One thing that characterized the remaining teams in the NFC Playoffs has been that they are known for being tough, physical teams who try to win the mental and physical battle over their opponents. As the San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers faced off in their respective NFC Divisional Playoff game, it was clear that the winning team would be the one who would be able to impose itself over the other physically, while not losing their cool.
The first half saw the 49ers–at times–on the verge of being able to let the game get away from them as the Panthers offense was able to drive at will, while the 49ers appeared to potentially lose their cool with all the trash talking that was going back and forth. Luckily for the 49ers, they were able to stop and seize the physical battle while they also began to win the battle of “head games.” The 49ers defense did a fine job of keeping them in the game. They had two goal line stands with the second of those keeping the 49ers in the game just as the wheels started to look like they were coming off, as they held the Panthers to a field goal.
After the goal line stand, the 49ers began to find their rhythm on offense with the offensive line beginning to seize the physical matchup battle against the Panthers defense. On the drive, we saw Colin Kaepernick complete some key passes to Anquan Boldin, who better than any 49er player, did the best job of getting into the heads of the Panthers as his physical play and willingness to bark back and forth showed the 49ers were not backing down. With a touchdown on that final drive to close out the half, not only had the 49ers taken a 13-10 lead, but more importantly, took control of the physical battle and mental battle in the game.
The second half proved to be a demonstration of why the 49ers are considered one of the most physical team in the NFL, as the momentum they seized at the end of the first half carried over and translated into total domination of the second half–held the Panthers scoreless. In the end, the 49ers showed and proved to be the team who had been in that situation before. They could have lost control of the game and their emotions. They did enough to hold them in check while turning around and running away with a 23-10 win that sees them heading to their third consecutive NFC Championship game.