49ers defense should feast in Week 5 vs. struggling Panthers

Nick Bosa #97 of the San Francisco 49ers sacks Kyle Allen #7 of the Carolina Panthers (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Nick Bosa #97 of the San Francisco 49ers sacks Kyle Allen #7 of the Carolina Panthers (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

2-2. CBS. 1-3. 87. 49ers -6.5. 42. Sunday, Oct. 9. 4:05 p.m. ET

The 49ers defense has proven to be elite over four weeks of the 2022 season, and an offensively challenged Panthers squad presents a juicy opportunity.

If the San Francisco 49ers want to pad their defensive stats even further heading into the second quarter of the 2022 season, they couldn’t have asked for a better matchup than what’s on the table in Week 5 against the 1-3 Carolina Panthers.

Sure, the Niners might have preferred a normal week of travel instead of having to head back to the East Coast for a road game after playing on Monday Night Football in Week 4.

But, given the challenges Carolina is facing on both sides of the ball this season, at least head coach Kyle Shanahan’s squad knows it’s by far the superior opponent.

And while San Francisco’s offense is still looking to find some rhythm, it’s the 49ers defense that’ll ultimately prove to be the reason why Week 5 should be a dominant victory for the red and gold.

49ers defense already ‘elite’ vs. better opposition than Panthers

Week 4’s win over the Los Angeles Rams, one in which the Niners held LA to just nine points and zero touchdowns, cast aside any doubts as to whether or not San Francisco’s defense could withstand better competition.

In the wake of that victory, one in which the 49ers prevented any play that went for 20-plus yards, coordinator DeMeco Ryans’ unit now sits either at the very top, or at least close to it, in nearly every defensive category:

  • Points allowed: 46 (first)
  • Yards allowed: 938 (tied for first)
  • Yards per play: 3.8 (first)
  • Pass yards allowed: 645 (second)
  • Rush yards allowed: 293 (second)
  • Yards per rush allowed: 2.9 (first)
  • Sacks: 15 (tied for second)

And if you want to get technical, the Niners’ points allowed in Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks came off a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown, while two of the Denver Broncos’ 11 points were due to quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo‘s safety.

Subtract nine points, technically.

Panthers offense will struggle vs. 49ers defense

On nearly the polar opposite spectrum, Carolina’s offense hasn’t exactly wowed over four weeks despite facing middle-of-the-pack defensive teams like the Cleveland Browns, New York Giants, New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals.

Sure, the Panthers have mustered 20-plus points twice on the year (Weeks 1 and 2), and their 78 points total rank 17th in the league.

But, here is where Carolina’s offensive issues get interesting:

  • Total yards: 1,049 (32nd)
  • Yards per play: 4.9 (27th)
  • Pass yards: 644 (30th)
  • Rush yards: 385 (24th)
  • Yards per rush: 4.5 (tied for 12th)
  • Offensive turnovers: Six (tied for 12th most)
  • Sacks taken: 11 (tied for ninth most)

Related Story: 49ers defense leaves no doubts of being ‘elite’ after Rams beatdown

Quarterback Baker Mayfield, who was expected to help right head coach Matt Rhule’s offensive ship, has notably struggled with a 54.7 completion percentage, having tossed four touchdowns against three interceptions, all the while boasting a passer rating of just 75.0.

For all the complaints about Garoppolo, at least his passer rating is 93.2.

More importantly, nearly every one of the Panthers’ offensive struggles plays right into what San Francisco’s defense does well.

49ers will love another Nick Bosa vs. Baker Mayfield matchup

Remember back in 2019 when the 49ers dominated Mayfield and the Browns, highlighted by EDGE Nick Bosa getting some revenge from their collegiate days against each other?

Bosa, who had two sacks in that game, might have quieted down about the Ohio State-Oklahoma rivalry that sparked that particular incident.

But, considering Bosa is on a four-game sack streak and is already towards the top of defensive statistics four weeks into the season, including a league-leading 16 quarterback hits (the next closest players have nine), it’s safe to say the Pro Bowler will be spending most of Sunday in Mayfield’s back pocket.

Yet Bosa will likely be only one of a number of reasons why the 49ers defense will feast against Mayfield and a scuffling Panthers offense this Sunday.

Both teams kick off from Bank of America Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 9 at 4:05 p.m. ET.

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