San Francisco 49ers: Cam Newton

A couple weeks after mimicking Cam Newton’s “Superman” pose, Colin Kaepernick has agreed to team with the Carolina Panthers quarterback for some child’s play.

The Cartoon Network announced Wednesday that Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback, and Newton will host its fourth annual Hall of Game Awards. It premiers Monday, February 17 at 7 p.m. (ET/PT).

"I'm looking forward to sharing the stage with Cam as host this year," Kaepernick said in a press release. "We've both made appearances at past shows, but taking over as hosts? Let's just say we're going to take it to another level."

Added Newton in the press release: "While both of us are newcomers to hosting, we're both high-energy guys, ready to get down to business. We're going to be surrounded by so many sports, TV and movie icons that this show is guaranteed to be the best one yet!"

The last time the two quarterbacks were together was in the NFC divisional playoffs when Kaepernick led the 49ers to a 23-10 road win. He celebrated a touchdown run by doing Newton’s famed “Superman” pose.

After the game, Kaepernick said it was “just a little shout out.” When asked about Kaepernick’s actions, Newton said: "It’s not the first nor the last time somebody does that."
NaVorro BowmanSam Sharpe/USA TODAY SportsNaVorro Bowman said the 49ers had "better players" than Carolina in advancing to the NFC title game.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Linebacker NaVorro Bowman said the reason San Francisco 49ers are moving on to their third NFC Championship Game in as many seasons under coach Jim Harbaugh is simple.

“It came down to we had the better players than they did," the NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate said after the 49ers’ outphysicaled and outclutched the host Carolina Panthers in a convincing 23-10 victory in the divisional playoffs. “Yeah, we big-boyed them.”

Indeed. The San Francisco 49ers are big, bad boys.

There are few flaws in the franchise, and that was on display Sunday against a Carolina team that is among the league’s best. The problem for Carolina? The 49ers just may be the league’s very best.

San Francisco, which went 12-4 in the regular season and won in Green Bay in the wild-card round, has now won eight straight (the longest current win streak in the NFL) and 13 of their past 15 games.

Now, the inevitable is going to happen -- the 49ers will play at Seattle for the NFC title Sunday. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. ET. It may seem like this game has been developing for a full year between these two NFC West rivals. Each team held serve at their home field during the regular season.

After the win over Carolina, the 49ers seemed to relish the chance to head back to Seattle, where they have been outscored 71-16 the past two visits, for a chance to get back to the Super Bowl. After the 49ers beat Seattle on Dec. 8 at Candlestick Park, guard Alex Boone said several 49ers told Seattle players they’d see them again in the postseason.

“We didn’t lie,” Boone said Sunday. “If you can’t get excited about his game, you don’t belong in this league.”

Sunday, the 49ers showed they belong.

Seeing this team in the NFC Championship Game has become a yearly tradition under Harbaugh. He has made them tough, physical and focused. All that was on display against the Panthers.

This was a different game than when the Panthers beat the 49ers, 10-9, in San Francisco in Week 10.

“We were offended by that loss, that wasn’t us,” San Francisco fullback Anthony Dixon said Sunday. “Today was about showing Carolina that. We played offended. We showed them who we really are.”

San Francisco was much better offensively Sunday than the first meeting. The 49ers found a way to get into the end zone twice in addition to matching the three field goals they settled for in November against the Panthers.

Defensively, the 49ers played winning football against Carolina. Bowman said the team quietly had a feeling the game would develop the way it did.

“It goes back to having the better players,” he said. “We knew they weren’t going to be able to do much on our defense and then our offense was able to do their thing. So, we really take care of what we had to as a team.”

The 49ers took control of the game when Colin Kaepernick hit tight end Vernon Davis in the final seconds of the first half for a TD to take a 13-10 lead. The 49ers scored the second half’s only 10 points.

San Francisco showed it was the better team often in the second half.

The Panthers put together an 8-minute, 12-second drive only to have to punt because the 49ers came up with back-to-back sacks. This wasn’t the only time the San Francisco defense came up clutch. It had a goal-line stand in the first half and forced the Panthers to settle for a field goal on another goal-line drive.

Offensively, the 49ers, who allowed just one sack Sunday after giving up six against the Panthers in November, had the same clutch big plays. Kaepernick hit receiver Anquan Boldin four times for 75 yards in the second half. Running back Frank Gore broke a 39-yard run on third-and-1 to keep another long San Francisco scoring drive alive.

The 49ers weren’t only the better team -- their playoff experience showed as well. This was Kaepernick’s fifth playoff game. It was the first playoff game for Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. San Francisco safety Donte Whitner said it was "just another game" for the 49ers. He said he sensed it was bigger for the Panthers.

“Today, I think our playoff experience helped us,” Whitner said. “I think that showed.”

What showed most? The 49ers are moving to the NFC Championship Game because that’s where they belong.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Colin Kaepernick stole Cam Newton’s “Superman” move.

[+] EnlargeColin Kaepernick
Sam Sharpe/USA TODAY Sports49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick celebrates a touchdown run in the third quarter.
So what.

You know what they say: If you don’t want them to do something, stop them.

The side story of the San Francisco 49ers' 23-10 victory against the Carolina Panthers in the NFC divisional round came when Kaepernick scored on a 4-yard touchdown run with 8:53 remaining in the third quarter, staking the 49ers to a 20-10 lead. Kaepernick mimicked Newton's “Superman” jersey pulling and then Kaepernick did his trademark bicep kiss.

After the game, Kaepernick said it was “just a little shout out.” Kaepernick wasn’t the only 49er to do it. Inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman did the “Superman” move after a fourth-quarter sack of Newton.

When asked about Kaepernick’s actions, Newton said: "It’s not the first nor the last time somebody does that."

Players do this type of stuff all the time. Plenty of San Francisco's foes mimic Kaepernick's bicep kiss.

It’s just a silly little gesture. Newton and the Panthers should be upset about being controlled at home, not a benign motion.
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.

Perhaps no two teams in the NFC are more alike than the Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers, who meet at 1:05 p.m. ET on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium for the right to advance to the NFC Championship Game.

They both have big, physical, mobile quarterbacks.

They both have offenses built around the running game.

They both rely on physical, highly ranked defenses built around stopping the run first.

Their regular-season meeting at Candlestick Park showed just how close they are. Carolina won 10-9 on Nov. 10 in one of the more physical games of the season.

The rematch has all the ingredients to be just as close and physical.

ESPN.com Panthers reporters David Newton and 49ers reporter Bill Williamson are here to break it down.

Newton: Bill, hope you have thawed out from the trip to Green Bay. The first game between these teams was an old-fashioned NFC bruiser. Do you see the rematch being anything different?

Williamson: You're right, David, the first 49ers-Panthers matchup was one of the most physical games of the 2013 NFL season. I think we are going to see a similar game. These teams are similar, and are both really good teams. So this is going to be another close, physical game.

I do think more points will be scored. A huge difference for the 49ers is they will have receiver Michael Crabtree this time, and you have to assume tight end Vernon Davis won't leave this game early, as he did in the Nov. 10 meeting. Crabtree has made this a different team since he returned Dec. 1 from a torn Achilles. He had his best game of the season last week at Green Bay with eight catches for 125 yards. David, do you think the Panthers are prepared to deal with Crabtree?

Newton: They better be, or it could be a long day. I suspect they will take a similar approach to their Dec. 22 victory over New Orleans, which has talented receivers and Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham. And remember, Crabtree was facing a Green Bay defense that was ranked 24th against the pass and 25th overall. Carolina's defense ranks sixth against the pass and second overall. That's a significant difference.

To me it doesn't come down to Crabtree as much as it does to the pass rush. Carolina led the league in sacks with 60 and has 15 in the past two games. The Panthers will try to push quarterback Colin Kaepernick out of his comfort zone like they did in the first meeting, when they sacked him six times. The secondary is a huge part of that. They mix things up with complicated zone coverages that make it difficult for receivers. They also are physical with them. To stand a chance, the Panthers have to duplicate the kind of effort they had in the first game. If they pressure Kaepernick that way again, Crabtree won't be as effective.

Speaking of quarterbacks, the 49ers did a nice job on Cam Newton in the first game. This will be Newton's first playoff game. Are the 49ers worried about him?

Williamson: The 49ers certainly respect Newton and are wary of him. But I don't think they are overly fretting about him. The 49ers just beat Aaron Rodgers. He's the best quarterback in the NFL. So they can handle Newton.

I think what gives the 49ers confidence that they can continue to have success against Newton is that their defense is so athletic. So it matches up well against Newton. He did come up with some big third-down passes against the 49ers. So San Francisco has to find a way to keep him from making clutch plays. That means the 49ers have to keep pressure on him throughout the down. If Newton athletically beats the 49ers, they will have a tough day.

David, my last question for you is: What do you think the Panthers can do overall to ensure they move on to the NFC title game?

Newton: Bill, because I see the defense doing its part, for me it all comes down to Newton. As left tackle Jordan Gross said this season, as Newton goes, so go the Panthers. This will be his biggest challenge on his biggest stage, but he's a lot more confident now than he was the first time these teams met. He has since engineered last-minute, game-winning drives to beat New England, Miami and New Orleans. I believe you'll see him throw caution to the wind when it comes to running. Having favorite receiver Steve Smith back will help as well. If Newton can handle the big-game atmosphere as he did in college, the Panthers have a chance. Having said that, what do the 49ers have to do?

Williamson: San Francisco has to take advantage of what it has now, but didn't have when it last played Carolina -- and that’s better offensive weapons. Crabtree has been back for six weeks, and the offense is much better. Having a healthy Davis makes the 49ers better in this game, as well. But they can't spoil those advantages. San Francisco must find the end zone a couple of times. The 49ers had just three field goals against the Panthers in November, and settling for field goals has been an issue all season.

Because points are going to be at such a premium, the 49ers have to do what it takes to find the end zone, at least two times in this game. If not, another close loss to Carolina might be on the horizon.

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Here is a look at what the San Francisco 49ers must do and can't do Sunday at the Carolina Panthers in the divisional playoff round:

Must happen: Disrupt Cam Newton. The 49ers kept Newton from having a big day when the Panthers beat the 49ers 10-9 in November. While the Panthers still won, containing Newton again is the 49ers’ best avenue of winning this game. Points will be at a premium again, so the 49ers can’t allow Newton to get hot.

Can't happen: Settle for field goals. The 49ers scored on three Phil Dawson field goals when they lost to the Panthers. Settling for field goals has been a season-long issue for the 49ers. But they must find a way to score at least two touchdowns in this game. It won’t be easy against that Carolina defense, but the 49ers will lose again if they settle for too many field goals.

Quick Take: 49ers at Panthers

January, 5, 2014
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Three things to know about the San Francisco 49ers' matchup at the Carolina Panthers in the NFC divisional round at 1:05 p.m. ET Sunday:

1. Rematch: All Colin Kaepernick said about the Carolina Panthers on Sunday night, after the 49ers secured their trip there with a 23-20 win at Green Bay was “we owe them.” The Panthers beat the 49ers in San Francisco, 10-9, on Nov. 10. It was one of the NFL’s most physical games of the season. Both offenses struggled as both teams played brilliant defense. Expect another low-scoring game, although the point total likely will exceed 19 this time around.

2. Young quarterback battle: This will be a terrific national spotlight game for two of the better young quarterbacks in the league, Kaepernick and Carolina's Cam Newton. One of these two quarterbacks is heading to the NFC Championship Game. Newton was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft. Kaepernick, who already has been to one Super Bowl, was taken in the second round.

3. Great linebacking play: The first meeting was highlighted by stellar defensive play, particularly by the inside linebackers. San Francisco’s NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis and Carolina’s Luke Kuechly are among the game’s best middle linebackers. Bowman and Kuechly are legitimate NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidates. Expect this matchup to be run through these guys once again.
Colin Kaepernick and Cam NewtonGetty Images, AP PhotoQuarterbacks Colin Kaepernick, left, and Cam Newton highlight a matchup of NFC playoff contenders.
SAN FRANCISCO -- A few weeks ago, this didn’t appear to be a premier game.

But the Carolina Panthers kept on winning. Now, before the San Francisco 49ers have to tangle with potential playoff opponents New Orleans and Seattle in the coming weeks, looms another major NFC test in the form of the Panthers on Sunday at Candlestick Park.

This will be matchup featuring two of the hottest teams in the league. The 49ers have won five straight, the Panthers four straight. ESPN.com 49ers reporter Bill Williamson and Panthers reporter David Newton take a look at the intriguing matchup:

Newton: These teams appear similar, built around a strong running game, a versatile quarterback and strong defense. Where do you believe the 49ers have the biggest advantage?

Williamson: They totally believe in what they do. This is a confident team in all phases of the game. San Francisco is deep and focused, and it rarely misfires as a team. The 49ers stick to their plan and have confidence it will eventually wear opponents down. That is particularly true concerning the ground game on both sides of the ball. The 49ers know they are better than most opponents, and they just go out and try to prove it. I think they will try to stuff the Panthers early and get in their heads. David, the Panthers are certainly clicking themselves. Do you think they are up to this task?

Newton: Because their five wins came against teams with a combined 8-33 record, the critics are wary. So, the Panthers are relishing the opportunity to prove that their winning streak isn't a fluke, that they deserve to be mentioned as a serious contender. The only team they have faced with a record currently above .500 is Seattle, which beat Carolina 12-7 in the season opener. The Panthers believe they should have won that game, too. Like San Francisco, this group is very confident. The Panthers have an attitude and hunger that, with a decent amount of talent, make them dangerous. They won't be intimidated by San Francisco's résumé, particularly Carolina's defense, which is playing as well as any in the league. Just ask the Seahawks, who struggled to score 12 on Carolina, then scored 29 against the 49ers in Week 2. This is a playoff-caliber defense that should keep the Panthers in most games. Their biggest challenge will be stopping Colin Kaepernick. He appears to have picked up where he left off last season. How has he improved?

Williamson: He’s a perfect fit for this coaching staff. What coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman excel at is taking what opposing defenses give them. They will run inside or outside, will use Kaepernick on the ground or through the air and can exploit defenses using receiver Anquan Boldin or tight end Vernon Davis, depending on what is given to them. Kaepernick plays along perfectly. He is patient and doesn’t care about his own stats. He happily executes the game plan. David, do you think Panthers have a chance of frustrating Kaepernick by closing all those gaps?

Newton: That's the game plan, whether it's a running quarterback such as Kaepernick or a pocket passer. The goal is to stuff the run and make a team one-dimensional, and they've done that well enough to rank second in the league against the run. But running quarterbacks are a concern. Seattle's Russell Wilson didn't put up huge numbers in the opener, but he kept the chains moving and completed a high percentage of throws (76 percent, 25 of 33). Buffalo's EJ Manuel did the same thing. Carolina had a combined three sacks in those games. The Panthers have averaged more than three a game since. What will the 49ers do to counter the play of Cam Newton?

Williamson: The 49ers respect Newton. They have been talking about how physical Newton is and how they must respect his game. Again, the defense in San Francisco starts with stopping the run. Then, the 49ers tee off on the passing game. This has been a very stingy defense, but Newton is on a roll and will be the best quarterback this San Francisco defense has seen since Andrew Luck beat it at home in Week 3. David, do you see Newton succeeding in this game?

Newton: Most of Newton's success this season has come against defenses ranked in the lower half of the league. Most of it has come because he has gotten comfortable taking what the other team gives him, mostly short stuff, so he's been completing a high percentage of passes the past month. San Francisco has one of the best pass defenses in the league, so I look for Newton to use his legs more early to get into a rhythm, and I look for the Panthers to try to run to take the pressure off Newton. His confidence is at an all-time high, but the 49ers have a defense that can change that quickly.

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Cam Newton was the No. 1 overall pick of the 2011 draft. The San Francisco 49ers had no chance to move up and get him. They happily took quarterback Colin Kaepernick 35 picks later.

On Sunday, the two dynamic young quarterbacks will play against each other in the NFL for the first time as the Carolina Panthers visit San Francisco.

Jones
Kaepernick
Newton
Newton
The two were roommates at the NFL combine, and life has been good for both since. Kaepernick has had more tangible success even though, unlike Newton, he didn’t become a starter until midway through his second season. Kaepernick has been to a Super Bowl. He has playoff wins on his résumé despite starting only 18 NFL games.

Newton, spectacular as a rookie and helter-skelter last season, has settled down and has the look of quarterback who may soon see postseason success. He has led the Panthers to four straight wins after a rough 1-3 start. Kaepernick is also rolling, leading his team to five straight wins.

“Everything’s a competition, from being at the combine to being at practice to being in a game,” Kaepernick said. “Everything’s a competition.”

Kaepernick plays with a chip on his shoulder. He enjoyed beating the Titans in Week 7 and the Jaguars in Week 8. Like Carolina, those teams took quarterbacks in the first round in 2011.

It’s difficult to argue the Panthers blew it when they took Newton over Kaepernick. Newton has a big future, and Kaepernick was considered more of a project. But it is clear the 49ers are pleased the way it went down. Kaepernick is perfect athletically and emotionally to run Jim Harbaugh’s offense.

While Harbaugh called Newton’s talents “plutonium grade,” he would surely roll with Kaepernick. Harbaugh played along when a reporter suggested Kaepernick should be the 49ers’ scout-team quarterback this week to help prepare to face Newton.

“That’s a good idea. That’s a very good idea because they are so similar. And in ability, and makeup, and confidence, and in so many ways, talent,” Harbaugh said. “They’re both great. And that’s not a bad idea at all.”

I asked ESPN analyst Matt Williamson who he would rather have, Newton or Kaepernick?

“I will say that Newton is playing better [against some suspect teams] than CK right now, but I still take CK, as he is just a better pure passer,” Williamson said. “Newton has taken a lot more snaps in the NFL than CK. Just wait until CK has that experience under his belt.”

The numbers suggest a team couldn’t go wrong with either Newton or Kaepernick these days. They have been the top two rated quarterbacks in the NFL in the past month. Kaepernick’s Total QBR since Week 6 is a league-leading 94.1. Newton is second at 83.5.

Ted Ginn is an authority on both. He played with Kaepernick the past two years and is now teammates with Newton.

"They both have something a lot people don’t have, and they use it,” Ginn said Wednesday. “Speed. They can run."

On Sunday, the two young quarterbacks will try to outrun, outthrow and outscore each other.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The health of NFL coaches is in the spotlight after two coaches had major medical problems over the weekend.

Denver Broncos coach John Fox is away from the team after having heart surgery. Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak had what was described as a mini-stroke Sunday on the sideline and he is away from the team. San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh can relate.

He had a minor heart procedure for an irregular heartbeat was discovered last November. He did not miss any games. When he was asked about the situation Wednesday, he answered in typical Harbaugh fashion.

“I was able to walk it off and I’m feeling good,” he said. “Thanks for asking.”

In other 49ers notes:

The 49ers host Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. It is the first meeting between the two teams since the Panthers took Newton with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft and the 49ers took quarterback Coin Kaepernick with the No. 36 pick.

Harbaugh said his father-in-law was pushing for the 49ers to trade up and take Newton, while his own father was pushing for Kaepernick.

“The two fathers each championing their champion,” Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh wouldn’t divulge if Kyle Williams will be the punt and kick returner Sunday. He struggled in the 49ers’ last game. Anthony Dixon took over for him as the kick returner and brought his only return back 47 yards. It is conceivable Dixon will return kicks and running back LaMichael James will return punts on Sunday.

Colin Kaepernick's MVP push

September, 11, 2013
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Could Colin Kaepernick make an MVP run in his first full season as a starter?

So far, so good.

In his MVP Watch, Dan Graziano ranked Kaepernick second behind Denver’s Peyton Manning. There was no way Manning wasn’t going to be ranked first after that seven-touchdown showing against Baltimore.

However, Kaepernick is off to a nice start as well. He threw for a career-high 412 yards in a 34-28 San Francisco win over Green Bay on Sunday.

I have a feeling Graziano will be writing about Kaepernick a lot this season. This kid is not going to get any worse. So, as we stand now, yes, I fully expect Kaepernick to be a serious MVP threat.

In ESPN.com’s Hot Read, Jeffri Chadiha looks at five young quarterbacks who could be big stars. Chadiha ranks Andrew Luck, Kaepernick, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III. He looks at several different aspects.

His conclusion that Kaepernick will be the fourth best player in the group behind Luck, Griffin and Wilson. I would rank Kaepernick just behind Luck.

I think Kaepernick has huge potential and his ability to win with his legs and arms make his difficult to beat. Still, this is a power group. So, being ranked fourth here isn’t terrible.

Final 2013 preseason QB snap counts

August, 30, 2013
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Six projected starting quarterbacks played in their teams' final exhibition games of the 2013 preseason. The Seattle Seahawks' Russell Wilson and the San Francisco 49ers' Colin Kaepernick were two of them, and both led touchdown drives before exiting after one series. None of the NFL's projected starters got hurt Thursday night.

The chart shows week-by-week snap counts for quarterbacks I singled out as projected starters heading into preseason. NFC West alums Kevin Kolb and Matt Flynn might not start after all, but I've left them in the chart for context.

St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher has generally played starters in the final preseason game. He did not this time.

"Typically I have, but I guess in the new world that we’re in, it’s hard to," Fisher told reporters after the Rams' game against Baltimore. "What that implies is that I'm pleased with where they are right now, those guys that sat. They worked hard. We got a great workout and it allowed them to fast-forward their minds to Arizona."

Fisher could have been alluding to the run of higher-profile injuries around the league this summer. Last year, the Rams lost rookie defensive tackle Michael Brockers to a high-ankle sprain in the final preseason game.

The Rams emerged from this preseason healthier than their division rivals. That did not stop the 49ers from playing their offensive starters or the Seahawks from playing starters on both sides of the ball Thursday night. The Arizona Cardinals rested most of their starters, though Michael Floyd was one notable exception.

San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh offered no explanation for playing his starting offense one series. Kaepernick hadn't gotten many snaps through the first three games, however. Getting additional reps for Kaepernick and the team's group of emerging receivers made some sense on the surface.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll went into the final preseason game saying he wanted starters to play because the team values this games as competitive opportunities.

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