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January 05, 2014

First look at Panthers-Niners, The Sequel

Of their three possible divisional round opponents, the Panthers drew arguably the toughest when San Francisco kicker Phil Dawson's 33-yard field goal slipped through the uprights Sunday at Lambeau Field.

Dawson's game-winning kick as time expired lifted the Niners to a 23-20 victory over Green Bay, sending them to Charlotte for a 1:05 p.m. game against Carolina next Sunday.

It's a rematch of the teams' Week 10 clash at Candlestick Park. That was a well-played, defensive battle the Panthers won 10-9 on Graham Gano's 53-yard field goal with 10:05 left in the fourth quarter.

"We owe them for the last time they came to our house," Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick said on the FOX broadcast minutes after beating Green Bay.

We'll have lots of Niners-Panthers coverage all week, but here are several quick takeaways after watching San Francisco's win at Green Bay:

--Containing Kaepernick will be key.

The Panthers did just that in the first meeting, sacking Kaepernick six times and limiting him to 16 rushing yards on four carries.

Kaepernick was the game's leading rusher Sunday with 98 yards on seven carries, and set up Dawson's game-winner with an 11-yard scramble on third-and-8 on the final drive.

Defensive ends Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson played their best games of the season in a Week 17 win at Atlanta, and had a week to rest up.

--Niners' defense is different with DE Aldon Smith.

Smith, one of the best pass-rushers in the league, was a non-factor in the first meeting with the Panthers. Smith played only 12 of 66 defensive snaps against Carolina in his first game back on the field after spending five weeks in a treatment center.

San Francisco's linebackers accounted for all three of the sacks on Cam Newton in Week 10. Newton had a rough outing in the first game (a 52.7 passer rating, an interception, and 15 rushing yards on 8 carries).

Newton's longest rush was 6 yards in a game where yards were at a premium. DeAngelo Williams' 27-yard run was the only touchdown in the game and the longest play from scrimmage.

--Michael Crabtree is back, too.

In the game at San Francisco, the Niners also were without their top wideout in Crabtree, who missed the first 11 games while recovering from an Achilles' injury. Crabtree is a faster, shiftier complement to the Niners' big-target tandem of Anquan Boldin and TE Vernon Davis.

The Niners had 91 receiving yards against Carolina at the 'Stick. Crabtree topped that by himself (8 eight catches for 125 yards) Sunday against the Packers.

The Panthers' No-Name Secondary will face a more dangerous passing attack than it did in Week 10.

--Will Steve Smith play and how effective will he be?

The Panthers were relatively healthy for the first meeting. Right guard Chris Scott missed the game with a knee injury, and outside linebacker Chase Blackburn left the game early after aggravating his foot injury.

Obviously, the Panthers have a major injury to watch this week in receiver Steve Smith's sprained knee ligament. The hunch here is that Smith will play, but he's going to be less than 100 percent.

That will put even more pressure on Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn Jr. and Domenik Hixon, not to mention the rushing attack.

The Panthers (12-4) and Niners (13-4) are the NFL's two hottest teams. Both have lost just once -- each falling to the Saints in New Orleans -- since the Panthers' victory in San Francisco on Nov. 10.

The 49ers have won seven straight, including their playoff win at Green Bay, while the Panthers won 11 of their last 12 games.

Look for another physical game with no easy yards and a lot of tense, third-down situations. But I'm predicting there will be a little more offense.

The first team to 21 points wins.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on January 5, 2014 at 08:26 PM | Permalink


Panthers got this. Panthers win, 24-20.

Posted by: PantherDan | Jan 5, 2014 9:10:12 PM

I'm trying to remember when there's been a better set of Divisional games than this coming weekend. Panthers/49ers will be the main event though. It will be a close slugfest. Key for the Panthers is containing Kaepernick. His legs were the Packers undoing. Crabtree and Davis will test the Panthers secondary. Panthers will need to find a way to play ball control offense to win this game. Cam can't afford to make any mistakes. LaFell needs to catch the balls he's supposed to.

Posted by: PantherDave | Jan 5, 2014 9:30:46 PM


I honestly hope that was a joke about a better set of divisional games than this coming weekend. You could realistically argue that this is one of the worst set of Divisional games in many,many years. Our game, where we are -2.5 underdogs, is the only game on that side of a 7-point spread. Hardly a good set of games.

With that being said, we drew a bad hand and will have to play lights out to get our shot at Seattle. I think we could win, but am not overly optimistic in victories the next two weeks, if I am being honest about it.

Posted by: Ryan | Jan 5, 2014 10:20:09 PM

This is a tough match up for my panthers with not much playoff experience. I'm not exactly eager for this match up. Both defenses are playing well but the panther offense has been pretty awful. Yes they get yards and make plays when they need to but lack explosive plays. I hope my panthers pull it out but in my heart if hearts I believe they will come up short in this one though I think it will be a close one.

Posted by: Panther Josh | Jan 5, 2014 10:49:17 PM

Panthers have been awesome this year but unfortunately I think we are one or two players short on offense to get all the way to the SB.

But we won @ SF and should have beaten Seahawks so it's possible. The Guys really deserve it, they never gave up and have been fantastic this year!

Posted by: Sean | Jan 5, 2014 11:13:34 PM

'We owe them' ?!?! Please try and intimidate my Panthers with some more disrespect Kappie.

Posted by: floyd | Jan 5, 2014 11:37:27 PM

This will be a very close game. Panthers are a very good team and can win this game. Niners have Crabtree back and Vernon Davis and Aldon Smith did not play much in the last game. Turnovers will be key. Assuming equal turnovers I see the niners winning a close one, even at Carolina, because they have much more playoff experience.

Posted by: niners win | Jan 6, 2014 12:04:03 AM

Niners may 'owe' the Panthers, but the Panthers have owned the Nines over their last 10 games. The Panthers are 8-2 during that time span. That period represents the course of 89's career. If he can get it together for next Sunday, I expect the eight-niner to show the forty-niners who owes who what at the BOA.

89=Ring of Honor

Posted by: floyd | Jan 6, 2014 12:28:49 AM

Cam can't throw a pass to anyone except for an interception. All throws are caught by circus catches. If he doesn't connect with his own team down field, he better run like crazy or we'll lose!

Posted by: Jimmy Schmidenhiemer | Jan 6, 2014 5:44:09 AM

Where has NASTAR been? Must have moved on to the Bobcats after looking like such a moron about the Panthers. Here we go Panthers...Here we go....

Posted by: Panther Steve | Jan 6, 2014 6:26:08 AM

Jimmy Schmidenhiemer = Troll

Posted by: John | Jan 6, 2014 7:00:43 AM

I hope Cam can keep himself calm and controlled during the early stages of the game, and avoid the high throws that he has had a tendancy to throw early due to his pregame adrenaline rush. We need to focus on winning each down, and waste no plays due to errant passes,, not to mention avoiding disastorous turnovers.

Posted by: cc | Jan 6, 2014 7:05:50 AM

The Panthers need to generate more offense than we have the past two games. This 49ers team is better than the team we played back in November. We need to score 21 or more points to win. Turnovers will be key. We must win the turnover battle and convert the one we get into touchdowns. The 49ers playoff experience will be offset by the crowd noise which has been awesome the past few games.

Posted by: Jimcat | Jan 6, 2014 7:14:40 AM

marty hurney aka the most hated on man in charlotte sports history just had 4 all-pro draft picks, 1 all-pro signing not to mention a few snubs - specifically brad nortman who has been incredible this year.

you guys still think this dude didn't know what he was doing? gettleman adds ginn, another draft class, loses godfrey for the season but brings in mitchell to take his spot, gives away jon beason, and deserves all of the credit? seriously?

stacked team last year and bad coaching gets him fired. same stacked team this year with improved coaching = playoffs 1st round bye.

so glad the observer reports facts about "cap hell" and everything.

Posted by: charlottean | Jan 6, 2014 8:10:52 AM

The media's love affair with SF is sickening! The hottest team in the NFL??? They beat bottom dwellers like Atl, Was, StL & TB in that span but they are on fire?? Not to mention they squeaked by a depleted GB team only b/c M Hyde dropped that 4Q interception. They have Crabtree back but the same O-Line that was owned by they Panthers so I don't know why everyone is giving the Lombardi trophy to this squad just yet. They've won their last three games including yesterday late in the 4Q so that luck runs out against Carolina. The after effects from yesterday, traveling cross country and the 1pm kickoff are too much for them to overcome and Panthers pull it out 31-17.

Posted by: The Fact is this... | Jan 6, 2014 8:50:59 AM

All year long we've heard about how the NFC West is the strongest Division in the NFL... well now comes their chance to prove it! The Divisional Games are here, we have two match-ups NFC South vs NFC West. I personally expect the divisions to split these games with the #1 in the division winning over their #2 opponents. But in the crazy game that is foot ball anything is possibly. The West could prove their dominance by providing both teams for the NFC Championship game, or the South could prove spoiler and show that the best record among 4 teams does not make the best division when the chips are down!

Posted by: Richard | Jan 6, 2014 8:59:34 AM

to the guy who said Carolina pulls it out 31-17...you are outside of your damn mind if you think this game is going be to lopsided...especially in the Panthers favor!

Posted by: NORM | Jan 6, 2014 9:21:39 AM

Sf kicked a field goal to beat greenbay i say our chances are very good..go panthers

Posted by: smith | Jan 6, 2014 9:34:29 AM

I think SF is running on some momentum. This isn't good for the Panthers who lack explosive fire power offensively.

Posted by: Big Rob | Jan 6, 2014 9:41:28 AM

Don't know why this is a worse matchup for the Panthers. I'd rather play the Niners than the Packers, because Kaperncick is not that good. The Panthers D bothered him a great deal last time they played. And really, the Niners didn't look impressive against Green Bay, who is not that good themselves. Let everyone think the Niners will beat the Panthers. The Panthers have other plans and will win.

Posted by: PantherD | Jan 6, 2014 9:45:43 AM

hey charlottean Hurney hired those coaches you say got him fired..

he also overpaid Beason..Delhomme..Godfrey..CJ..JStew..Gamble..traded 32nd overall pick for Armanti

Cam fell in our laps at #1 sorry cant give GM credit for picking the best available option

the list goes on and on most importantly he had 2 winning seasons in 10 yrs...thanks for coming out

Posted by: I am your father | Jan 6, 2014 9:52:57 AM

This will be a very hard fought defensive battle. The play calling offensively by carolina has to greatly improve if they plan to beat san francisco. Don't be so predictable; more half back and wr screens and quick slants. Cam MUST NOT turn the ball over with highpasses. The defensive ends must have contain on CK so he won't burn the defense with long runs. Ball control will be key in this game.

Posted by: Taurus | Jan 6, 2014 9:54:40 AM

I really do believe that Cam Newton will play his best game on Sunday. I've been watching Cam since he played at Auburn and I know he can pull it through. I pray that Steve Smith will be back with us on Sunday also. PANTHERS fans just keep the faith and we will win this game. We can do all things through Christ which strengthen us. Phil. 4:13

Posted by: Dee Dee | Jan 6, 2014 10:00:04 AM

All these 49er fans have been pumped up too much by the media. Yeah they got Crabtree back and he had a heck of a ball game yesterday. And also unless something unfortunate happens Vernon Davis and Aldon smith will play the whole game. But panthers played one of the best offenses in the league in the saints and held them to 13 points who have jimmy Graghm/colston/sproles/Moore and lets not forget Bree's is a far better Qb. We also won that one without Steve Smith which has been the reason the offense has fizzled lately. Cam will be let loose in the playoffs and those legs have the potential to turn any game into a win. Plus if smith is 100% he will be a force to be reckoned with. Because he wants and deserves a ring. This panthers team will play with intensity and passion as they are always looked down upon no matter what they do. Panthers defense is a far cry from packers 22nd pass D and 29th rush D. I think either team could win and both are very good teams but of course I'm going with my panthers. 24-17.

Posted by: Kris | Jan 6, 2014 10:00:06 AM

No turnovers or stupid penalties. Force turnovers by hard hitting and pass rushing... also Kaepernick must be contained (Packers allowed him too much slack). Crowd noise and 12th man will be a facor in disrupting 49er offense.

Focus and execution is key.

Posted by: bill | Jan 6, 2014 10:20:38 AM

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