The 49ers earned a third straight trip to the NFC Championship game, and a chance to spoil the rival Seahawks’ season, by beating the Panthers 23-10 in a Divisional Round playoff in Charlotte, N.C.
Next to their 19-17 triumph over the Seahawks in Week 14, this may have been the 49ers’ most impressive win of the season. They rushed for 126 yards against the second-best run defense in the league and worked a shutout in the second half. San Francisco set the tone early and did not fold after Carolina took a 10-6 lead in the second quarter. Instead, the 49ers scored 17 consecutive points.
cover32 recognizes the following three 49ers as its weekly Game Ball recipients:
OFFENSIVE: Anquan Boldin
The Panthers did an admirable job against Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis, but they could not stop the ever-reliable Boldin, who caught eight passes for 136 yards. His longest catch of the day was a 45-yarder down the sideline that set up a touchdown in the second half.
Boldin frustrated the Carolina defenders with his play — and his talk.
DEFENSIVE: NaVorro Bowman
Patrick Willis certainly deserves credit for his performance (11 tackles, one interception), but his inside-linebacker-mate delivered the biggest defensive play of a day, stopping Panthers quarterback Cam Newton short of the endzone on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line.
Bowman matched Willis with 11 tackles, including two for losses, and had one of the 49ers’ four sacks on the day.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Kassim Osgood
Just when you thought Panthers return man Ted Ginn was going to ruin the day for his former team, Osgood stepped up and showed why he’s a three-time All-Pro specialists. Ginn broke loose for a 24-yard punt return but was planted by Osgood on his next attempt. The Panthers’ special teams weren’t a factor after that.