Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has a way of rising to the occasion. At Auburn he won the Heisman, led a huge comeback against Alabama and beat Oregon for the national title. Now he’s led the NFL’s Panthers to win 11 of their past 12 games going into today’s Week 10 rematch against the San Francisco 49ers. But this is an occasion larger than most he’s experienced — his first NFL playoff game. Will Newton rise again and lead the Carolina Panthers past today’s NFC Divisional playoffs game into the championship? Or will an energized 49ers team shine on a stage they know all too well? You can see the battle unfold today live on FOX at 1:05 EST / 10:05 PST, or you can watch 49ers vs Panthers live stream NFC Divisional Playoffs free online using a few different services.
Last week against the Green Bay Packers, 49ers QB Kaepernick threw for 227 yards and rushed for 98 in San Francisco’s NFC Wildcard win at Lambeau Field. The win was San Francisco’s seventh in a row and continued Kaepernick’s return from a mid-season slump as the 49ers push for their third consecutive NFC Championship game.
But today’s Panthers game in Charlotte is a rematch of one of Kapernick’s worst games as a starter. It happened Nov. 10 this season, when the 49ers lost 10-9 to the Panthers in San Francisco. Kaepernick hadn’t emerged from his mid-season slump two months ago, going 11-for-22 for 91 yards, rushing for just 16 yards and getting sacked six times. Not even Frank Gore could get the 49ers on track, as San Francisco had just 151 total yards.
San Francisco receiver Michael Crabtree last week had his best game of the season at Green Bay (eight catches for 125 yards). Vernon Davis will hope to stay healthy for today’s Panthers game after having to leave early the last time these teams met. And Anquan Boldin will continue a season in which he caught 85 passes for 1,172 yards and seven touchdowns. With three healthy receivers for today’s 49ers game and seemingly back in his 2012 form, Kaepernick is on track to play much better in today’s NFC Divisional playoffs game.
But so is Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, who’s making his first playoff start today at Bank of America Stadium. The Carolina Panthers QB this season had a 61.7 completion percentage, passing for 3,379 yards and 24 touchdowns to go with 13 interceptions. Newton’s 88.8 quarterback rating was only 14th in the league, and his total yards were the lowest of his three-year career. Yet the Panthers QB was still mentioned in the MVP discussion. Against the 49ers on Nov. 10, Newton completed only 50% of his passes, had just 169 yards, didn’t score a touchdown and managed a 52.7 rating. So like Kaepernick, Newton’s primed for a better performance as you watch 49ers vs Panthers live stream NFC Divisional Playoffs free online.
While the marketing for today’s Panthers 49ers game is focused on two young dual-threat quarterbacks, the last time they met it was one of the season’s more physical games. Carolina led the league in sacks this year (60), and they have 15 sacks in the past two games alone. Remember the six times Kaepernick went down on Nov. 10 against the Panthers? You can bet he does too.
The Panthers have won three straight games and 11 of their past 12, including wins at San Francisco and against the New England Patriots. It’s tempting to think Newton and Co., especially with receiver Steve Smith back on the field, will cruise to victory again in this rematch. But after a bye week, with Newton in his first playoff game, and with the 49ers gaining momentum and victories at the right time, today’s NFC Divisional playoffs game is up for grabs.
Kickoff for today’s NFC Divisional Playoffs game is scheduled for 1:05 EST / 10:05 PST on FOX. You can watch 49ers vs Panthers live stream NFC Divisional Playoffs free online on DirecTV’s website if you have the NFL Sunday Ticket with Max package. Watching the online live streaming version like that requires a subscription, but anyone who has a subscription can watch any NFL playoff game free online, including today’s NFC Divisional Playoffs game between the San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers.