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49ers-Panthers: Notes, quotes

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SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

--The 49ers are plenty familiar with making trips to Seattle because they go there once a season as part of NFC West competition.

A week after winning in frigid conditions at Green Bay, the 49ers played in ideal conditions in Charlotte on Sunday as they defeated the Panthers 23-10 to advance to the NFC title game for the third straight season and will face the Seahawks in Seattle next Sunday.

Linebacker Ahmad Brooks said some rain might have been a good thing for the 49ers looking ahead to their next game.

"If it had rained today, then we would have been prepared for their weather because it rains a lot in Seattle," Brooks said.

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick said the recent history with the Seahawks shouldn't be a factor.

"That's in the past," he said. "This is a different situation. We have to go out there and win it."

--Wide receiver Michael Crabtree figured to be one of the X-factors for the 49ers in the rematch with Carolina because he missed the first meeting, which resulted in a 10-9 loss.

Crabtree's presence certainly drew some attention, though his production was rather minimal other than a key 20-yard reception on San Francisco's first touchdown drive. He made three total catches for 26 yards. Still, that made him the second-most productive receiver in the game for the 49ers.

Now there's another game in the season and that was the objective.

"I don't even look at it as the NFC championship," Crabtree said. "I'm looking at it like we are playing the Seattle Seahawks."

--Quarterback Colin Kaepernick isn't willing to take a jab without giving one back.

So when the war of words took place on the field at times between the 49ers and Carolina Panthers, he wasn't about to be without a comment or two.

"I'm not just going to let you say anything you want to me," he said. "If you are going to say something to me, I am going to respond."

CAROLINA PANTHERS

--The first NFL playoff outing for quarterback Cam Newton was a disappointment.

"Playoff football is a different speed than the regular season," he said. "I learned that firsthand today."

Newton completed 16 of 25 passes for 267 yards, though 59 of those yards came on the game's second-to-last play when the 49ers had backed off.

"I'm going to focus on how I can get better than this," he said. "You have to seize the moment when the moment arrives."

--The Panthers were hit for eight penalties costing them 73 yards in their playoff loss to San Francisco.

The 49ers scored in three drives that involved defensive penalties.

"We've just got to be a little smarter," CB Captain Munnerlyn said. "They're going to throw to draw us, make us have penalties so they can get cheap yardage and get the first down. We've just got to be smarter and just go to play better."

Those infractions took a toll on the defense.

"Our defense played good for the most part, but we made a lot of dumb mental errors and got those penalties that really killed us," defensive tackle Star Lotulelei said.

--Veteran WR Steve Smith was back in action for the Panthers after missing the regular-season finale with a knee injury. He scored Carolina's only touchdown and made four catches for 74 yards.

Smith finished his 13th NFL season, and he said he expects to be back for another.

"It doesn't take much for me to get fired up," Smith said about the ability to be excited about playing another season.

He made his eighth postseason touchdown catch in the second quarter against the 49ers.

QUOTES

"We are healthy. And we are a great team. We are willing to do whatever it takes to get this ring." -- 49ers RB Frank Gore.

"We don't want it to end for us. We understand that we have to go up there (to Seattle) in a hostile environment with a really good football team and do what a lot of people probably aren't going to pick us to do." -- 49ers S Donte Whitner.

"We understand situations. We know how to handle ourselves in different situations. We have been in some tough environments the last two weeks. We came out victorious and that's a credit to these guys on this team and the coaches on this team." -- 49ers WR Aquan Boldin.

"I always knew he was (going to play). You can ask these guys, I was always positive about Steve. In Steve's mind, he was ready." -- Panthers coach Ron Rivera on figuring WR Steve Smith's availability into the game plan considering he was coming off a knee injury that made his status questionable for the playoffs.

"I think the fans were great this year. I think they were awesome and very supportive and when they are as loud as they were this year, we feed off it more than they think." -- Panthers LB Luke Kuechly.

"At this point, there's not a whole lot of moral victories in this league. We put a lot of time and effort into this thing and we expected a lot more than just making the playoffs." -- Panthers TE Greg Olsen.
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