No. 1: The 49ers will look to capitalize on Carolina’s inability to continue drives, namely on third and fourth downs.
Besides touchdowns and pick sixes, a solid defensive stand is one of the most exciting things in football. When your defense is able to line up eye-to-eye with opposing teams’ offensive linemen, with only a few inches separating them and then are able to completely shut them down on 4th-and-goal with no time left, it’s the most hyped moment of the game.
The 49ers have done a spectacular job of ending teams’ drives earlier than expected. Robert Saleh’s defense is more like a brick wall when it comes to third and fourth downs. Opponents have been in third-down situations 70 times and have only been successful on 21 of those attempts. That’s a staggering 30 percent completion for the other team. Only the Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots are better on third downs.
But the situation gets even better when the 49ers can force the offence to try a fourth-down conversion. Out of 10 attempts, the Niners have allowed only one conversion. One! That’s best in the league by far.
The brick wall will be a force against a Panthers offense which struggles to continue drives. Carolina only operates at 34 percent on their first attempt to continue the drive. They’ve only tried to go for it on fourth down five times, but were only successful once.
If the Panthers want any idea of what not to do, they should look at this fourth-down attempt by the Rams. Hint, it didn’t go well:
It’s not a stretch to say both teams are in tough this week. However, the 49ers will exploit all these weaknesses and more, to continue their quest for another championship.