SANTA CLARA, Calif. – 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 weekend to keep their latest postseason run going.
“Onward, now,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said.
The visiting 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 next 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 after a 23-20 wild-card victory Sunday at bitterly cold Green Bay.
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Thus the 49ers (13-4) get a second chance at Cam Newton and Co. in the NFC divisional playoffs Sunday in Charlotte, N.C. This time, they have a healthy, playmaking Michael Crabtree in the receiving corps.
True to his succinct nature, Kaepernick offered this on Carolina: “We owe ’em.”
Kaepernick went 11 for 22 for 91 yards with an interception and was sacked six times for a 42.0 passer rating in a poor performance against Carolina.
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 .
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.
“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 defense with velocity and tightness of the spiral.”
Not to mention with his long legs.
Kaepernick’s 11-yard run on third-and-eight set up Phil Dawson’s winning 33-yard field goal as time expired at Lambeau Field.
In the last game against Carolina, the 49ers lost 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 setback.
“He’s a tough guy, and a quarterback like that, you’ll do whatever for him,” running back Frank Gore said.
• Indianapolis signed former Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch six days before playing one of his former teams, the New England Patriots, in the divisional round Saturday. Receiver Branch, 34, was a Seahawk from 2006 to 2010.
• The Miami Dolphins, who missed the playoffs after losing their last two games by a combined 39-7, fired offensive coordinator Mike Sherman.
• Four wild-card playoff games averaged 34.7 million viewers, making it the most-watched wild-card weekend on record. The 49ers’ victory over Green Bay had 47.1 million viewers Sunday on Fox to make it the most-watched wild-card game on record.
• Lawyers representing former players in the proposed $765 million settlement of thousands of concussion-related claims gave some details on how the money would be divided.
The awards could reach $5 million for athletes with Lou Gehrig’s disease; $4 million for a death involving brain trauma; and $3 million for dementia cases.
Under the payout formula, such maximum awards would go to players under 45, who would likely need more lifetime care. Individual awards would also reflect how long a player spent in the league.