American Football: Colin Kaepernick guides wild cards San Francisco to a showdown in Seattle with top-seeded Seahawks

Niners quarterback completed 15 of 28 passes for 196 yards

The San Francisco 49ers came from behind to beat NFC South champions Carolina Panthers 23-10 in a bruising battle and advance to the NFC Championship game for the third year in a row.

The wild-card 49ers scored a touchdown 14 seconds before half-time for a 13-10 lead and scored again on their first possession of the second half to build a 10-point cushion that was never surrendered. The fierce San Francisco defense kept Carolina out of the end zone four times from the one-yard line in the first half, at the end of two separate drives, with the home-standing Panthers only able to score three points from those touchdown opportunities.

Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick completed 15 of 28 passes for 196 yards, threw a touchdown, and ran in from four yards for another score. Receiver Anquan Boldin hauled in eight catches for 136 yards.

The victory put the 49ers into the NFC title game on Sunday at the top-seeded Seattle Seahawks, their NFC West division rivals.

On Saturday, LeGarrette Blount ran the New England Patriots into their third straight American Football Conference championship game. Blount had four touchdown runs as New England kept Andrew Luck from a second straight comeback victory, beating the Indianapolis Colts 43-22. Blount scored on three two-yard runs in the first half, then burst through the right side of the line and ran 73 yards into the end zone, where he placed the ball gently on the ground made soggy by a game-long rain. He finished with 166 yards on 24 carries.

Meanwhile in the NFC, Marshawn Lynch ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns as the Seahawks won their playoff. Steven Hauschka kicked three field goals in blustery conditions as the top-seeded Seahawks beat the New Orleans Saints 23-15 and advanced to the NFC championship game for the second time in club history.

Lynch finished with 28 carries and made up for another shaky day’s passing by Russell Wilson. Seattle’s offense was a concern heading into the post-season and, outside of Lynch, did little to quell those worries.

The Patriots will face the winner of last night’s late game between the Broncos and Chargers after they never allowed the Colts to take the lead. “It’s just a great achievement,” Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said. “People have counted us out at times this year, but I think we’ve got a locker room full of believers.”

Blount joined Ricky Watters, who had five touchdowns for San Francisco in January 1994, as the only players with four or more in a play-off game. And the six rushing touchdowns by the Patriots tied the 49ers’ total in that game for second most in playoff history.

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