49ers beat Panthers, advance to NFC title game

Sun Jan 12, 2014 5:56pm EST
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(Reuters) - The red-hot San Francisco 49ers beat the NFC South champion Carolina Panthers 23-10 in a bruising battle on Sunday to advance to the NFC Championship game for the third year in a row.

The victory, the eighth in a row for the 49ers, sends San Francisco to top-seeded Seattle, their NFC West rivals, for the title game next Sunday with the winner advancing to the Super Bowl.

The wild card 49ers overcame a 10-6 deficit in the hard-hitting contest with a one-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Colin Kaepernick to tight end Vernon Davis 14 seconds before intermission for a 13-10 lead.

Davis was initially ruled out of bounds before the on-field call was reversed after a video review.

San Francisco scored again after a 77-yard drive on their first possession of the second half to build a 10-point cushion as Kaepernick ran in from four yards out after setting up the score with a 45-yard strike to Anquan Boldin.

The fierce San Francisco defense kept Carolina out of the end zone four times from the one-yard line in the first half, at the end of two separate drives, with the home-standing Panthers only able to score three points from those TD opportunities.

"It was a great football game," said Niners coach Jim Harbaugh, who steered his team into the Super Bowl last year. "It was a physical struggle. I'm proud of our team for prevailing."


The game was marked by big hits and confrontational jawing between the players. Four times in the first half the 49ers earned first downs on Carolina penalties.   Continued...

Jan 12, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) and guard Mike Iupati (77) celebrate during the fourth quarter of the 2013 NFC divisional playoff football game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. San Francisco won 23-10. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports