NFC West: 2014 Divisional Round Rapid Reaction

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A few observations from the San Francisco 49ers' 23-10 win over the Carolina Panthers in the NFC divisional round:

What it means: The 49ers advance to the NFC Championship Game. They play at Seattle on Sunday in what may be the most anticipated game of the season. These teams have been on a collision course since the offseason. This is one of the NFL’s greatest rivalries, and it makes sense they will meet to end the NFC season. The 49ers are going to the NFC title game for the third time in as many seasons under coach Jim Harbaugh.

The difference: The 49ers found the end zone two times, unlike when they settled for field goals in a 10-9 loss to Carolina in Week 10. San Francisco also played terrific goal-line defense. It held on fourth down and forced a field goal on another goal-line series.

Stock watch: Colin Kaepernick and Anquan Boldin were at it again. Kaepernick completed four passes to Boldin for 75 yards in the second half.

Super Kap: Kaepernick had some fun after scoring a second-half touchdown when he did Cam Newton’s Superman gesture and then the signature biceps kiss.

Coaching with heavy heart: Harbaugh’s grandfather Joe Cipiti died Sunday morning at the age of 98.

What’s next: The NFC title game at Seattle. It’s the game we’ve all been waiting for. Can the 49ers solve their recent struggles in Seattle? It won’t be easy. It won’t be quiet either.

Rapid Reaction: Seattle Seahawks

January, 11, 2014

SEATTLE -- A few thoughts on the Seattle Seahawks' 23-15 victory over the New Orleans Saints in the NFC divisional-round playoff game at CenturyLink Field:

What it means: The Seahawks advance to the NFC championship next weekend in Seattle, one home victory away from the Super Bowl. The Seahawks have won 16 of their past 17 games at CenturyLink Field.

Stock watch: Despite giving up 409 yards, most of them in the fourth quarter, it was another solid performance by the Seattle defense against the explosive Saints offense. In two games at Seattle this season, the Saints scored a total of only 22 points. New Orleans was scoreless in the first half Saturday, when quarterback Drew Brees had only 34 yards passing. But it is a little disturbing how the defense continues to give up long drives in the fourth.

Beastly again: Apparently, all that exhaustive talking to the media the past two weeks didn’t tire out Marshawn Lynch. He carried the load all day, rushing for 140 yards on 28 carries and scoring two touchdowns, a 15-yard run in the second quarter and a 31-yard scamper that put the game away late in the fourth quarter.

Harvin suffers a concussion: Once again, receiver Percy Harvin was impressive in his return to the field, but it only lasted a half. Harvin hit his head on the turf while falling backward as he tried to make a leaping catch in the end zone late in the first half. His status for the NFC Championship Game will depend on how he makes it through the concussion protocol steps during the week.

Big day for Bennett: Seattle defensive lineman Michael Bennett had two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and half a sack. Bennett has been the best player on the Seahawks defensive front all season.

What's next: The Seahawks (14-3) will watch Sunday’s game between the 49ers and the Panthers in Charlotte to see which team they play next weekend. Seattle split its two games with San Francisco this season and beat Carolina 12-7 in the season opener at Charlotte.