Ahmad Brooks jumping over the line of scrimmage prematurely on Sunday will be the moment many remember about the 49ers outside linebacker's NFC Divisional playoff performance.
But consider that the unfortunate play overshadowed a 2.5-sack game by Brooks, just when San Francisco needed him most.
The defense would take Carolina quarterback Cam Newton down five times in the team's 23-10 conference title game-clinching victory in Charlotte.
So Brooks could be forgiven for being antsy.
He cleared the opposing offensive line and grazed the back and helmet of a flopping Newton on his way to the turf. When he came to his feet, left tackle Jordan Gross greeted him with a shove.
Brooks' leap over the line at the one-yard line with just five minutes left in the second quarter resulted in a replay of the down. On the following 3rd-and-1 play, fellow 'backer NaVorro Bowman stuffed Panthers running back Mike Tolbert, forcing a 24-yard, Graham Gano field goal try.
As Bowman said postgame of Brooks' infraction, "You're not going to gain five yards forward, so it didn't really hurt us."
Brooks, by the way, re-set his career single-game high in the postseason; he recorded two sacks of Green Bay Packers signal-caller Aaron Rodgers in the Wild Card round the week before.
The seven-year veteran now has 6.5 career playoff sacks with the 49ers, tying him for second most among pass rushers in franchise history.
"Ahmad's progressed and become a better pass rusher here in the last year or so," defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said last week. "Just worked at it and played more and learned through experience. Learned through what works, what doesn't work, what's best for him, what's not best for him. And just having more opportunities."
For more storylines surrounding the team, check out this edition of Morning Tailgate links, presented by State Farm.
**Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News** provided an early report on Will Tukuafu's injury.
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.comnoted Frank Gore's part in Vernon Davis' touchdown.
Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chroniclecommented on Gore's own performance.
Bill Williamson of ESPN.comwrote that the 49ers spoke with their play on Sunday.
Chris Burke of SI.comfocused his attention on the defense's attention to detail.
Mike Garafolo of FoxSports.comlooked at the conference title game rivalries.
**Taylor Price of 49ers.com** said San Francisco is ready for a third matchup in Seattle.
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