The Carolina Panthers won in San Francisco 10-9 way back in Week 10 -- a victory that stamped the Panthers as one of the NFL's best teams.

Two months later, the 49ers get another crack at them.

"We owe them," quarterback Colin Kaepernick said after Sunday's wild-card win in Green Bay.

This is not the same 49ers team that barely lost back in November. They have their No. 1 wide receiver Michael Crabtree healthy and are playing at a very high level. Tight end Vernon Davis suffered a concussion during the first game; he's scored six touchdowns in as many playoff games. Linebacker Aldon Smith has returned to the squad and is terrorizing passers again.

Perhaps the biggest difference: Kaepernick and the 49ers' passing attack is effective again. He is seeing the field better and knowing when to run. His game against the Panthers represented the nadir of his season: 22 passing attempts for only 91 yards, with six sacks incurred and one interception. The 49ers had one completion over 11 yards -- it went for 14.