2016 Carolina Panthers
After an impressive 2015 season that included 15 regular-season wins and NFL MVP accolades for quarterback Cam Newton, the Panthers had little reason to celebrate in 2016. The calendar year began with a crushing Super Bowl loss, and the 2016 season ended with a last-place finish in the NFC South.
San Francisco 49ers
Why were the Panthers so bad in 2016? Much of the blame deserves to be shouldered by the NFL’s reigning MVP, who underwent surgery to repair a partially torn rotator cuff after sustaining the injury in Week 14 last season.
The Panthers did take a step back, defensively, in 2016 — partially due to a six-game injury to Pro-Bowl linebacker Luke Kuechly — but they were still a top-10 defense over the course of the season. Carolina’s offense was mostly responsible for the team’s woes, and their franchise quarterback was a substantial part of the problem.
The Panthers made some significant additions and a suffered few losses over the offseason. In March, defensive lineman Julius Peppers returned to Carolina; the 37-year-old is surely reaching the end of his career, but still racked up 18 sacks over his past two seasons with the Green Bay Packers.
The Panthers lost defensive coordinator Sean McDermott to a head coaching job with the Buffalo Bills, and replaced McDermott with assistant coach Steve Wilks. Carolina also lost wide receivers Ted Ginn and Philly Brown, as well as punter Andy Lee — a fan favorite from his days in San Francisco.
49ers vs. Panthers – 2016 NFL Season, Week 2
It may seem like eons ago, but less than a year ago, the San Francisco 49ers traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina to play the Panthers in Week 2 of the 2016 NFL Season.
High off their 28-0 victory over the Los Angeles Rams, the 49ers’ hopes were dashed by a 46-27 loss to the Panthers, which began a 13-game losing streak for the Niners. However, if you remember this game, you probably recall that the teams were much more competitive than the final score indicated.
The 49ers defense dominated the first quarter of the game, holding the Panthers scoreless and causing two turnovers. Unfortunately, after a Phil Dawson field goal and a subsequent stop by the Niners’ defense, the Panthers returned 49ers running back Carlos Hyde’s fumble for a touchdown and took a 7-3 lead.
Early in the second quarter, the 49ers responded with a rare touchdown pass to wide receiver Torrey Smith. The Panthers offense then sprang to life, beginning with their first play of the next drive:
Carolina scored the next 24 points of the game, and held a commanding 31-10 lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter. But instead of giving up, the 49ers showed heart and managed a comeback of their own.
The 49ers defense forced a pair of turnovers which lead to 10 points for the offense, before the Panthers drove the ball down the field for a 31-yard field goal, and a 34-20 lead.
Two plays later, 49ers tight end Vance McDonald brought the game within one score on the Niners’ longest offensive play of the season:
Unfortunately, those were the last points the 49ers would muster in Week 2.
By the end of the game, the Panthers added two additional field goals, and the following touchdown which sealed the game for Carolina:
2016 was a year when 49er fans searched for moral victories in the midst of blowouts. However, 2017 is a new year — and one where victories should be more attainable than in recent years past. What is the San Francisco 49ers’ — and Kyle Shanahan’s — offensive game plan for the Panthers on Sunday?