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Week 8 Game Recap: Carolina Panthers 13, San Francisco 49ers 51


What you need to know

Carolina Panthers

The Carolina offense was blotted out entirely by a physical, dominant and unrelenting 49ers defense. Kyle Allen threw his first career interceptions and was under constant duress as the San Francisco front seven continued to win the battle in the trenches. Allen became skittish at times and took sacks instead of remaining poised and throwing the ball away. Christian McCaffrey did his best to pick the offense up, accumulating over 100 rushing yards behind some excellent blocks and aggressive running, but he was out of the game by the fourth quarter as the Panthers waved the white flag. Among the receivers, Curtis Samuel could have produced a much bigger statistical output had a pair of Allen deep passes hit their mark. D.J. Moore did his damage in the short to intermediate range of the field, but the entire passing game was nullified. Greg Olsen’s contributions as a blocker to spring McCaffrey for a handful of big runs didn’t match his impact as a receiver, where he was held to a pair of catches. Carolina’s offensive line was overwhelmed, especially left tackle Dennis Daley, whose inability to handle Nick Bosa proved costly. That said, the entire offensive line lost the battle to a strong 49ers front.

San Francisco 49ers

The gaudy numbers for San Francisco's running game resulted less from individual running skill than from untouched carry after untouched carry. To give nearly all credit to the blockers (and the scheme that tells them who and where to block) isn't necessarily a negative for the 49ers' running backs. Rather, if the blocking continues to be this good, they'll continue reaping the rewards on the stat sheet. One other thing you need to know is that newly acquired Emmanuel Sanders seamlessly moved into the role previously occupied by Marquise Goodwin.

Carolina Panthers

QB Kyle Allen, 69 offensive snaps, Pass: 19 - 37 - 158 - 0 TD / 3 INT
In Kyle Allen’s toughest test as a professional he simply could not stand up to a formidable 49ers defense that harried, hurried and hit him all game long. On Allen’s first third-down dropback, the 49ers played zone and pattern-matched the Carolina receivers, providing no clean throwing window for the quarterback. Allen hesitated and was chased down by a relentless San Francisco pass rush. He was often chased out of the pocket, or simply flushed out of his own volition as he sensed pressure closing in. On two such occasions Allen showed poor awareness and gave up a pair of sacks when throwing the ball away would have been the best option. Despite the dominance of the 49ers up front, when Allen had time he took shots downfield. A deep post to Curtis Samuel was thrown just a little too far out in front, while an end zone target to Samuel in the first quarter was just a few inches too high. Allen’s first career interceptions were a combination of the 49ers’ defensive pressure accumulating and poor decisions. The first pick came on a target to Samuel on a curl route. The cornerback read the route combination of the three receivers on that side of the field and timed his break perfectly to take the ball away. After nearly throwing an interception on a lofted pass to the right side on one play, the very next play saw Allen attack the same side. This time, he was punished by Richard Sherman, who was lurking in zone coverage to jump the route. It appeared that Allen and D.J. Moore were not on the same page. Allen’s offensive line struggled to contain the San Francisco pass rush, with rookie left tackle Dennis Daley in particular being victimised by Nick Bosa. The younger Bosa brother picked off Allen for a third time, hopping back up after a cut block and leaping up for the impressive pick.

RB Christian McCaffrey, 54 offensive snaps, Rush: 14 - 117 - 1, Rec: 4 - 38 - 0 (5 targets)
On a day to forget for the Panthers offense, Christian McCaffrey showed no lack of heart or will to keep his team in the game. McCaffrey was met hard by the 49ers defenders on his first couple of touches, a sign of things to come, as it turned out. He found a lot of joy running off tackle, with Greg Olsen providing some key blocks out in front. McCaffrey squeezed through a gap between center and left guard on an inside give, sprinting down the field for a 43-yard gain – only to have the play called back due to holding. McCaffrey remained a factor in the passing game, despite the struggles of the offensive line, providing an outlet for an overwhelmed Kyle Allen. McCaffrey’s persistence paid off eventually, with key blocks from D.J. Moore and Olsen springing him off the left side for a long touchdown run. His pace on the play left the chasing 49ers defenders in the dust. McCaffrey converted the subsequent two-point play, reaching the ball out over the plane of the goal line after it appeared he had been stopped. The remainder of the game saw the 49ers pull away, prompting the Carolina coaching staff to sit their star running back to preserve him.

WR D.J. Moore, 64 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 38 - 0 (9 targets)
D.J. Moore didn’t light up the box score against the 49ers, but it was largely down to the passing game’s inadequacies. Kyle Allen struggled to deal with the San Francisco pressure, and it appeared to affect his accuracy on some downfield targets to Moore, notably a deep post. Moore mostly operated in the short to intermediate range, showing good concentration and strong hands at the catch point. Allen went back to Moore on a deep shot in the second half, but the pass was a couple of yards out of bounds. It was a disappointment for Moore, who tracked the ball beautifully. As the Panthers offense dialled it back towards the end of a game that was already over, Moore caught a couple of dump-off passes against zone.

WR Curtis Samuel, 61 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 46 - 0 (11 targets)
On a day to forget for the Carolina passing game, it proved to be a day of ‘almost’ for Curtis Samuel. Early in the game, Samuel was the target of a deep ball in the back corner of the end zone, the football just a yard or two out of his reach as he made a despairing attempt to haul it in. Kyle Allen went back to the deep ball well later in the game, but this time a streaking Samuel couldn’t catch up to the quarterback’s pass, which was thrown too far out in front. Samuel was largely a non-factor despite leading the team in targets, but the 49ers defense marshalled him well and did not give the Panthers a sniff overall.

WR Jarius Wright, 40 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 12 - 0 (4 targets)
Jarius Wright was limited to a pair of short receptions in the flat as the Panthers tried to attack underneath against the 49ers’ zone coverage. On both occasions the San Francisco defense rallied to make the tackle, with yards after the catch very tough to come by.

TE Greg Olsen, 54 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 13 - 0 (2 targets)
Greg Olsen, much like the rest of the Carolina passing attack, was snuffed out as a receiving option. After a Luke Kuechly interception in the first quarter gave the offense the ball inside the 49ers half, Kyle Allen and Olsen linked up on a timing route off play action. Otherwise, Olsen’s impact in the passing game only went as far as Allen’s efficiency – in other words, not very. Olsen sprung Christian McCaffrey for big runs as a pulling lead blocker, however.


San Francisco 49ers

QB Jimmy Garoppolo, 60 offensive snaps, Pass: 18 - 22 - 175 - 2 TD / 1 INT
With the 49ers' running game meeting minimal resistance, Garoppolo wasn't asked to do much. This was especially true in the second half, where he only threw five passes. That said, when called upon early, he delivered, and the two demerits on his stat sheet weren't as bad as what he's capable of sometimes. Garoppolo's first touchdown was a perfectly threaded pass between two defenders at the goal line. He also perfectly executed a shovel pass to Matt Breida and a screen pass to Tevin Coleman, both in the red zone. And on third downs, he went 4-for-5, converting a first down on all 4 completions. With respect to his interception and safety, the former was more of a great play by all-world linebacker Luke Kuechly (in coverage against George Kittle), while the latter resulted from a blown block by Justin Skule, who'll be returning to the bench when Joe Staley returns in the next week or two.

RB Tevin Coleman, 32 offensive snaps, Rush: 11 - 105 - 3, Rec: 2 - 13 - 1 (2 targets)
One should never assert that a player with 118 scrimmage yards and four touchdowns had anything less than a great game. However, taking a second look at Coleman's performance reveals almost all of his production came before being touched by a defender. Coleman's first touchdown was a simple inside handoff that went 19 yards untouched. His second was on a screen pass to the left flat, where he ran 16 yards untouched. His third was on another inside handoff, which he took for 48 yards; again untouched. It wasn't until Coleman's fourth touchdown where he had to contend with potential contact because it was on the goal line. And yet, even then, he waltzed into the end zone from 1 yard out having been slightly nudged through a wide open lane. Again, Coleman had a great game. He just wasn't Jim Brown out there or anything.

RB Matt Breida, 19 offensive snaps, Rush: 11 - 35 - 0, Rec: 1 - 15 - 0 (1 targets)
Breida gained 32 of his 50 scrimmage yards on two plays. On San Francisco's first drive, which ended in a touchdown, Breida ran untouched for 15 yards down to the Panthers 2 yard line after faking a handoff, then turning around to catch a shovel pass. This was more a particularly clever design by Kyle Shanahan than anything. Then, just before the 49ers scored their third touchdown, Breida took an outside zone pitch 17 yards down to Carolina's 10 yard line -- once again untouched until being tackled.

WR Deebo Samuel, 47 offensive snaps, Rush: 2 - 29 - 1, Rec: 3 - 19 - 0 (3 targets)
Samuel's skill set -- and the way Kyle Shanahan wants to employ it -- was in full effect on consecutive third quarter plays. With Carolina having cut the lead to 27-13 and San Francisco facing 3rd-and-8 from the Panthers' 28-yard line, Shanahan called Samuel's number on a dig route at the sticks, which he used perfect hands technique to grab in traffic. Then, on the next play, Samuel motioned tight to the line as if he was going to block, but then took a handoff behind right tackle, hit the hole, turned on the jets, and ran untouched for 20 yards into the endzone. It should also be noted that that was Samuel's third run of the game. His first was a jet sweep for 2 yards (technically shoveled to him for a reception), and the second was a reverse for 9 yards.

WR Emmanuel Sanders, 55 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 25 - 1 (5 targets)
Even though Sanders didn't post a huge stat line in his first game with San Francisco, his likely usage going forward was apparent. Namely, he's taken over the Marquise Goodwin role, and will be relied upon in crucial situations. To wit, two of Sanders' four receptions came on third down, both of which he converted. The first was a 3rd-and-11 reception where he sat down in Carolina's deep middle zone and went to the ground to catch a low throw. The second was a 3rd-and-4 where he once again sat down in a zone, though this time it was short right. It should be noted that Sanders also had a near miss deep, when he beat cornerback Russ Cockrell on a 20-yard out route. Unfortunately, Jimmy Garoppolo was hit as he threw, so the pass sailed high and out of bounds.

WR Dante Pettis, 20 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 5 - 0 (3 targets)
This game highlighted (or more like lowlighted?) what seems to be wrong with Pettis this season. His first target came on a deep out route where he was late out of his break, so Jimmy Garoppolo's throw was out of reach. His second target came on a swing pass out of the backfield. This time, Garoppolo lead him upfield, but Pettis stayed flat on his route, so the ball fell incomplete after Pettis made a half-hearted stab at it. Finally, on Pettis' third target, an actual completion he gamely went down to the ground to catch, Garoppolo's throw was again timed incorrectly, this time low and behind. It seems clear that these two aren't on the same page at all.

TE George Kittle, 56 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 86 - 0 (7 targets)
In what has to be trolling from someone, somewhere, Kittle once again had a touchdown nullified by penalty. Another red zone touchdown was prevented by the pass interference of safety Eric Reid. Later in the game, he beat Reid down the seam for 25 yards. On Kittle's 29-yard first quarter reception, linebacker Shaq Thompson covered him downfield, but then passed him off to a deep defender who was nowhere to be found. The rest of Kittle's yardage came on a couple of tight ends screens, which Kyle Shanahan hadn't used to a significant extent this season.