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NFC Divisional Round

Sunday, January 12 - 1pm et/10am pt on CTV


49ers gear up for rematch with Panthers after Carolina left Candlestick Park with tight win in November.

(Canadian Press) Bring on Carolina once more, and another cross-country playoff flight.

The San Francisco 49ers are all for a rematch with the Panthers, even if it means hitting the road again this week to keep their latest post-season run going.

"Onward now," coach Jim Harbaugh said.

The Panthers shut down San Francisco and quarterback Colin Kaepernick 10-9 at Candlestick Park on Nov. 10, snapping the Niners' five-game winning streak. The 49ers lost the following week at New Orleans for their second two-game skid of the season, but have been on an impressive unbeaten roll in seven games since then after a 23-20 wild-card win Sunday at bitterly cold Green Bay.

Now, the 49ers (13-4) get a second chance at Cam Newton and Co. in the NFC divisional playoffs Sunday. Now, they have a healthy, playmaking Michael Crabtree in the receiving corps.

And true to his normal, succinct nature, Kaepernick offered this on Carolina: "We owe 'em."

Added rookie linebacker Nick Moody on Twitter: "Rematch against Carolina next week."

Kaepernick went 11 for 22 for 91 yards with an interception and was sacked six times for a 42.0 passer rating in a rare poor performance.

Both Kaepernick and Panthers quarterback Newton — drafted No. 1 overall in 2011 while Kaepernick was the sixth QB selected — will be eager to have much better games on the post-season stage.

Newton went 16 of 32 for 169 yards, an interception and four sacks for a 52.7 rating.

The Niners needed every ounce out of Kaepernick to get past Green Bay for the fourth straight time and second playoff victory in as many Januarys.

"We've got a good bad-weather quarterback. I think we've established that," Harbaugh said Monday. "Being able to throw a ball that pierces through the elements, the wind. He's shown that in the rain, bad weather, footing, or elements of precipitation. He can pierce a defence with velocity and tightness of the spiral."

Not to mention with his long legs.

Kaepernick's 11-yard run on third-and-8 set up Phil Dawson's winning 33-yard field goal as time expired at Lambeau Field.

No sleeves necessary for the tattooed quarterback playing in subzero temperatures, a Wisconsin native to the bone.

And that No. 5 seed for the NFC West runner-ups? No matter.

Kaepernick connected with a couple of his favourite playoff targets Sunday, completing eight passes for 125 yards to Crabtree and a 28-yard touchdown pass to tight end Vernon Davis in the fourth quarter against the Packers.

Dawson deserved his share of the credit, too. On a day when no kick was a gimme, he came through with three field goals and the game-winner.

Biggest kick ever?

"It is right now," Dawson said. "I've waited a long time to win a playoff game."

Harbaugh said he shared a special moment afterward with the kicker, looking at the joy in Dawson's eyes — "You could tell he's just happier maybe than he'll ever be and he'll remember that for many years to come."

Harbaugh, who brought in wrestler Ric Flair for an animated pep talk, became the first coach since 1970 to win 13 or more games, including the post-season, in each of his first three years.

By the end of a fun flight home, he had turned his focus to the Panthers.

In the last game against Carolina, the 49ers lost a pair of key players on either side of the ball to concussions — tight end Vernon Davis and rookie safety Eric Reid.

And Kaepernick has come a long way since that loss two months ago that followed the bye week.

"He's a tough guy, and a quarterback like that, you'll do whatever for him," running back Frank Gore said.

Having Crabtree back in the mix sure helps. The team's top wideout from 2012 returned for the final five games of the regular season after recovering from a torn right Achilles tendon that required surgery in May.

"More dangerous," Harbaugh said. "Michael Crabtree was not there for that game and Vernon was out of the game early with a concussion."


Carolina
Passing Cam Newton 61.7% 3,379 Yds 24 TD 13 INT
Receiving Greg Olsen 73 Rec 816 Yds 11.2 Avg 6 TD
Rushing DeAngelo Williams 201 Att 843 Yds 4.2 Avg 3 TD
Tackles Luke Kuechly 93 Solo 63 Ast 156 Tot 2 Sacks
Sacks Greg Hardy 15 Sacks 59 Tkl 1 FF 0 FR
Interceptions L.Kuechly/M.Mitchell 4 INT - - -

San Francisco
Passing Colin Kaepernick 58.4% 3,197 Yds 21 TD 8 INT
Receiving Anquan Boldin 85 Rec 1,179 Yds 13.9 Avg 7 TD
Rushing Frank Gore 276 Att 1,128 Yds 4.1 Avg 9 TD
Tackles NaVorro Bowman 118 Solo 25 Ast 143 Tot 5 Sacks
Sacks A.Brooks/A.Smith 8.5 Sacks - - -
Interceptions Tramaine Brock 5 INT 82 Yds 20 Avg 1 TD

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