After further film review of the 49ers’ loss to the Carolina Panthers, here are some extra notes to take away from the game:
-It was very clear for majority of the game that the Panthers defensive line controlled everything on Sunday. Colin Kaepernick was sacked six times, with most of them being coverage sacks. The Panthers were not blitzing as much as it could have looked with all the pressure on the quarterback. Luke Kuechly came in a few times as well as A.J. Klein, but Greg Hardy was the star on defense for Carolina. It was a frequent trend where a Panthers’ defensive lineman was in pursuit of Kaepernick. The 49ers quarterback couldn’t complete a pass when under serious pressure for the entire game.
-Yesterday marked the one year anniversary when Colin Kaepernick stepped in as quarterback after Alex Smith left with a concussion injury. In the famous tie game against the Rams, he was able to light a fire for the offense and force the game into overtime when it was initially bleak. He had trouble throughout the game finding a receiver open and struggled on Sunday in terms of vision and couldn’t scramble when necessary.
-The loss of Vernon Davis took a major toll on the offense in terms of blocking. Vance McDonald was no match for the opposition which could have been a large reason why the running game was abandoned. Davis and backup TE Garrett Celek are commonly used on jumbo packages for power running plays as the team wasn’t confident to run in the second half with both players being out. Davis also affected the passing game as there was no deep threat for Kaepernick to throw to.
-Vance McDonald’s notable drop was just a strong play by Panthers LB Luke Kuechly in coverage. He successfully broke up the play by pulling McDonald’s arm, leading to the drop. In other words, Kuechly out-muscled McDonald on the play.
-McDonald’s lack of production in the passing game most likely stems from his initial struggle as a pass catcher. The 49ers have used him as a blocker for most the season as he has not hauled in more than two receptions in a single game. Kaepernick is not on the same page as McDonald like he was with Delanie Walker last season.
-This was a strong game for Ahmad Brooks, Dan Skuta and Glenn Dorsey on defense. The Panthers were mostly operating out of the base offense, leading to more snaps for Dorsey at nose tackle. Skuta played well in coverage while Brooks was the leading pass rusher. San Francisco did well at stopping the run and there wasn’t any production from the TE position.
-Demarcus Dobbs was decent at filling in for an injured Ray McDonald. He split time with Tony Jerod-Eddie, but I felt Dobbs contained his side of the field well as a run stopper.
-Having Kassim Osgood as one of the seven inactive players could have hurt the 49ers on special teams. Ted Ginn had three punt returns that went for at least 19 yards or more and the last one put the Panthers in 49ers territory which led to the game winning field goal by Graham Gano. A player that could have been inactive in his place was WR Jon Baldwin, who only played three snaps on Sunday.
-The punt return game improved with LaMichael James, but Anthony Dixon on kickoffs was a disaster in his one return. He made a poor decision to return a kickoff that was deep inside the end zone which put the 49ers on their own 12-yard line. This set the tone in field position as the 49ers could not move the ball and the Panthers had them pinned inside the 20-yard line twice. Like Ginn, former 49ers S Colin Jones came back to haunt his old team by downing a punt at the one-yard line.