The 49ers advanced past the Packers in Green Bay on Sunday, setting up a rematch with the Carolina Panthers.
The Panthers beat the 49ers 10-9 in Week 10, a game that cemented the Panthers as a team with a chance of making noise in the NFC this season at the same moments that it raised questions about the fitness of the 49ers for another long playoff run. It was an especially troubling performance by quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was 11-of-22 for 91 yards and an interception in one of his worst outings of the year.
After Sunday’s win, Kaepernick was asked about the chance to face the Panthers again.
“We owe them,” Kaepernick said, via the San Francisco Chronicle.
That game also came with linebacker Aldon Smith in his first game back from a stay in rehab and wide receiver Michael Crabtree missing from the lineup while tight end Vernon Davis was lost to a concussion during the game, leaving the 49ers without some of the players who have really spurred their current seven-game winning streak. And then there’s Kaepernick, whose run of strong play includes a clutch performance against the Packers capped by his 11-yard run after pulling the ball down on third-and-eight late in the fourth quarter.
In other words, it’s a better 49ers team than the one that lost to Carolina. It will need to be to get payback against a Panthers side that brings an exciting quarterback, effective running game and overwhelming defense of its own to the table in what looks like a memorable playoff matchup in waiting.