The Carolina Panthers needed a big win to show they’re for real this year; genuine contenders in the NFC. Picking up their fifth in a row, over the San Francisco 49ers, in Candlestick Park, it’s hard to argue about their credentials anymore after the 10-9 victory.
No pretty numbers, no big plays, no mistake-free performance. The Panthers came to San Francisco in order to grind out a win and did just that, by simply overpowering a team that has let it happen to them too many times this season, once again exposing their weakness at quarterback.
Cam Newton threw only 16-of-32 with one very foolish interception early on, and the ground game didn’t do anything too special: 111 yards on 30 carries, including one touchdown from DeAngelo Williams. But often football games are won in the trenches, where line clash, and that’s where the Panthers had a huge advantage all day long.
They sacked Colin Kaepernick six times and hit him 7 more times, also forcing an interception. The 49ers quarterback completed only 50% of his passing attempts, going the distance of 91 yards. Once again, the running game was good (105 yards on 24 carries), but the 49ers went to pass mode, which is simply the wrong decision, as it’s been proven time and time again for them this season.
The Panthers held their ground after a field goal early in the fourth quarter; the 49ers looked helpless. They had only four yards of offense on 14 fourth-quarter plays, as Kaepernick went 2-of-9 with an interception, sacked three times as well. Most of the Panthers’ sacks came while using only four pass rushers, showing just how dominant they were along the lines, an area which is usually completely controlled by the 49ers, but after games against the Jags, Texans and Rams, maybe they got a little bit soft and complacent.
Kaepernick hasn’t been sacked more than three times all season, and even his famous running ability couldn’t help him. He finished with 16 yards on 4 carries, but couldn’t get any passing plays to go his way when escaping the pocket. All his runs were on designed plays, and he didn’t record one scramble, this time not coming from some sort of choice to show he can win with passing the ball. He simply didn’t have anywhere to go, finishing with 0-of-4, sacked twice, when trying to throw outside the pocket.
The tackling from the Panthers was great: The 49ers were limited to 44 yards after contact on 32 rushes and receptions, with 12 of those yards coming in one Frank Gore rush. The 3.9 average yards after the catch was the lowest for them this season.
Cam Newton was good when they needed him too: He was 6-of-8 for 63 yards on third down in the second half after going 1-4 with an interception on third down in the first half. He was especially efficient when targeting Steve Smith, also going 6-of-8 when going for his best receiver after targeting him only once during the first half.
A win like this can boost us, a win like this can continue to give us life throughout the season, and make us feel like we’re working for something, and we are.