The Carolina Panthers fell to the San Francisco 49ers by a score of 23-10 on Sunday, ending their dreams of a Super Bowl run. After a nice start to the game, the Panthers stalled on both sides of the ball and allowed the 49ers to come away with a convincing victory.
Although this loss is a heartbreaking one for the Panthers, there should be plenty of optimism going forward. Carolina has one of the NFL’s elite defenses and continues to improve on the offensive side of the ball.
Attention will now be turned to free agency and the draft to shore up any needs heading into the 2014 NFL season, where the Panthers should be poised to make a run once again.
San Francisco 49ers - 23
Carolina Panthers - 10
|Positional Unit||1st-Half Grade||Game Grade|
vs. 49ers Divisional Playoffs
Game Grades for the Carolina Panthers
Pass Offense: Cam Newton completely stalled in the second half of Sunday’s game. After a solid first half, he just could not get anything going. Newton did not have much help from his offensive line, as he was under a tremendous amount of pressure. He finished the game completing 16 of his 25 passing attempts for 267 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions for a passer rating of 79.9.
Run Offense: The Panthers continued to maintain a balanced offense during the second half, but they were not able to find much room on the ground. Running backs Mike Tolbert and DeAngelo Williams were mostly ineffective as the team rushed for 93 yards on 24 attempts, averaging 3.9 yards per carry.
Pass Defense: Carolina gave up some big plays through the air in the second half which allowed the 49ers to pile up 17 unanswered points. The secondary was caught out of position on a few occasions, which allowed Anquan Boldin to flourish. Colin Kaepernick completed 15 of 28 passing attempts for 196 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions for a passer rating of 87.8.
Run Defense: The 49ers were able to get their running game going during the second half. Frank Gore broke free for a 39-yard gain in the third quarter and finished with 17 carries for 84 yards. San Francisco finished with 126 yards as a team after rushing for just 25 yards in the first half.
Special Teams: Punter Brad Nortman continued his stellar punting on Sunday, averaging 42.0 yards per punt. Ted Ginn Jr. had a nice punt return in the first half, and Graham Gano was good on his only field-goal attempt on the day.
Coaching: After a good start to the game, it became apparent that Carolina could not make the appropriate halftime adjustments to continue to contain the 49ers. The offense sputtered and the defense caved, allowing the game to get out of hand in the second half. Game management became an issue late, as the Panthers hurry-up offense took far too much time off the clock.
First-Half Grades for the Carolina Panthers
Pass Offense: Newton had a nearly flawless first half. Aside from a tipped ball that resulted in an early interception, he was fantastic. Newton completed eight of his 10 passing attempts for 136 yards, one touchdown and one interception for a passer rating of 112.5.
Run Offense: Newton was at it again here. He rushed seven times for 40 yards, averaging 5.7 yards per carry over the first half. Unfortunately, Williams and Tolbert could not find the same success. These backs averaged just 2.3 and 1.5 yards per carry, respectively.
Pass Defense: Kaepernick could not get anything going against the Panthers secondary until late in the second quarter when he led the 49ers on a touchdown drive. He completed 11 of 24 passing attempts for 121 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions for a passer rating of 75.2.
Run Defense: The Panthers stifled all first-half rushing attempts by San Francisco. As a team, the49ers were only able to gain 25 yards on 10 carries, good enough for an average of just 2.5 yards per rush. Luke Kuechly and the Panthers defense have been dominant so far.
Special Teams: Ginn Jr. ripped off a nice 24-yard punt return early in the second quarter to set up Carolina’s first touchdown of the day. Gano connected on his lone field-goal attempt of the first half.
Coaching: Head coach Ron Rivera had his team fired up and ready to go for Sunday’s contest. The offense moved the ball efficiently, and the defense was stifling early in the game. Carolina struggled in the red zone, though, and halftime adjustments must be made. The Panthers must come away with touchdowns in goal-to-go situations.