The San Francisco 49ers play the Carolina Panthers tomorrow at 10:15 pacific time in the divisional round playoffs. There are multiple important aspects to playing any football game, but one in particular for this one is controlling Cam Newton.
Pundits often like to talk about “containing” a quarterback, especially an athletic one like Newton. That is not what the 49ers need to do, however. Like the last matchup between these two defensively-led teams, the 49ers must control Newton, forcing him to make throws he is not ready to make, forcing him to make decisions a bit too quickly, etc. Control Newton and Steve Smith could still pose problems. Make Newton get the ball out too fast and Smith will automatically be held in check.
The Panthers’ running game also has proved itself, even if Jonathan Stewart is not 100%. The 49ers, though, have handled each and every running back they have faced to this point. I expect them to be able to do the same Sunday, even against a two-headed attack that could pose some problems.
Offensively, Colin Kaepernick must play better than he did the first go-round. That, of course, is stating the obvious. The return of Michael Crabtree should help, as he has developed, once again, into Kap’s favorite target. If Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis can get open for a few good plays each, the 49ers’ offense should be able to provide enough firepower to outscore the Panthers — so long as the defense can control one man named Cam.