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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The 49ers will require a third consecutive playoff victory on the road to get back to the Super Bowl.
And everybody knows what’s next. It's a playoff matchup against a rival that's been anticipated for most of the season.
“We have to go to Seattle,” 49ers running back Frank Gore said. “We know it’s going to be a dog fight. But we are built for this.”
The 49ers entered their divisional playoff game against the Carolina Panthers just one week after a hard-fought victory in frigid conditions over the Green Bay Packers.
The weather was perfect on Sunday. And the 49ers played nearly perfect ball during a decisive stretch from late in the second quarter throughout the third quarter for a convincing 23-10 victory over the Panthers. The win sets the stage for the rubber match with the Seahawks to determine which team represents in the NFC in Super Bowl XLVIII.
When asked if he was excited for another 49ers-Seahawks matchup, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh answered: “Sure. Why not? Our team’s excited to have this chance at the ultimate chance. We’ll be ready.”
The 49ers have lost their two previous games at Seattle by a combined score of 71-16. The 49ers defeated Seattle, 19-17, at Candlestick Park on Dec. 8.
“We don’t want it to end for us,” said 49ers safety Donte Whitner, who clinched Sunday’s victory with an interception of Panthers quarterback Cam Newton in the fourth quarter.
“We understand that we have to go up there in a hostile environment with a really good football team and do what a lot of people probably aren’t going to pick us to do. That’s OK with us. We understand what we have to do.”
The Seahawks have lost just one game at home over the past two seasons. Seattle, the NFC West champion and No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs, advanced to the NFC Championship game with a 23-15 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Saturday.
“We have to prepare throughout the week, understand what they want to do, go out there, play well and take it away from them,” Whitner said.
The 49ers will make their third consecutive trip to the NFC Championship game under Harbaugh. The 49ers lost to the New York Giants at Candlestick Park after the 2011 regular season. Last year, the 49ers defeated the Atlanta Falcons on the road to advance to Super Bowl XLVII.
“We are doing great things in our organization,” Gore said. “Coach Harbaugh, our general manager (Trent Baalke), picking great players. We are doing it the right way.”
[RELATED: Gore worked with Davis on his nifty footwork]
Said Michael Crabtree, “I don’t even look at it as the NFC Championship. I’m looking at it like we are playing the Seattle Seahawks. We just finished this game, and I’m looking forward to the next one.”