CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Carolina quarterback Cam Newton took advantage of the ample amount of time his offensive line supplied him to tear up the 49ers’ defense with 353 yards passing on Sunday.
The 49ers’ defense came back from a shut out victory over the Los Angeles Rams in Week 1 to surrender 529 total yards in a 46-27 loss to the Panthers at Bank of America Stadium.
“We didn’t have a ton of penalties – we had six – but the penalties we had kept drives alive,” 49ers coach Chip Kelly said. “The things we didn’t do in Week 1, we did in Week 2, and that hurt us.”
Three of the 49ers’ penalties resulted in first downs. And the 49ers also gave up too many big plays. Tight end Greg Olsen got behind strong safety Antoine Bethea on a deep post for a 75-yard touchdown.
“It was actually a great play call against us in the coverage we had,” Bethea said. “We’d seen some things early in the week and they just kind of countered it. It was definitely a great play call at the right time for them.”
The 49ers figured to catch a break early in the game when running back Jonathan Stewart was ruled out with a hamstring injury. Instead, Fozzy Whittaker stepped in and ran like a bear.
Whittaker gained 100 yards on 16 rushing attempts. In his three previous seasons, Whittaker gained 108, 145 and 79 yards
Olsen had five catches for 122 yards, and wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin caught seven passes for 108 yards.
--The loss did not dampen the spirits of linebacker NaVorro Bowman.
“We have a good team,” Bowman said. “You can see the positives. You can see that the adverse situations that we came upon, and we stayed locked in. We finished the game, and that’s all you can ask for, for you to finish, not fold, not give up. It just comes down to a few plays out there.”
--Linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong left the game in the second half with a pectoral injury. He is scheduled to undergo an MRI examination, a team spokesman said.
--Kicker Phil Dawson handled the kickoff chores, as Kelly said the plan on special teams was to try to angle kickoffs toward either pylon at the front of the end zone to contain return man Ted Ginn. The strategy mostly worked. Ginn averaged just 21.7 yards and he muffed a kickoff in the fourth quarter that Shaun Draughn recovered at the 2-yard line.
“You try to place the ball in one corner or the other,” Kelly said. “Phil’s real accurate doing that.”
--Vance McDonald produced the second-longest reception in franchise history for a tight end with his 75-yard catch-and-run after securing a Blaine Gabbert pass. McDonald took advantage of a knockdown block from wide receiver Quinton Patton on Panthers All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly. McDonald said he heard Patton's block.
“I felt two guys behind me,” McDonald said. “It brought me back to my high school days, running track, the 400-meter dash and giving it everything you have in the final 100 meters.”
McDonald had an opportunity to make another big play, but he could not catch a deep crossing route on the 49ers’ next drive.
“It’s bittersweet for me,” McDonald said. “My next attempt is a big catch, and I have to make it.”
Ted Kwalick's 81-yard TD from quarterback Steve Spurrier in 1972 against New Orleans is the longest play involving a tight end in franchise history.
--Andrew Tiller started at right guard, but the 49ers also found playing time for backup interior lineman Marcus Martin. Shortly after Martin entered the game, he allowed a sack against Panthers defensive lineman Star Lotulei.
“We had planned on rotating some of those guys anyway because we knew it was going to be hot,” Kelly said.
--The temperature at kickoff was 82 degrees and rose to nearly 90 degrees.
--Starting left guard Zane Beadles would have played tackle if a replacement was needed for either Joe Staley or Trent Brown, Kelly confirmed. Anthony Davis did not travel due to a concussion he sustained in practice Thursday.
--Second-year safety Jaquiski Tartt explained his reasoning for joining Eli Harold and Antoine Bethea in raising a fist during the playing of the national anthem. Rookie Rashard Robinson also took the same posture. Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid took a knee to spotlight inequalities of minorities in America.
“I talked to Eli before the game, but it’s something I’ve been wanting to do and I finally did it this week,” Tartt said. “I feel like I would be turning my back on my family if I didn’t. I feel like Kaepernick is doing a good thing and if you look at it, you have people fighting and doing a lot for this country and at the end of the day, they’re fighting for freedom, equality and justice. I feel like that’s something we haven’t been getting.”