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It was a mixed bag of emotions for San Francisco 49ers fans as they watched their team take on the defending NFC Champion Carolina Panthers on Sunday. At times, the team looked like they would compete and other times looked like they would get blown out. Then a late comeback put the 49ers back in it, only to have that hoped ripped away by Carolina.
On a good note, the 49ers score 27 or more points just once during last year's disastrous 5-11 season. They have done so during each of their first two games this season.
Having played Monday night, the 49ers traveled across the country on a short week to play a road game against a well-rested Panthers team that had not played in 10 days.
The game started off as well as it could for the 49ers defense when ILB NaVorro Bowman deflected a pass by Panthers QB Cam Newton and it landed in the arms of SS Antoine Bethea. However, the 49ers offense was unable to capitalize on the short field and settled for a field goal to take a 3-0 lead early in the first quarter.
Later in the quarter, with the 49ers at their own 15-yard line, RB Carlos Hyde fumbled the ball and it was recovered and run into the end zone by Panthers OLB Shaq Thompson, giving Carolina the 7-3 lead.
Early in the second quarter, Bethea and CB Chris Davis combined to force a fumble by Panthers RB Fozzy Whittaker, which was recovered by ILB Ray-Ray Armstrong. The 49ers took over at their own 41-yard line and responded with a 7-play, 59-yard scoring drive that ended with QB Blaine Gabbert hit WR Torrey Smith for a 28-yard touchdown. Newton struck back quickly with a 78-yard touchdown pass to TE Greg Olsen, giving the Panthers a 14-10 lead.
The Panthers tacked on a field goal in the final seconds of the first half to go into halftime with a 17-10 lead.
Carolina continued to tack on points in the second half, scoring on their first two possessions. Each were touchdown passes from Newton to WR Kelvin Benjamin, giving the Panthers a three-touchdown lead.
ILB Gerald Hodges forced a fumble by Newton early in the fourth quarter. OLB Eli Harold scooped up the football and nearly returned it for the score, which would have cut into the already massive Panthers lead. However, as was the case for the 49ers offense through much of the game, they were not able to move the ball and instead settled for a field goal.
However, on the ensuing kickoff, Ted Ginn muffed the return for the Panthers and RB Shaun Draughn jumped on it at the 1-yard line. Gabbert then held onto he football and ran it into the end zone himself to cut the Panthers lead to 11. That did not last long after a good return by Ginn and a little clock killing by the Carolina offense. The Panthers kicked a field goal after an 8-play, 25-yard drive to take a 34-20 lead.
Gabbert's favorite target, TE Vance McDonald hauled in a 75-yard touchdown pass with just under 8 minutes left in the fourth quarter, cutting the lead down to seven. A field goal by Carolina gave the Panthers a little more breathing room but it was really two late interceptions thrown by Gabbert that sealed the loss for San Francisco. Carolina won the game 46-27.
|Top 49ers Performers|
20 of the 49ers' 27 points came following Panthers turnovers. Gabbert finished the day 16 of 35 for 243 yards passing, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. Hyde carried the ball just 14 times for 34 yards.
For Carolina, Newton completed 24 of his 40 passes for 353 yards, four touchdowns, and an interception. With RB Jonathan Stewart sidelined, Fozzy Whittaker led the Panthers in rushing with 100 yards on 16 carries. Benjamin was deadly against the 49ers secondary. He had seven catches for 108 yards receiving.
As a team, the 49ers managed just 302 total yards compared to the Panthers' 529. On Monday against the Rams, the 49ers had just two penalties for 10 yards. Against Carolina, they had six for 50.
|Penalties (Yds)||6 (50)||8 (50)|
|Punts (AVG)||7 (41)||3 (41)|
|Time of Pos.||23:50||35:54|
The 49ers' next game will be on the road against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, September 25.
Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart exited the game in the first half with a hamstring injury and did not return.
CB Rashard Robinson left the first half after a collision with WR Kelvin Benjamin and did not return. OLB Tank Carradine left the game in the second half after slowly getting up following a tackle of FB Mike Tolbert and walking off the field slowly. Both returned to the game.
ILB Ray-Ray Armstrong had a pectoral injury and has an MRI scheduled for Monday.
Notes and Quotes
"I thought he could have been a little bit more accurate with the ball," said Chip Kelly of Gabbert following the loss.
"He's just so tough to get down on the ground because he's so big," said Kelly of Newton.
#49ers Chip Kelly says too many self-inflicted wounds, specifically drops and missed tackles— Cam Inman (@CamInman) September 18, 2016
"The receivers and I need to be on the same page throughout the game," said Gabbert.