the Super Bowl for the second straight season, while the Seahawks are hoping to get there for just the second time in their history.