Editor's note: This is the third part in a series that spotlights four 49ers-Panthers matchups to watch Sunday, 10 a.m., in Charlotte, N.C.
[MATCHUP NO. 4: Crabtree vs. Munnerlyn]
[MATCHUP NO. 3: Reid vs. Newton]
49ers LT Joe Staley vs. Panthers DE Greg Hardy
Tale of the tape
Staley (74): 6 foot 5, 315 pounds, seventh, Central Michigan
Hardy (76): 6 foot 4, 290 pounds, fourth season, Mississippi
It was not a good day for the 49ers’ offense.
The 49ers scored a season-low nine points on a season-low 151 yards while allowing a season-high six sacks when the Carolina Panthers came to Candlestick Park and left with a 10-9 victory in November.
[REWIND: 49ers-Panthers Week 10 coverage]
But the marquee matchup along the line was as much of a stalemate as anyone on the 49ers’ offense managed that day. In a head-to-head battle of two second-team All-Pros, 49ers left tackle Joe Staley allowed only one pressure and no sacks against Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy. Hardy, who moves around the line, had four other pressures when lined up elsewhere.
And that’s saying something, considering the eccentric Hardy finished third in the NFL with 15 sacks for a Panthers defense that had the best pass rush in the NFL.
"As I stand here today," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said, "I really believe that they are the most talented front seven that we have played."
Hardy is a unique individual who has built an alter persona as "The Kraken,” the mythical sea monster of giant proportions.
Hardy was asked this week about 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick experiencing his worst day against the Panthers earlier this season but he could have been speaking about Staley, as well.
"Anybody that goes against me is going to have a bad day,” Hardy said. “I'm a really, really angry person. I've got a bad attitude. So it's one of those things, you know."
Staley ranked as Pro Football Focus’ No. 6 offensive tackle in the NFL this season through their grading system that takes into account blocking for the run and the pass. Staley had some success in the run game, as Frank Gore picked up 82 yards on 16 carries. But the 49ers had difficulty getting the tough yards, and they were kept out of the end zone.
As a pass blocker, Staley allowed four sacks on the season, and he knows he will definitely have his hands full on Sunday.
“Greg Hardy is big, really athletic guy, very slippery,” Staley said. “When it seems like he’s getting blocked, he gets off blocks and makes plays.
“He’s a competitor. I get the sense that he’s a fiery guy. You definitely get a sense of his personality that he’s a little wild. It’s fun to go against a guy like that."
The Panthers rotate a lot of different defensive linemen onto the field, which allows Hardy and the others to remain fresh through the course of a game.
“Guys in the trenches, rushing the passer takes a lot of effort, a lot of strain,” 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. “A lot of times it can go three, four seconds of maximum output. What that does is you get fresh guys in there that have had a blow. They all play with a very high motor.”