The NFL season is down to just three games remaining, and all four favorites advanced to the championship round next Sunday.
49ers 23, Panthers 10
The Niners were largely outplayed in the first half, but two huge goal-line stands kept them in the game. They picked on the offense in the final seconds of the first half and the second half behind Colin Kaepernick, who finished with 196 yards passing and two touchdowns (one rushing). Vernon Davis caught a touchdown in the back corner of the end zone with just five seconds left in the first half and then took their opening drive of the second half 77 yards for a touchdown.
Broncos 24, Chargers 17
Peyton Manning and the Broncos found themselves tested against the Chargers Sunday, as Denver nearly gave up a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter. But Denver was able to dodge a bullet and earn the win. The Broncos led the entire game, but San Diego stepped up in the second half, using a 49-yard fourth down completion, Phillip Rivers to Keenan Allen to set up a 16-yard scoring strike to Allen to cut the Denver lead to 24-14. The Chargers recovered a fumble and got a quick three points on a Nick Novak field goal with 3:53 to play, but Manning was able to help the Broncos burn enough clock to run out the Chargers season.
The NFL Final Four
The final four has been determined, and next week the last remaining NFC and AFC teams will go to battle for the right to represent their conferences in the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. Here’s an early glimpse of the match ups:
49ers at Seahawks
Jan. 19, 6:30 p.m., FOX
The Seahawks won convincingly at home way back in Week 2, 29-3. The 49ers won a nailbiter, 19-17 at Candlestick Park on Dec. 8. Third time could be a charm for whoever wins this battle between the two best teams in the NFC’s best conference. The Niners have 60 minutes between themselves and a second straight Super Bowl, but they will also have to contend with CenturyLink Field, where Seattle is 15-1 over the last two seasons.
Patriots at Broncos
Jan. 19, 3 p.m., CBS
It’s what everyone has wanted all season, Brady vs. Manning for all the marbles. And after a tough test against the Chargers Sunday night, the two best quarterbacks of the past two decades will go head-to-head for a chance to play in the Super Bowl. The Patriots had no problem with the Colts Saturday and both teams are playing great football at the most important time.