Normally, after a game finishes I rush to get quick analysis up as soon as I can. That wasn’t the case today. It’s been too long since the Panthers won a big game like they did today, and I needed to sit back to ensure that this indeed was real life. It is and the Carolina Panthers now boast a 6-3 record.
All week long the talk around this game was whether or not the Panthers were a contender or pretender. We now know the answer to that question. After a 10-9 road victory over San Francisco it’s safe to say this team will now be receiving considerable attention on the national level. You don’t just go into San Fran and do what the Panthers did to the 49ers. It wasn’t that the game wasn’t close–obviously it was–but it was the way Carolina went into their house and were more physical than them. Colin Kaepernick was sacked six times and the defense had several big hits that set the tone, especially Drayton Florence’s hit near the end of the first half.
Let’s take a look at the three talking points that will come out of the Panthers win over the 49ers.
The dominance of the defense
It seems those who follow football close enough were well aware of how good this unit is, but doing it against a respected team on the road will warrant national praise. The front seven gets all the credit but it’s time to give this secondary some recognition. You don’t hold a quarterback under 100 yards passing in today’s NFL without fantastic play from your secondary. The pressure the front seven generates has made it easier on the defensive backs, but they have risen to the occasion. They may not be the most talented group, yet they play with a physical style that fits this defense.
Sean McDermott has been fantastic as defensive coordinator and if he continues to implement game plans like he did against the Niners he’s going to be a head coach sooner than later. Kaepernick the runner was not a factor nor was Kaepernick the passer. Everyone on the defense seemed to be on point with the game plan. Usually you will see a breakdown somewhere in the defense do to confusion in a game, but that wasn’t the case today.
Winning a close game
“Sure the blowout wins were nice, but let’s see them win a close one against a good team,” said every fan prior to today’s game. We can now check off a win against a quality opponent to go with a win in a game that went down to the wire. It seemed like the Panthers were trying to do whatever they could to fumble away the game at the end, but the defense sealed the game with an interception. The W is now on the board and nobody can take it away from the Panthers.
Ron Rivera improved his record to 3-14 in games decided by a touchdown or less, and while that still isn’t a good record it’s clear this organization has turned the corner. Hats off to the coaching staff for turning this thing around. It didn’t seem possible at 1-3, but five wins later and the flip has been switched.
Battling through adversity
This is the first time under Rivera the Panthers have won a game in which things weren’t going well for them. There was the dropped Captain Munnerlyn interception, a partially blocked punt that resulted in a fumble recovery for the Niners and a botched call by the officiating crew. All three of the plays highlighted came on separate drives that would eventually lead to field goals for the 49ers. In the past it seemed those kind of plays would undo the Panthers, but on Sunday they fought through it and kept battling.
Cam Newton didn’t have a good game statistically, although he overcame a poor first half and made some big throws when it mattered. His wide receivers continue to drop balls that simply need to be caught. Steve Smith had an awful one on third down that would have put the Panthers in field goal range. A lot of those missed opportunities won’t be discussed because the team won, but Smitty and Brandon LaFell can’t keep letting down their quarterback when he finds them.
Despite the drops it was great to see Cam not let it get to him.