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How 49ers can beat Panthers in NFC playoffs

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On Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers visit the Carolina Panthers in an NFC divisional round game. What do Colin Kaepernick and company need to do to win?

1. Play solid defense

The Niners' front seven needs to harass Cam Newton and close up short-yardage passing lanes. Carolina may have an excellent defense (15 points allowed per game), but so does San Francisco (17 points allowed).

2. Running Back Committee

There are times when Frank Gore struggles for stretches at a time. The Panthers have an excellent linebacker corps. If Frank can't get respectable gains, Jim Harbaugh needs to give the ball to Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James in order to change the pace of the game and give the team dynamic ball carriers.

3. Protect Kapernick

The SF quarterback can't take sacks in this game. He needs time to throw laser passes to Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis, and Anquan Boldin.

Kapernick probably won't have a field day running the football, given the Panthers' elite defense. Thus, the 49ers will need big passing plays so they won't be too reliant on the ground game.

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