NFL Playoffs: San Francisco 23 Carolina 10 — The San Francisco 49ers defeated the Carolina Panthers 23-10 in a divisional round playoff game Sunday in Charlotte, North Carolina to advance to the NFC title game next Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks in Seattle.
The 49ers’ strong defence shut out the Panthers in the second half, as San Francisco pulled away in a close first half game.
San Francisco took a 6-0 on two early field goals, aided by Carolina penalities that kept drives alive, before Carolina’s offence started clicking as they drove to the 49er 1-yard line. But a goal-line stand by the San Francisco defence kept the Panthers from getting into the endzone, and the 49ers took possession when Carolina went for it on 4th down and failed on a quarterback sneak.
But San Francisco was soon forced to punt from their own endzone, giving Carolina great field position, and on the next play Panther quarterback Cam Newton found Steve Smith on a 31-yard touchdown pass that gave Carolina a 7-6 lead.
On their next drive later in the 2nd quarter, Carolina again drove to the 49er 1-yard line and stalled. This time they elected to kick the field goal on 4th down, increasing their lead to 10-6.
But the momentum of the game changed in the final seconds of the first half, as the 49ers drove to the Carolina 1-yard line and then Vernon Davis caught a pass in the back of the endzone from quarterback Colin Kaepernick with 5 seconds left that was initially ruled out of bounds.
San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh ran out onto the field protesting and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. The penalty would have set the 49ers back to the 16-yard line and forced them to kick a field goal on the last play of the half, but the replay officials overturned the call, saying Davis got both feet inbounds for the touchdown. The 15-yard penalty occurred after the play, so it was tacked onto the ensuing kickoff, which rendered it meaningless as the half was ending.
The reversed call gave the 49ers a 13-10 halftime lead, and Carolina never seemed to recover.