No. 2: Emmanuel Sanders Makes a Difference
Yet Sanders’ presence wasn’t overlooked early, however, as he was the first recipient of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo‘s passing efforts. And Sanders then found the end zone to start the scoring off for San Francisco in the first quarter: a 4-yard pass to the weak side of the formation:
Sanders finished the game with four receptions for 25 yards and the score, which doesn’t seem like a lot. But by merely being on the field, commanding the respect from Carolina’s secondary, the 49ers were able to target other pass catchers, including tight end George Kittle, who finished the game with six catches for 86 yards.
Opposing teams aren’t going to be able to double and triple coverage Kittle anymore with Sanders in the picture, and this was evident against the Panthers defense, who had to respect Sanders’ presence on the field.