Naomi Baker/Getty Images

A Big Test for the Panthers at San Francisco

Sharon Thorsland
October 25, 2019 - 12:47 pm

The Panthers return to action this weekend taking on the undefeated 49ers in San Francisco. The Panthers are coming off a bye and are riding a four-game win streak, while the Niners improved to 6-0 after a muddy win over the Redskins last week.

This sets up as the biggest test of the season for the Panthers.

“Very much so,” said coach Ron Rivera. “They're an undefeated football team, they're playing with a lot of confidence. It will most certainly be a good test for us to see where we are as a football team.”

After going 4-12 a year ago, the 49ers have turned things around with a smothering defense. They're allowing just 10.7 points per game, that's 2nd in the league, and boast the number one passing defense in the NFL allowing just 133 yards per game.

It starts up front, where the Niners have not one, but five first-round draft picks.

Former Chiefs All-Pro defensive end Dee Ford teams with Arik Armstead and Nick Bosa to form a ferocious pass rush, while DeForest Buckner has been a beast inside, with three sacks and two forced fumbles.

“They've just got a lot of dudes that can go,” said Panther quarterback Kyle Allen. “They have really good depth at the d-line, too, so when guys get tired they can spell guys and not really lose much talent upfront, so it's going to be a really good challenge.”

Allen and the Panther offense will also be challenged by the 49ers' secondary, which is anchored by All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman.

Of course, the Panthers' defense is none too shabby either. They lead the NFL with 27 sacks and would love to get their hands on 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

He's only been sacked eight times this year and leads an offense that is putting up over 26 points a game, that's third in the league.

After missing most of last season with a torn ACL, Garoppolo has put up pretty pedestrian numbers, throwing just seven touchdowns and six interceptions. He hasn't been getting a lot of help from his receivers – his top target is tight end George Kittle, who has 34 receptions for 376 yards. The Niners just added former Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders though, giving Garoppolo another weapon.

The 49ers don't need Garoppolo to be a superstar, because they've got one heck of a running game. They rank second in the NFL averaging over 172 yards per game on the ground and have four different running backs doing it.

Matt Breida leads the way with 411 yards. Raheem Mostert and former Falcon Tevin Coleman each have over 225 yards, while Jeff Wilson has four touchdowns.

This is a huge game for the Panthers – it's a conference matchup against an undefeated opponent. But they're up to the task. The Panthers have won six of the last seven games against the Niners, and they'd love to hand them their first loss of the season – and extend their own winning streak at the same time.

“We've got our work cut out for us, but we're looking forward to the challenge,” said tight end Greg Olsen.

Comments ()