Panthers Defense Steals The Show- The Carolina Panthers showed the San Francisco 49ers that a number two rated defense will virtually shut down any offense if faces. Sunday was no exception as the 49ers for the second time this season were held without a touchdown in a 10-9 loss to the Carolina Panthers. The loss ends the 49ers five game winning steak and deals the red and gold a serious blow in their chances to catch the Seattle Seahawks atop of the NFC West. The Panthers with the win have now won five in a row and are a serious challenger to New Orleans in the NFC South. As with many on the 49ers offensive unit, Colin Kaepernick had a bad day and only competed 11 of 22 passes for 91 yards. If you factor in the losses on six QB sacks, the 49ers net passing on the day was only 46 yards. The 49ers only made two third down conversions and netted 151 total yards on the entire afternoon which usually means your offense is in trouble. To make matters even worse, the 49ers lost both Vernon Davis (to a concussion) and Garrett Celek (hamstring) in the second quarter. 49ers safety Eric Reid also was evaluated for possible concussion as well.
Defense Did Their Job- The 49ers held the Panthers offensively to 10 points which on most afternoons is more than enough to win the game, but not Sunday. Cam Newton completed 16 of 32 passes for 169 yards however made several third down conversions to keep Carolina drives going just long enough to drain time off of the clock. The play where the Panthers scored their lone touchdown late in the second quarter on DeAngelo Williams 27 yard run, the 49ers missed three tackles, the last of which was 11 yards before the end zone. Aside from that, the Panthers offense did not do a whole lot but did just enough. Williams would only gain 46 yards on the day total while Jonathan Stewart had only 41 yards. Newton himself only had 17 yards on the ground. As for the passing game Carolina did not break off any big gainers. However most of their passing yards were accumulated on third down plays. Ahmad Brooks had three sacks of Newton while Patrick Willis had one. NoVarro Bowman made seven tackles on the day. Tramaine Brock had an interception of Newton in the second quarter.
49ers Offense Had 1st Half Chances- The best chance the 49ers had for a touchdown on the afternoon came in the second quarter as they were able to drive to the Carolina three yard line. The 49ers at this juncture were leading 6-0 on two earlier field goals by Phil Dawson and came upon a 4th and one. The 49ers used the down to see if they could draw the Panthers defense offsides. When this plan did not work the 49ers went ahead and settled for Dawson's third field goal of the game from 25 yards out. It would be the last time in the game the 49ers would see the red zone. Only two 49ers series from this point on would not end on three and outs. Dawson in the first and second quarter kicked field goals which came from distances of 52 and 43 yards away. The 49ers early in the game had third down troubles with short yardage situations. Simple running plays using either Frank Gore or Kendall Hunter would end up in plays which lost yardage. The Panthers defense each and every time that it needed to rose to the occasion and the 49ers simply had no answers. So dominant was the Carolina defense that whatever halftime adjustment the 49ers needed to make, they simply and clearly didn't work.
No Breaks Whatsoever- Late in the game the Panther fumbled the ball twice while trying to run out the clock inside of the last two minutes of the game. Each time somehow the ball just bounced Carolina's way as the 49ers just could not get to the loose ball in time. Kaepernick often times found himself being flushed out of the pocket and forced to throw the ball away. The 49ers offensive line more often than not was completely overmatched. The Panthers defensive line was often times winning battles rather easily and decidedly. All and all and despite having two weeks to prepare for this game, in the end for the 49ers this was a bad match against a team that simply knew what to do against them and did it very well.
Ramifications of Loss- The loss for the 49ers here deals them a very huge blow for their divisional hopes. While 6-3 may not seem like a bad record to some, it's not that good when you consider the 49ers are once again two games behind the Seattle Seahawks (8-1) in the NFC West. The 49ers to win the NFC West now will virtually have to run the table over the next seven games. The Seattle game coming up at Candlestick Park on December 8th in Week 14 was already a "Must Win", and is that even more now. The 49ers will also need a lot of help as the Seahawks schedule is very user friendly. Three of their last four home games are Minnesota, St Louis and Arizona. Seattle also host New Orleans on Monday night the week before they come to Candlestick. The 49ers are by no means out of any playoff picture after Sunday. What it does mean is that the 49ers may have to find a way to become road warriors by January. That will have to start next Sunday at New Orleans.
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