The San Francisco 49ers advanced to their third straight NFC Championship Game after a hard-fought, chippy 23-10 victory over the Panthers in Carolina on Sunday.
The charm I’m referring to is, of course, winning the Super Bowl, but the 49ers will have to get past Seattle next week before that could even be thought about.
That said, San Francisco does deserve to be in Seattle. The 49ers were the better team Sunday against the Panthers.
However, it was a tale of two halves. The first half there was so much chippyness going on that the officials had a very difficult time getting control of the game. And when you have a game like that, it can sometimes lead to some inconsistent calls. The officials called a head-butt penalty against Carolina’s Captain Munnerlyn, but failed to do so against San Francisco’s Anquan Boldin on a very similar play.
The officials have to be cognizant that if they are going to throw flags for unnecessary roughness, they have to make sure to call them evenly both ways. Nevertheless, the officiating crew did work hard to keep the teams apart.
In the second half, things were much calmer. There was an occasional throwdown and a swing-and-a-miss from Carolina’s Josh Thomas that was called. It was a foul, but not an ejection. If Thomas had connected with his punch, then it would have resulted in an ejection.
Certainly the teams were much more under control in the second half and I would not be surprised if the officials had a pretty frank discussion with both coaches prior to the second half, warning both teams that they were going to throw flags until they got the game under control.
My overall grade for referee Carl Cheffers and his crew in a real tough game: B-
I say B- because of the inconsistency of the head-butt calls, as well as the roughing-the-passer call made against the 49ers on Cam Newton, who was peeling out of the pocket and was hit with the shoulder to the head area. I don’t think that foul should have been called. You also had a play at the end of the first half, when the 49ers had 12 men in the huddle that wasn’t called when it should have been, right before Colin Kaepernick completed the go-ahead touchdown pass to Vernon Davis.
There were too many misses by the crew when you get to this point in the playoffs. I do, however, give the officials kudos for working so hard to keep the game under control. They physically got involved, but there were a couple of things that should have been picked up that weren’t.
The team that won the game deserved it. It wasn’t the officials who kept Carolina out of the Championship Game.