The Carolina Panthers came out in the first half geeked up on adrenalin and tried to bully the San Francisco 49ers off the field. Despite all their huffing and puffing, the Niners used an opening drive and a closing drive to take a 13-10 lead into the halftime break, then came out in the second half, took control of both the offensive and defensive lines, and shoved the Panthers off the field, shutting them out and heading home with a 23-10 victory. Their 3rd straight 23 point game — all victories.
Sorry, Carolina, you ain’t ready for the tough guy room just yet.
Against Green Bay, it was Michael Crabtree providing the big performance. Against Carolina, it was Anquan Boldin. You can stop one of these guys, but not both. Vernon Davis had only one catch for one yard, but it was a big one, a TD right before the half. Not known as a twinkle toe fella, Vernon made an amazing toes–on-the-turf catch in the back right corner of the end zone that needed a Booth Review to appreciate and approve.
49er rookie WR Quinton Patton has also made some big plays down the stretch this year, as a receiver, blocker, and penalty flag lurer. He performed all three skills on Sunday, for a quiet, but significant role in the victory. A big 23 yard catch on the opening drive, a seal-off block for a Colin Kaepernick TD to open the third quarter, and a big Unsportsmanlike throw down penalty against his coverage guy to keep alive the four minute game closing fourth quarter drive that left a mere 12 seconds on the game clock, and no chance for the Panthers to win.
And what would an important 49er game be without a big Frank Gore play? He banged his head mostly for nothing much against the Panthers stout defense for three quarters, then opened the fourth with a 3rd-and-1 39 yard blast up the middle against a nine man front. It was the signature play on an eight minute FG drive than provided the final points for the victory.
We heard all week about how wonderful Panthers’ LB Luke Kuechly was — and he did have a good game, with ten tackles and one sack. But the 49ers’ have TWO LBs who did better. Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman each had eleven tackles and Bowman added a sack. Plus, neither of them let anybody roar by them for forty yards. Or let a TE sneak into the corner and grab a TD.
The entire defense played great, with two goal line stuff jobs, and only a single TD from a perfectly thrown pass from Cam Newton to Steve Smith over the excellent coverage of Tarell Brown. You can get these plays once in a while, but you don’t win many games if it takes absolute perfection to succeed.
The 49ers were the only road team to win over the weekend, as Seattle, New England, and Denver all held serve on their own court. In fact, for the first time in a long, long while, the four teams left in the championship round are actually the four best teams from the regular season, too. Zounds! There’ll be no fluky, slipped in the back door Super Bowl winner this year.