Behind Enemy Lines – San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers

The Carolina Panthers have an opportunity to put the past behind them with a big win over the San Fancisco 49ers this weekend. All of the variables are squarely in the Panthers favor. The 49ers have less talent, are on a short week, are playing away and on the opposite coast. The current vegas spread of 13.5 points in favor of the Carolina Panthers tells you just how big an advantage they have over the 49ers. However, that also means all of the pressure is on Carolina. San Francisco has nothing to prove and nothing to lose, and that makes them dangerous.

Here is what 49ers head coach Chip Kelly is saying about the game this weekend.

On the east coast travel

The 49ers don’t need to adjust to playing in the morning against the east coast Carolina Panthers. 49ers head coach Chip Kelly has always had his team practice in the morning.

“We’ve always practiced in the morning,” noted Kelly. “I practiced in the morning when we were at Oregon. I practiced in the morning when we were in Philadelphia.”

“Part of that is because of the science aspect of it. Your body releases HGH at the most between nine and 11 (a.m.). So we should be out on the field between nine and 11.”

The 49ers do plan on arriving early and practicing in Charlotte, however.

“We have it all worked out,” Chip Kelly assured. “We’re going to leave on Friday after training and then get there some time Friday evening and then get up and practice on Saturday in Carolina. You know your schedule in April, so we’ve got everything planned out accordingly.”

On stopping Cam Newton

Chip Kelly thinks the key to stopping Cam Newton is by gang tackling him.

“I think it takes 11 (defenders),” Kelly said. “He’s a very rare athlete in that there aren’t many people that are that accurate throwing the football, that can run as well as he can run and have that size. Very rarely does the first person get Cam to the ground. If he is running the ball, we have to gang tackle. We’re going to have to get everybody running to the football and swarm him.”

Gang tackling Cam Newton is absolutely a fair and reasoned approach to stopping him. Lets just hope the plan also does not include shots to the head, as it did in Denver.

On 49ers QB Blaine Gabbert

“We have all the confidence in the world in him,” Chip Kelly insisted. “First game in our system … understanding what he’s doing … first real live game … There were some real positives that we can build upon with him.”

Blaine Gabbert is currently second in the league in rushing yards among quarterbacks. If you watched the game against the LA Rams, you saw him make quick, decisive runs up the middle when the defense allowed. Gabbert usually slides quickly to avoid any contact with the defense. This isn’t a flashy style of offense, but it is effective. I suspect the Carolina Panthers will counter with a spy on Gabbert. Perhaps Shaq Thompson or the more experienced Thomas Davis.

Jeremy Igo is owner of Carolina Huddle. Based in Charlotte, he has covered the Carolina Panthers for over a decade.