The 49ers defeated the Carolina Panthers 23-10 on Sunday afternoon to advance to the NFC Championship game. Here are the grades for the offense:
Colin Kaepernick: B+
I have to account for the fact that the first half was mostly poor minus the late touchdown drive. Otherwise, Kaepernick played great for the remainder of game hitting Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree when needed. He also made great decision off the read-option which resulted in a four-yard touchdown run. There are a few throws that can be nitpicked, but he made the plays he needed to keep the chains moving.
Running Backs: A-
Frank Gore had 84 rushing yards on 17 carries, which included one run for 39 yards on third down. While it wasn't his greatest performance in his career, the 39-yard run in itself is remarkable because the Panthers loaded the box. The 49ers were also playing without Will Tukuafu (MCL) for most of the game, which limited the running game as Anthony Dixon was the only FB. Kendall Hunter was mostly ineffective minus one run late in the fourth quarter.
Wide Receivers: A-
Anquan Boldin had 136 receiving yards which included a 45-yard reception to set up an eventual touchdown. Michael Crabtree had only three receptions, but one of them was a huge 20-yard reception where he leaped up for it. Quinton Patton also contributed on a third and 9 with a 23-yard reception.
Tight Ends: B-
If this was another game and the statistics were the only reason for grades, this position would get a below average mark. Vernon Davis had only one reception, which was the one-yard touchdown in where he kept both feet in-bounds on replay. The 49ers have had trouble in the red zone when it comes to passing, but Davis contributed helped the team's cause in finally scoring a touchdown on the Panthers defense, which took 89:55 to do in two games. Carolina's defense respected the tight end, leaving room for others to get open. Vance McDonald and Garrett Celek were only on the field as blockers or decoys.
Offensive Line: B+
Pass protection struggled on the opening drives, but the 49ers were able to grind it out in the trenches throughout the second half. Frank Gore's 39-yard run on third down killed anything the Panthers had left on defense, where they couldn't get a consistent ground game going. With Kaepernick not being under pressure after the first quarter, the offensive line did a great job for most of the game.
The Panthers defense is one of the top units in the league for a reason. Greg Roman had a phenomenal second half where the 49ers were able to score 10 points on two consecutive possessions before not scoring in garbage time. From the defense's goal line stand, the offense woke up as they drove down the field for a touchdown right before halftime. The offensive coordinator did not abandon the run as instantly as other games and was able to provide an opportunity for receivers to make plays. For the level of difficulty in facing the Panthers defense to executing on the road, it was a remarkable performance on offense in the second half.
For grades on the 49ers defense and special teams, click here.