The 49ers turned two turnovers into 10 points, but errors of their own have them trailing 17-10 at halftime.
The 49ers took a lead early in the second quarter when Blaine Gabbert connected with receiver Torrey Smith at the goal line. On the Panthers' next offensive play, however, quarterback Cam Newton stepped back and threw down the seam to tight end Greg Olsen, who had an eight-yard lead on safety Antoine Bethea. Olsen ran the rest of the way for a 78-yard touchdown, the longest of his career.
The two teams traded turnovers deep inside their own territory in the first quarter. Linebacker NaVorro Bowman tipped a Cam Newton pass that was intercepted by Bethea. On the other end of the field, Carlos Hyde was spun down by defensive lineman Charles Johnson after an inside carry and lost the ball.
The 49ers turned their turnover into a 29-yard field goal. The Panthers collected Hyde's fumble and ran in for a nine-yard touchdown. Hyde also lost a fumble in the preseason that was returned for a touchdown.
Early in the second quarter, Bethea and nickel cornerback Chris Davis combined on a tackle of backup running back Fozzy Whittaker that forced a fumble at San Francisco's 41-yard line.
The ensuing, 59-yard drive included a 12-yard third-down conversion on a throw from Gabbert to Rod Streater, an 18-yard run by Shaun Draughn and a 28-yard touchdown pass from Gabbert to Smith. Gabbert, criticized for check-down throws, first looked short and to his right before finding Smith in single coverage with coverage with James Bradberry.
With the temperature in the mid 80s and humidity high, the 49ers have had a steady rotation at several positions, especially wide receiver and the defensive line. Both receivers Streater and rookie Aaron Burbridge have received a handful of snaps. As was the case last week, Gabbert's favorite target has been Jeremy Kerley, who has three catches for 29 yards.
As was the case in Week 1, the starters on the defensive line were DeForest Buckner, Mike Purcell and Quinton Dial. Glenn Dorsey got his first snaps of the season during Carolina's second offensive possession.
Rookie cornerback Rashard Robinson absorbed a big hit at the end of the half; Keith Reaser entered and nearly had an interception in the end zone two plays before Carolina kicked a field goal.