Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports


Preview: San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers

Al Sacco
Sep 15, 2016 at 1:13 PM--
Updated Sep 16, 2016 at 11:25 AM


It's hard to imagine that even the most optimistic of fans could have envisioned how dominant the San Francisco 49ers would be in their 28-0 Week 1 thrashing of the Los Angeles Rams. Actually, the team looked very 2011-ish, centering the offensive attack around the run (42 attempts for 150 yards and three scores) and playing fast, swarming defense. The offensive line was dominant early on, and that's saying a lot considering how strong of a front four the Rams have. The team looked well coached and prepared, which was a welcome sight after routinely getting the short end of the stick in that department last season.

Despite all the good feelings, the Niners still have work to do in the passing game, and that could be an issue for them moving forward. The schedule is about to get very difficult, and the rough stretch starts with a trip to Caroline to take on the NFC Champion Panthers. Is San Francisco for real, or did they just beat up on a bad Rams team?


Recent History


The 49ers and Panthers actually met twice in 2013, once during the regular season and again in the playoffs. In the Week 10 match up, both offenses struggled in the 10-9 Carolina win, but the Niners' was especially dreadful. Colin Kaepernick was 11 of 22 for 91 yards and was sacked six times. Frank Gore did manage 82 yards on 16 carries, but it wasn't enough to help San Francisco reach the end zone.

The Divisional Round was a different story however, as a rejuvenated Kaepernick played a solid game, throwing for 196 yards and a score. Anquan Boldin was the target for 136 of them, and Vernon Davis would bring in a 1-yard touchdown pass in the Niner's 23-10 win. This time it was the San Francisco defense that would dominate, as they dropped Cam Newton five times. Ahmad Brooks was the main culprit with 2.5 sacks.

Panthers QB Cam Newton, per PFF
Pressure QB Rating
No pressure 77.4
Plays under pressure 48.4
When not blitzed 65.7
When blitzed 74.0
All Plays 69.5

Players to Watch


One thing that was sorely missing for the 49ers in Week 1 was big plays in the passing game. In order to have a chance against good teams like the Panthers, the Niners will have to hit on some of these, and that's why WR Torrey Smith is so important. Smith was targeted six times against the Rams, but they were mostly shorter passes. Overall he caught 2 balls for 13 yards. Smith led the league in yards per reception last season at 20.1, and Chip Kelly needs to take advantage of his ability to stretch the defense. San Francisco has to take some shots to Smith, even if it's just to keep the defense honest.

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports


Considering he's coming off a knee injury that cost him all of 2015, no one knew how WR Kelvin Benjamin would bounce back for Carolina. Once Newton's favorite target, it was unknown if Benjamin would be eased back into action, or if he would need time to round back into form. Benjamin put all of the doubts to rest though, as he hauled in six of his 12 targets for 91 yards and a score in Week 1. With Newton hurting after a taking a beating at the hands of the Denver Broncos, you could see him run less this week. That will make Benjamin all the more important as Newton may be more of a pocket passer.

Stats to Know


Before their 28-0 win to open the season, the 49ers hadn't scored four touchdowns in a game since Week 16 of 2014. That was also the last time they'd scored more than 27 points. In fact, the Niners only broke 20 points three times all of last season. Scoring will be essential this week, as the Panthers scored 264 points at home last season (33 per game) and scored 27 or more seven times.

PFF's Top Week 1 Grades
49ers Panthers
CB Jimmie Ward, 89.9 LB Luke Kuechley, 83.7
S Eric Reid, 86.9 QB Cam Newton, 83.7
LT Joe Staley, 83.6 TE Greg Olsen, 83.2
DE Arik Armstead, 82.9 C Ryan Kalil, 78.5
LB NaVorro Bowman, 82.8 CB Bene Benwikere, 78.1

Game Changing Factor


The Panther's defense may not be the same as they were a year ago without Pro Bowl corner Josh Norman (now with the Washington Redskins), but they are still an opportunistic group that forces turnovers. The Panthers led the NFL with 39 takeaways last season, and continued that trend with three more in Week 1. Gabbert was often inaccurate and was lucky not to be picked off multiple times by the Rams, but he won't be so lucky if he makes the same mistakes in Carolina.

Matchup Information


Kickoff: Sunday, September 18, 2016 at 10 a.m. PT

Where: Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina

All-Time Matchup: Panthers lead series 11-8

Last Meeting: 1/12/14, 49ers win 23-10, at CAR in NFC Divisional playoff game

Current Streak: Won 1

Betting: The Panthers are 13.5 point favorites

NFL Fan Picks: 75% pick the Panthers to win according to Yahoo! Sports

49ers Fan Picks: Within our Pick 'em Contest, 70% believe the Panthers will win

49ers Schedule: View full schedule

Panthers News: Panthers news at Problitz.com

Follow Game Online: NFL.com's Game Center

Discuss: Niner Talk forum

Follow Us: Facebook, Twitter, Google+

Television and Radio


The game will be televised on FOX (Check 506 Sports to see if it is local).

Play-By-Play: Chris Myers
Color Analyst: Ronde Barber
Sideline Reporter: Jennifer Hale

KGO 810 AM and The Bone 107.7 FM (Other markets) will carry the radio broadcast with Ted Robinson doing the play-by-play and Tim Ryan as the color analyst. ESPN Deportes and KKSF 910 AM will carry the spanish broadcast.

San Francisco 49ers Injuries


Out: OT Anthony Davis (concussion)

Questionable: CB Marcus Cromartie (ankle), CB Chris Davis (hamstring), CB Keith Reaser (ankle), OG Andrew Tiller (ankle)

Carolina Panthers Injuries


Questionable: S Dean Marlowe (hamstring), RB Jonathan Stewart (ankle)

Game Averages (Rank)


49ers Panthers
28.0 (9th)
Offense Pts
20.0 (21st)
320.0 (21st)
Offense Yds
333.0 (19th)
170.0 (27th)
Offense Pass
176.0 (26th)
150.0 (5th)
Offense Rush
157.0 (2nd)
0.0 (1st)
Defense Pts Allowed
21.0 (13th)
185.0 (2nd)
Defense Yds Allowed
307.0 (8th)
120.0 (2nd)
Defense Pass Allowed
159.0 (4th)
65.0 (8th)
Defense Rush Allowed
148.0 (27th)

Individual Statistics


Team Leaders
Passing Comp Yds TD INT
Blaine Gabbert, SF 62.9 170 1 0
Cam Newton, CAR 54.5 194 1 1
Rushing Car Yds Avg TD
Carlos Hyde, SF 23 88 3.8 2
Jonathan Stewart, CAR 15 64 4.3 0
Receiving Rec Yds Avg TD
Jeremy Kerley, SF 7 61 8.7 0
Kelvin Benjamin, CAR 6 91 15.2 1



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