Yeah, I figured this would happen. Granted, it was the defending NFC champs on a short week and a cross-country-early game, but the team at least kept trying, despite falling way behind in the 3rd quarter. And yeah, Carolina looked like they were close to unraveling completely after a Cam Newton fumble led to a FG and the subsequent kickoff was muffed by Ted Ginn and led to a quick TD.
The truth is Carolina is a better deeper team, but the team looked good at times, and looked overmatched at times. 529 to 302 in yards tell you a lot, and TE Greg Olson beat Anthoine Bethea like a drum all day. Our single coverage on Kelvin Benjamin was beaten badly as this didn’t help the pass rush in any way. . Turnovers didn’t hurt Carolina early (Niner FG off the tipped pick) but it was a killer for Hyde as Carolina got 6 off his fumble. Gabbert looked fairly solid till he started firing picks in the end. VMcD had a great play on a deep crossing route for a 75 yard TD, but dropped a big play on the next drive when the 49ers had clawed back into the game. Next pass was picked off and the route was on.
Carolina was able to take away our run game with their defense, and it showed. Forcing Gabbert to take charge came with fair results, at least early. The Niners even had a 10-7 lead after scoring on a nice 28 yard pass to Torrey Smith. This off a Carolina fumble. But this lasted exactly one play, as Greg Olson caught a 78 yard bomb from Newton, and Carolina added a FG to close the half.
17-10 and the end of the half seemed pretty solid especially when the Niners deferred on the kickoff to start the game. Problem is, the 3rd quarter started with 2 three-and-outs sandwiched around two long TD drives that the defense couldn’t get stops on. So a one-TD lead became a three-TD lead. After cutting it to a 34-27 deficit, the Niners once again couldn’t stop Carolina to the tune of 7-15 on 3rd downs. That needs to improve. Yeah, it was hotter than shit, and the aforementioned short week, yadda yadda yadda, but the team showed heart, if not consistency. All aspects played well at times, and all aspects failed at times. The signs of a young team.
Gabbert for some reason just flailed at the end as he tried to bring the team back from a 10 point deficit late. Throwing into double coverage was terrible, but it came at the heels of a big play that was dropped by VMcD. He had another game where he hit some nice passes, and threw some absolute bonehead passes, and missed another deep one. 17-36 for 243, 2 and 2 is another game where he didn’t throw for 50%. This cannot continue. He missed way too many open guys, and again threw check downs off no pressure.
On defense, the pass rush was nowhere to be found. O’Neill left the corners out on their own, and Newton took advantage. And as mentioned, Olson had the game of his life as he toasted Bethea with regularity. Benjamin as well. Tough game against a team that looked like the defending NFC champs.
We played like a young team coming off a short week and a cross-country flight. Sloppy and inconsistent. Thing is we get another road test in Seattle next week. The schedulers just love us. And for what it’s worth, the whole division is 1-1 right now.