The No. 5 seed San Francisco 49ers will head to the NFC Championship for the third straight year after defeating the No. 2 seed Carolina Panthers, 23-10, in the NFC divisional round of the NFL playoffs on Jan. 12 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.

The 49ers will face the No. 1 seed Seattle Seahawks in the conference title game on Jan. 19 in Seattle.

San Francisco had to overcome a slow start against Carolina. The Panthers jumped out to a 10-6 lead after a 31-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Cam Newton to veteran receiver Steve Smith and a 24-yard field goal by Graham Gano.

But the 49ers responded with a touchdown pass from quarterback Colin Kaepernick to All-Pro tight end Vernon Davis to give San Francisco a 13-10 lead at halftime.

San Francisco then shut out Carolina, 10-0, in the second half to secure the win and a trip back to the conference championship.

Kaepernick finished 15-of-28 for 196 passing yards and a touchdown; the third-year quarterback also ran for a four-yard touchdown. Kaepernick hooked up frequently with former Baltimore Ravens veteran receiver Anquan Boldin, who was traded to San Francisco after refusing to take a pay cut this season. Boldin caught eight passes for a game-high 136 receiving yards.

Cam Newton completed 16-of-25 for 267 passing yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He also ran for 54 yards on 10 carries.

Carolina ended its season with a 12-5 record, while the 49ers advanced to 14-4.


Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor