Let’s start with the stats from NFL GSIS that are key to sustaining drives. You could make the argument that the Panthers won the game here while the 49ers also lost it at the same time.
3rd Down Efficiency: Panthers 7-13-54% — 49ers 2-11-18%
4th Down Efficiency: Panthers 0-0-0% — 49ers 1-4-25%
The Panthers offense was over 50% on 3rd down while the defense held the 49ers to 2-11 plus an impressive 1-4 on 4th down. Two of those came in the 1st half when the 49ers were trying desperately to get a score on the board. Instead the Panthers turned the short field into another three points and a 13-0 lead at the half.
Average gain per rushing play: Panthers 3.1 — 49ers 3.4
Avg gain per pass play (inc.# thrown passing): Panthers 6.8 — 49ers 4.3
Before you get too worried about the running numbers we had a lot more carries (38 to 15) in the game when we were simply trying to run out the clock and protect the lead. I also give props to a pretty strong front seven by the 49ers. Both Stewart and McCaffrey averaged 3.6 yards per carry.
What I love is the passing number, this on a day when Newton’s passing accuracy what erratic at best. He missed a couple wide open passes, one that would have been an easy TD by Ed Dickson. So 6.8 is a pretty good number considering.
Now let’s look at the ‘mistake’ stats.
PENALTIES Number and Yards: Panthers 5-40 yds — 49ers 10-74 yds
FUMBLES Number and Lost: Panthers 2-1 — 49ers 1-1
The Panthers did give up the ball twice, once on a fumble by rookie RB Christian McCaffrey and the other an INT of Cam Newton. Props to the 49er safety for making a beautiful play on the ball. In my view the ball was thrown late, something Newton did a few times early in this game. He needed to pull the trigger a count sooner.
Huge props to the coaching staff for another low penalty day. This is a trend we saw in the preseason and it has carried forward into the season opener. It could be a little better but not bad for an opener when you expect sloppy play.
RED ZONE EFFICIENCY: Panthers 1-3-33% — 49ers 0-1-0%
GOAL TO GO EFFICIENCY: Panthers 1-2-50% — 49ers 0-1-0%
The Panthers offense was satisfactory in the red zone but because of the big lead they were content to kick FGs. K Graham Gano was 3 for 3 on FGs justifying his roster spot. Let’s hope he keeps it going. I’m not sure what that means for rookie K Harrison Butker but he remains on the 53.
Here’s some of the more interesting snap counts.
- Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess were close at 43 and 45 snaps respectively. Russell Shepard and Damiere Byrd rotated in for 20 and 19 snaps. Shepard got two targets to Byrd’s one including a TD with his only catch.
- McCaffrey got 47 snaps to Jonathan Stewart’s 29. Yet Stewart got 20 touches in those 29 snaps so I hope that doesn’t become too much of a ‘tell’ to the defenses going forward.
- DTs Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei played more snaps (47, 45) than the Panthers typically like to give their starting DTs. I will assume that is due to rookie DT Vernon Butler sitting out due to injury and the Kyle Love being less than 100%. No worries, the Panthers have DEs like Julius Peppers, Wes Horton and Charles Johnson that can move inside on passing downs.
- The starting defensive backfield played pretty much the entire game (99% of snaps). CB Captain Munnerlyn played 32 snaps (56%). He was rotating in and out with LB Shaq Thompson (26 snaps) depending on the down and distance.