The 4ers travelled to Charlotte to take on the Carolina Panthers in the divisional round of the NFC Playoffs.
The Last Time
November 10, 2013 – Candlestick Park, San Francisco, CA
Carolina limited San Francisco to 151 total yards and kicker Graham Gano kicked a 53-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to give the Panthers a 10-9 victory over the 49ers. The 49ers opened the contest with a nine-play, 46-yard drive that ended with a 53-yard Phil Dawson field goal to give the 49ers a 3-0 lead.
Dawson added two more field goals in the first half from 43 and 25 yards out before Carolina broke through on the scoreboard.
The game’s lone touchdown came from Carolina running back DeAngelo Williams who slipped away from two defenders for a 27-yard score to cut the San Francisco lead to 9-7 late in the second quarter.
The second half scoring was limited to Gano, who missed his first field goal attempt of the year in the third quarter from 48 yards out. Gano bounced back by converting a 53-yard field goal with just over 10 minutes remaining in the game to give the Panthers their first lead.
Following Gano’s conversion, the 49ers ensuing drive started at San Francisco’s 12-yard line. The 49ers went three-and-out. Later, when the Panthers were forced to punt from the San Francisco 41-yard line, former 49er Colin Jones downed the punt at the one-yard line. The 49ers gained 11 yards in seven plays before punting once again with 2:35 remaining. Running back Jonathan Stewart carried the ball on the next two plays with San Francisco using its first two timeouts. Newton then found wide receiver Steve Smith for nine yards on third-and-eight. Smith was forced out of bounds and 2:12 remained.
Only 1:02 remained when the 49ers took over on their final possession. On first down, defensive tackle Dwan Edwards sacked San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick for a six-yard loss. On the next play, cornerback Drayton Florence clinched the dramatic victory with an interception of a Kaepernick pass intended for wide receiver Mario Manningham, Carolina’s second takeaway of the game.
The 49ers will have elite pass rusher DE Aldon Smith back at full strength. Smith will have to be accounted for on every play, as the Panthers’ line will have a difficult time stopping him.
WR Michael Crabtree has returned from an Achilles injury, giving the 49ers their top receiving weapon.
In the previous matchup, TE Vernon Davis left early with a groin injury, leaving the 49ers with limited offensive weapons.
Despite missing their top receiving threats, San Francisco only lost the game by 1 point. This time, San Fran is coming out at full strength and will allow the 49ers to do more on offense — which means Carolina won’t be able to pin their ears back and simply defend the run.
Looking at season statistics, these teams are very similar across the board. The one difference is sacks. Carolina had 60 on the season, San Francisco had 38. Carolina led the NFL in sacks per pass play.San Francisco will have to account for Pro Bowler Greg Hardy, who is playing at an All Pro level. Carolina’s defensive line should collapse the pocket, and Carolina’s linebackers are perhaps the best in the NFL – with sideline-to-sideline speed to be able to limit Colin Kaepernick’s scrambling. Kaep has a knack for not going through his progression and taking off and running when his first couple of reads are covered. That could lead to another poor passing day for the 49ers.
Carolina has to come out and establish a lead early. They play their best when they force other teams into passing situations, especially teams that aren’t necessarily passing teams.
Carolina has to have a balanced offense, and has to keep their defense fresh. I have a feeling that this game will come down to the last few minutes. Who will be able to step up and win this game in its final minutes?