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And that No. 5 seed for the NFC West runner-ups? No matter.

Kaepernick connected with a couple of his favorite playoff targets Sunday, completing eight passes for 125 yards to Crabtree and a 28-yard touchdown pass to tight end Vernon Davis in the fourth quarter against the Packers.

Dawson deserved his share of the credit, too. On a day when no kick was a gimme, he came through with three field goals and the game-winner.

Biggest kick ever?

“It is right now,” Dawson said. “I’ve waited a long time to win a playoff game.”

Harbaugh said he shared a special moment afterward with the kicker, looking at the joy in Dawson’s eyes — “You could tell he’s just happier maybe than he’ll ever be and he’ll remember that for many years to come.”

Harbaugh, who brought in wrestler Ric Flair for an animated pep talk, became the first coach since 1970 to win 13 or more games, including the postseason, in each of his first three years.

By the end of a fun flight home, he had turned his focus to the Panthers.

In the last game against Carolina, the 49ers lost a pair of key players on either side of the ball to concussions — tight end Vernon Davis and rookie safety Eric Reid.

And Kaepernick has come a long way since that loss two months ago that followed the bye week.

“He’s a tough guy, and a quarterback like that, you’ll do whatever for him,” running back Frank Gore said.

Having Crabtree back in the mix sure helps. The team’s top wideout from 2012 returned for the final five games of the regular season after recovering from a torn right Achilles tendon that required surgery in May.

“More dangerous,” Harbaugh said. “Michael Crabtree was not there for that game and Vernon was out of the game early with a concussion.”