Panthers Announce Themselves to NFL, with 10-9 win in San Francisco
By Mike Leslie, Sports Anchor/Digital Journalist - email
San Francisco, CA -
The Carolina Panthers have officially announced their status as a member of the NFL's upper echelon. A 10-9 win over the San Francisco 49ers ensured that on Sunday, as Carolina improved to 6-3 on the season.
The Panthers defense was the headliners of the day, allowing just 151 total yards by the San Fran offense. The 49ers mustered just 2 conversions on 13 third downs.
The Panthers offense didn't muster much more (250 yards), but they scored the only touchdown of the game -- a DeAngelo Williams 27-yard TD scamper in the 2nd quarter -- and a Graham Gano FG in the 4th quarter gave the Panthers the lead for good.
But the story was the defense. Colin Kaepernick was harassed into 11-22 passing, for just 91 yards, zero touchdowns, and an interception. The 49ers did amass 105 rushing yards. But they couldn't sustain any substantial drives, as Carolina held the 'Niners to three field goals.
Steve Smith was Cam Newton's main target, catching 6 passes for 63 yards. Brandon LaFell caught four balls for 48 yards. Newton was solid, but unspectacular, completing 16 of 32 passes, for 169 yards. He did not throw a touchdown, and threw one interception.
The 49ers fell to 6-3 on the year. The two teams are tied in the standings. They are the main contenders for NFC Wild Card berths. The Panthers now have the head-to-head edge, if a tie-breaker becomes necessary.
San Francisco opened the game with 9 straight points, capitalizing on a few Panthers errors.
First, a game-opening field goal drive gave the 'Niners a 3-0 lead.
Then, a pair of Panthers miscues led to six points for San Fran. First, after a punt block by Jordan Senn, Drayton Florence muffed the loose ball, and San Francisco recovered. The 49ers turned that into a 43-yard Phil Dawson field goal, five plays later. It was 6-0.
In the second quarter, Cam Newton was intercepted by Tramaine Brock. The interception led to a 25-yard Dawson field goal. The 'Niners led 9-0.
But Carolina responded. Williams' TD run came just out of the two-minute warning in the first half. A misdirection play that featured Newton and LaFell faking an option in the opposite direction opened up a lane for Williams. He did the rest, winding his way through the San Francisco defense for the game's only touchdown.
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