Clearly, the Panthers were amped up to be participating in a playoff game on Sunday, and the first quarter or so was marked by an abundance of trash-talking by Carolina, especially by the team's secondary.

Early in the game, when cornerback Mike Mitchell got in the face of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, I wondered how long it would be before Kaepernick repaid Carolina's secondary with some offensive magic. But nearly as painful to Carolina and its chances to grab an early lead were the personal foul penalties on Mitchell and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn that extended San Francisco drives and led to early field goals.

To Panthers coach Ron Rivera, it was due to a lack of self-control.

“I think there were some things that happened in the first half that really bothered me,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said, via the Charlotte Observer. “We lost our composure a couple times and they got inside our head.”

Which is interesting because for the first few minutes, it seemed as though the Panthers were trying to be the bullies that pushed around the 49ers. San Francisco safety Donte Whitner saw it from another perspective: The 49ers, he mentioned, had more experience in those type of playoff atmospheres (the Panthers, meanwhile, hadn't been to the playoffs since the 2008 season).