The Panthers played like it was their Super Bowl.
And in many ways, it was.
The Panthers won the biggest game of the Ron Rivera era, beating the 49ers 10-9 with a dominant display of defense.
The Panthers had won four straight, and five of their last six, but they had done so against the dregs of the league. Going on the road against the defending NFC champs was going to be a different challenge.
The Panthers met that challenge, and then some, stifling the 49ers at every level in the second half. They even caught a few breaks late, with a Jonathan Stewart fumble bouncing to fullback Mike Tolbert as they worked to run out the clock.
They still had to play defense one last time, and Panthers cornerback Drayton Florence picked off Colin Kaepernick to end the game. They sacked Kaepernick six times, limiting the 49ers to 91 yards passing.