Will only focus on the Panthers.
Carolina– Three Performances of Note
Three Guards, No Positives
The Panthers used a two-man rotation at right guard between Nate Chandler (-1.3) and Chris Scott (-2.4), while left guard Travelle Wharton manned his usual spot, but all three finished in the red. Wharton was particularly disappointing given his strong play since taking over the job back in Week 6 as he finished at -3.2 overall including -4.4 against the run.
Wharton was controlled by Justin Smith on more than one occasion, most notably in the first quarter at both the 9:12 and 0:55 marks where Smith stood him up and got inside to make the tackle. Perhaps his worst play, however, came with 4:47 to go in the second quarter when he tripped on his pull attempt on 3rd-and-goal. Tolbert subsequently tripped over Wharton and the 49ers had their second goal line stand of the first half.
As for Chandler and Scott, Chandler got little movement in the running game and surrendered a sack to DE Tony Jerod-Eddie with 7:11 to go in the fourth quarter while Scott gave up three hurries on his 21 pass block attempts. It was not a good day for Carolina’s guards.
Over the course of a game, it often feels like only a handful of plays make the difference, a story that best describes the Carolina secondary in this one. Munnerlyn getting beat by Boldin on the double move proved costly as it led to a San Francisco touchdown that made it a 10-point lead early in the third quarter (and even the touchdown could have been avoided as CB Drayton Florence (-1.9) overran Kaepernick on his 4-yard score.)
Rookie free safety Robert Lester (-1.4) whiffed on his only tackle attempt as RB Frank Gore juked him on his way to a 39-yard gain that set up a 49ers field goal. And, finally, perhaps the worst of the bunch, CB Josh Thomas lost his cool with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty with 4:10 to go in the game, just as the Panthers had made a third down stop and were prepared to get the ball back for one final shot to mount a comeback.
Thomas played only three snaps on the day, but his penalty proved costly and summed up a frustrating afternoon for the Carolina secondary.
Linebackers Lead the Defense
As has been the case for most of the season, the Panthers got strong play from linebackers Luke Kuechly (+1.7) and Thomas Davis (+1.8), and even Chase Blackburn (+0.8) got into the action with a nice effort. Kuechly had some issues in coverage, particularly when he fell to the ground on tight end Vernon Davis’ touchdown at the end of the first half, but he did his usual fine work against the run grading at +2.0 and getting in on three stops. He also had a well-timed delayed blitz that led to a sack, one his two pressures notched on five attempts.
Davis was rarely out of position in the running game, grading at +1.4, and he picked up two hits and a hurry on his nine pass rush attempts. Meanwhile, Blackburn was as active as any Carolina linebacker on his 43 snaps. He got in on four stops and posted a season-best +1.3 grade against the run. It was a good final showing for Carolina’s linebacking corps.
Newton graded at +3.5 on his 21 drop-backs in a clean pocket, but only -2.0 on his 12 snaps under pressure.
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Byron Bell have up one sack and a hurry. Kallil was the only Olineman that graded positively.
Kk Short and Olsen had the highest grades on the team.
Greg Hardy had 2 hits and 1 hurry.