Niners take another step toward Super Bowl goal

Sun Jan 12, 2014 8:49pm EST
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(Reuters) - The San Francisco 49ers have enjoyed a great run of success the last three years but the bar is set high, with nothing less than a Super Bowl triumph needed to satisfy them.

The wild card 49ers reached the NFC Championship game for the third year in a row with their 23-10 road victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday and tied the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most appearances (15) in a conference title game since 1970.

But after an overtime loss to the New York Giants in the 2012 NFC title game and a 34-31 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in last year's Super Bowl, the Niners are determined on winning the NFL's top prize next month at the New York-area MetLife Stadium.

"We're healthy. We're a great team. We just want to do whatever it takes to get the ring," running back Frank Gore told reporters after rushing 84 yards in the win against NFC South champions Carolina.

"We didn't finish last year but we'll be back."

Standing in the way of a return to the Big Dance are San Francisco's NFC West division rivals, the top-seeded Seattle Seahawks who have won 16 of their last 17 games at home, where they will host the 49ers next Sunday.

"It's perfect," said Niners linebacker NaVorro Bowman, despite having absorbed a 29-3 drubbing the last time the teams met in Seattle in Week Two of the season. "We've been on the road, and we're winning.

"All excuses go out the window as we prepare this week and make sure we get this 'W' next week.

"They're hungry," he said about Seattle. "We're hungry. We've been (to the Super Bowl). We had a nasty taste in our mouth. It's going to be a fight."   Continued...

Jan 12, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin (81) is tackled by Carolina Panthers cornerback Melvin White (23) during the first half of the 2013 NFC divisional playoff football game at Bank of America Stadium. Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports