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49ers notebook: Rogers' absence has little impact

Cam Newton gets off a pass despite pressure from 49ers defenders.

Kent Porter / The Press Democrat
Published: Sunday, January 12, 2014 at 6:50 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 12, 2014 at 6:50 p.m.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The two most-discussed body parts last week belonged to 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers and Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith. Rogers was nursing a strained hamstring. Smith was trying to return from a knee injury. Both were listed as questionable for Sunday's playoff game.

As if to justify the 50-50 odds implied by the “questionable” tag, Smith played for Carolina while Rogers sat out the game.

Smith, in fact, made quite an impact. The veteran caught four passes for 74 yards, including a 31-yard scoring grab in the second quarter (over Brown) on a laser-guided pass from Cam Newton.

Rogers' absence didn't seem to hurt the 49ers terribly. Starting cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Tramaine Brock played solidly, and the defense wasn't forced to play a lot of nickel coverage (with an extra defensive back) until late in the game.

“Knowing him and the kind of guy that he is, I got a chance to talk to him before the game, and when he didn't suit up it was kind of shocking,” Newton said of Rogers. “But those guys didn't let that make them nor break them.”

CHIP ON KAP'S SHOULDER

Just as Colin Kaepernick is known for “Kaepernicking” — kissing his biceps after a great play — Newton is known for the Superman move. Following touchdowns, he pretends to rip open his shirt to display the symbolic S of his superhero suit.

When Kaepernick scored on a 4-yard run in the third quarter, he hedged his bets and did both.

“Just a little shout-out,” the quarterback said of the Superman gesture.

A shout-out to Newton, and a defiant one at that. Kaepernick has said before that he will never forget five quarterbacks were drafted ahead of him in 2011. Top of that list was Newton, taken by the Panthers with the first pick in the draft. Asked if beating Newton in the playoffs will take the edge off of that resentment, Kaepernick replied: “I still won't forget it.”

“He was just being Kappy,” tight end Vernon Davis said. “I don't fault him for that. I mean, look, I can't judge him. We can't judge him. He was just excited. I'm sure him and Cam are good friends.”

Then again, maybe 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks was the real Superman on Sunday. On the most comical play of the game, he leaped over the Carolina offensive line in a single bound on a play near the goal line. Unfortunately for Brooks, he jumped early and was flagged for encroachment as the rest of the players remained motionless.

PITCH IN THE DIRT

Facing a fourth-down play with 23 seconds left in the game, the 49ers figured out a way to run out the rest of the clock. They dialed up a fake punt that called for punter Andy Lee to throw a pass to the gunner on the right side, Kassim Osgood.

Just one problem: Lee bounced the throw. The Panthers took over on downs.

“We had that in our arsenal, and we told Andy to throw it,” head coach Jim Harbaugh said. “He throws a lot better in practice. I can guarantee he throws a lot better in practice.”

ONE GUY TOO MANY

A mini-controversy erupted after the chaotic 49ers touchdown just before halftime. In addition to a reversal of the original ruling and a penalty on Harbaugh for running onto the field, photos later revealed that the 49ers briefly had 12 men in their huddle. That should draw a 5-yard penalty, right?

No. Referee Carl Cheffers explained later that he had not yet marked the ball ready for play while telling the defense that two 49ers offensive linemen, Daniel Kilgore and Adam Snyder, had reported as eligible receivers.

“The ball was not in play yet,” Cheffers said. “That's why I didn't call the foul on the play.”

EXTRA POINTS

=The 49ers allowed their fewest points in a playoff game since a 14-0 victory against Philadelphia in 1996.

=Davis caught his 11th career postseason touchdown pass, tying Dave Casper for the most in NFL history among tight ends.

=With 84 yards, Frank Gore moved into second place in franchise career postseason rushing. He trails only Roger Craig.

=The 49ers finally scored a touchdown against the Panthers on their 18th drive of the season against them.

=FB Will Tukuafu, a converted defensive tackle, left the game with a knee injury, landing awkwardly when tackled after making his first career reception.

=Harbaugh's maternal grandfather, Joe Cipiti, died Sunday at the age of 98.

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