Colin Kaepernick raced into the end zone, then pretended to rip open his shirt with both hands imitating Cam Newton’s Superman touchdown celebration.
Three years of frustration had come to a head.
“Just a little shoutout,” Kaepernick said.
“I think you know the answer,” Kaepernick said with a grin.
Kaepernick said he “will never forget” that he was selected in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft, 35 spots behind Newton, the Heisman Trophy winner and the top pick that season.
On Sunday, he threw one touchdown pass and ran for another score as the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Carolina Panthers 23-10 to advance to the NFC title game for the third straight season.
Kaepernick completed 15 of 28 passes for 196 yards, avenging his worst statistical performance of the season two months ago against Carolina.
“That’s not the first, nor will it be the last time somebody does that,” Newton said of Kaepernick’s copycat display before leaving the postgame podium.
Anquan Boldin had eight catches for 136 yards and Frank Gore ran for 84 yards on 17 carries for the 49ers (14-4), who will visit Seattle on Sunday looking for a return trip to the Super Bowl.
“I think we’re the two teams that everybody was looking at from the beginning,” Kaepernick said. “It’s going to be a knockdown, drag-out game.”
The 49ers will have their hands full.
San Francisco (14-4) split two games with the Seahawks this season, but lost 29-3 at CenturyLink Field in September.
Receiver Michael Crabtree had three catches for 26 yards, but Boldin said he drew plenty of double teams that allowed him to get open.
“That’s the great thing about our team — we have weapons all around,” Boldin said. “You try to take one guy out and you still have two or three guys left who can make big plays.”
The 49ers intercepted Newton twice and sacked him five times while stopping the Panthers (12-5) twice on the 1-yard line in the first half.
Newton had 267 yards passing and had 54 yards on 10 carries, his only TD pass a 31-yard TD strike to Steve Smith.
Linebacker Ahmad Brooks stopped Newton on a fourth-down sneak early in the second quarter.
“Terrible ending to a great season,” Newton said.
Kaepernick was held to 91 yards passing, 16 yards rushing and sacked six times in the first meeting with Carolina, a 10-9 loss at Candlestick Park.
“We had to get settled down,” Kaepernick said. “We came out, they did some unorthodox things against us. We settled down, we got into our rhythm, we started making plays.”
San Francisco led 13-10 at the half when Kaepernick scored midway through in the third quarter on a 4-yard touchdown run off a read option.
The 49ers took a 13-10 lead into the locker room after Vernon Davis caught a 1-yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone from Kaepernick with 5 seconds left in the first half.
Davis was initially ruled out of the end zone, and 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh raced on to the field, drawing a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. Harbaugh said he wasn’t disputing the ruling, but rather that the play clock continued to run after the play.
Officials overturned the call ruling Davis dragged his left foot and scored.
Television replays showed the 49ers had 12 men in the huddle with backup tight end Vance McDonald racing to the sidelines before the snap. Referee Carl Cheffers told a pool reporter the ball hadn’t been spotted. Television replays seem to indicate otherwise.
Carolina spotted San Francisco a 6-0 lead with two defensive penalties – an unnecessary roughness on safety Mike Mitchell and a headbutt on cornerback Captain Munnerlyn – leading to field goals.