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.”