The San Francisco 49ers defeated the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, and the emotional and physical elements of the game could be just what the doctor ordered for the NFC Championship Game. It was an incredibly chippy game, with both sides talking a lot of smack, and providing plenty of pushing and shoving. The Panthers did much of their talking in the first half, but once the 49ers took control in the second half, Carolina quieted down.
The 49ers move on to the NFC Championship Game, where they will face the Seattle Seahawks. If 49ers-Panthers was chippy, I don't even know how we'll begin to describe 49ers-Seahawks. Both teams have their big talkers, and conveniently enough, they might get a chance to hit each other here or there. While Steve Smith and Anquan Boldin never got to go one-on-one, next week we could see Richard Sherman covering Anquan Boldin, or Donte Whitner matching up with Golden Tate.
I don't have the specific number of games in front of me, but I'm pretty sure the Seahawks have more playoff experience on their resume than the Panthers, with their two games last season, and then this past week. I mention this because it felt like the Panthers unraveled in the second half. There were plenty of signs, but some of the bad penalties really cost them late. I don't know that they were going to be able to get back into this thing, but the penalties certainly didn't help.
And now, the 49ers get to face the Seahawks in a game that I have to imagine will feature some pre-game instructions from the officials. These are two teams that don't like each other, and will let each other know. It could come down to which team does a better job maintaining their cool. Even with all that's at stake, I would not be surprised to see a couple stupid penalties swing this game one way or another.
The 49ers are the experienced playoff team, and I think we saw that as the divisional matchup wore on. San Francisco will need to maintain that next week against Seattle. There will be some goading from both sides at CenturyLink Field. Ideally this game would be played simply straight up, with no extracurricular activities. I'm not holding my breath for that, so it could end up simply being who gets caught by the refs. The person that gets in trouble for pushing and shoving is usually the person who is responding to instigation. It's annoying, but that's just how it plays out. I expect a fair amount of that in the NFC Championship Game.
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