The 49ers were successful on defense to begin the game despite allowing 10 points. San Francisco had several stops when the Panthers were on the one-yard line. The best thing is that they kept Carolina out of the end zone.
"Our team played great team defense and got the job done," head coach Jim Harbaugh said. "I think facts are stubborn things. [Keeping] them out of the end zone, that is a statement."
On the first goal line possession, the Panthers got to the half-yard line and had two chances to punch it in for a touchdown. For the third down snap, the 49ers were able to tackle Mike Tolbert short of the goal line. On fourth down, after Ron Rivera had an entire commercial break to think about it as the second quarter began, Cam Newton was stuffed on a QB sneak.
Even though the 49ers went three-and-out and the Panthers scored a touchdown on the following drive with a short field, it sent a message saying the can be stopped.
The Panthers once again had an opportunity to score from the one-yard line after Cam Newton scrambled on first down near the goal line. On second down, Newton tried to scramble after finding nobody open, but the 49ers stopped him short of the end zone. For third down, the defense snuffed out a simple hand-off to Mike Tolbert and it resulted in a two-yard loss. Graham Gano's 24-yard field goal were the final points for Carolina in the game.
San Francisco completely shutout the Panthers in the entire second half, which speaks character to how the team wouldn't budge. The Panthers had a drive that lasted 8:12, but it resulted in no points as NaVorro Bowman and Ahmad Brooks record back-to-back sacks to take Carolina out of field goal range.
Donte Whitner would intercept a desperate throw by Cam Newton to seal the game near the end. It all came down to execution and the coaches in the second half game plan, according to the 49er safety.
"You have to go back to playing fundamental football [and] know your assignment on defense," Whitner said. "We fixed our mistakes in the second half and beat them. Games [like this can] get a little tight. [We're] a veteran group fundamentally sound who can tackle. [We were getting] turnovers and held them and that's what we did."