The Panthers clutched and grabbed and held on as long as they could. By the end of the day, they were exhausted because they were beaten at their own game, by a team better than they were.
The 49ers won a trench-war decision over the Panthers, 23-10 in the divisional round.
With the win, the 49ers advance to next week’s NFC Championship Game at Seattle. Those two split the regular season series.
The 49ers looked flat early on, as the Panthers chose to take a field goal on an early fourth-down near the goal line, building a 10-6 lead in the second quarter
But that was the high point of the day for the Panthers, who were worn down and personnel-thin in the secondary and on the offensive line.
Wide receiver Anquan Boldin began to expose the first weakness (eight catches for 136 yards and a touchdown), and the 49ers defense did the rest (finishing with five sacks).
A long touchdown drive to open the second half took the wind out of the Panthers sails, and their own deliberate offense wasn’t able to get chunks of yards in the second half.
Coupled with their defense coming unglued and committing stupid penalty after stupid penalty, the Panthers didn’t have much of a chance.
The Panthers exceeded every expectation in 2013, finishing 12-4 and winning the NFC South. But the deficiencies which they covered up for so long were exposed, and they have a clear blueprint to follow this offseason.