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49ers vs. Panthers Film Review: Defense stands firm

Michael Crabtree
Michael CrabtreePhoto by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Here are some extra notes on the 49ers win over the Panthers upon further review:

-First of all, the goal line stands were wins when it came to fighting fire with fire. The 49ers had six defensive linemen on the field for the first 3rd down stop, but it became a 5-3 defense when Ahmad Brooks made the big tackle on fourth down, stopping Cam Newton in the process. Ray McDonald in particular stood out on the defensive line when it came to run stopping.

-The spotlight has been on NaVorro Bowman for the last few weeks, but this was a great game from Patrick Willis on Sunday. Besides the interception, he limited Greg Olsen whenever he was playing man coverage on the Panthers tight end.

-Speaking of the interception by Willis, Aldon Smith deserves most of the credit in pass rushing when Cam Newton released the ball earlier than he wanted to. After bouncing off of Brandon LaFell's hands, Willis was in the right place and right time to make a tough grab off the deflection. Smith didn't record a sack, but he did deliver pressure on the quarterback when needed.

-Vic Fangio deserves all the credit for the shutout in the second half. A reason for this? He doesn't blitz often, but when he does, it's very effective. The 49ers defensive coordinator waited until a crucial moment in the third quarter when both NaVorro Bowman and Ahmad Brooks had back to back sacks. It was a rare time when he chose to blitz on second down, but it remained effective with perfect time.

-The first half proved to be a rough outing for the offensive line, but they rebounded well in the second half. Anthony Davis initially struggled in pass protection, but ended up handling his side of the line very well. Joe Staley in particular had a great game, neutralizing Greg Hardy on Sunday.

-It was a good day for Mike Iupati as a run blocker who covered his side of the line. Frank Gore was able to burst through the left side on the key third and one which resulted in a 39-yard run.

-In a brief cameo, special teams player Darryl Morris was on the field for one snap on defense where he was able to show off his speed in garbage time. He was able to catch up to Ted Ginn Jr. after he had a long catch-and run. While the play put the Panthers in the red zone, his speed kept the second-half shutout intact.

-Penalties and officiating remained inconsistent throughout the game. The personal foul hit on Michael Mitchell was a borderline call, only because of how simultaneous the hit and throw was. While Captain Munnerlyn was flagged for a head butt, Anquan Boldin was fortunate he wasn't called for the same thing one possession later. The head referee clarified to a pool reporter on why the 49ers were not flagged for 12 men on the field. He didn't set the ball yet, which allowed Vance McDonald to get to the sidelines in time before the men in the huddle were counted.

Officials in the wild card round were 'letting them play' against the Packers, but the Panthers game resulted in more flags being thrown. The Panthers were flagged for a critical defensive holding call which was also a borderline call. However, the pass interference on Drayton Florence before Vernon Davis' touchdown was the correct call.