In the final minute of the 10-9 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers were down by only one point when Drayton Florence intercepted a pass from Colin Kaepernick. The turnover was symbolic of Kaepernick’s day trying to kick start the passing game and the frustration caused by Carolina’s defensive front-seven.
Despite the final score being so close, the offensive stats said otherwise for the 49ers, as Kaepernick finished with just 46 net passing yards. San Francisco’s defense did an excellent job limiting Newton to just 169 passing yards and 17 rushing yards. The defense was the lone bright spot for the Niners in the loss and they kept the team in the game until the final minute.
A big reason why the 49ers were defeated in Week 10 was because of multiple missed chances in the first half to score touchdowns instead of field goals. San Francisco’s efficiency converting on third-downs was terrible, failing 11-of-13 times to get a first down. The Panthers defensive front-seven was relentless with their pressure and they gave Kaepernick no time to throw.
Carolina’s defense was played like they had the bye-week and not the 49ers. Cam Newton and his offense converted multiple third-downs, with the most deadly being the conversion right before the two minute warning in the fourth quarter.
Not much fooled the Panthers defense and they were able to easily read most of the plays the Niners were trying to run. Kaepernick was sacked 5.5 times and Frank Gore was limited to just 82 rushing yards on 16 carries. The 49ers offense had five three-and-outs in the loss.
The play that deflated the air out of Candlestick Park for Niner fans was Kendall Hunter’s fumble late in the third quarter. With the 49ers leading 9-7, San Francisco was driving and at the Panthers’ 39-yard line. Hunter received a jarring hit that knocked the football out of his hands and was recovered by Quintin Mikell. The Panthers would go on to punt, but Hunter’s fumble stalled one of the few positive drives of the game for the 49ers.
Not only did the 49ers lose the game, but they also lost Vernon Davis, Garrett Celek, Ray McDonald and Eric Reid who left with injuries. Davis and Reid suffered concussions. Celek left with a hamstring injury, while McDonald hurt his ankle.
This is a game the 49ers should have won, especially coming off a bye-week and riding a five-game winning streak. With the loss and now a 6-3 record, San Francisco drops two games behind the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West. Next week will not get any easier for the 49ers as they travel to New Orleans to take on the Drew Brees and the Saints.