San Francisco 49ers

49ers report card: Gabbert only OK, ground game missing

San Francisco 49ers' Blaine Gabbert (2) looks to pass against the Carolina Panthers in the second half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016.
San Francisco 49ers' Blaine Gabbert (2) looks to pass against the Carolina Panthers in the second half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016. AP

Offense: Blaine Gabbert was OK, and he seemed to attack the defense early more than he did last week against the Rams. But the 49ers’ running game didn’t get rolling early on when the offense had an opportunity to begin wearing down the Panthers with its pace. Instead, a Carlos Hyde fumble turned into an easy, 9-yard return for a touchdown for Carolina’s defense. Grade C+

Defense: Safety Antoine Bethea was representative of the defense’s mixed day. He intercepted a pass and forced a fumble, but he also gave up a 78-yard touchdown pass to Carolina tight end Greg Olsen. The 49ers’ most glaring defensive shortcoming was their lack of pressure on Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who after being battered by the Broncos in Week 1, mostly was not bothered by San Francisco’s defense. Newton finished with 353 passing yards and four touchdown passes. Grade C-

Special teams: Panthers punter Andy Lee pinned his old team at their 2-yard line at the end of the first half. That field position, coupled with deft use of timeouts by the Panthers, led to a 39-yard Carolina field goal at the end of the first half. The 49ers made few mistakes on special teams and gathered in a botched kickoff return by the Panthers that the offense quickly converted into a touchdown. Grade B+

Overall: Were the 49ers better than Week 2 last year, when they had to go to Pittsburgh following a short week of preparation? The answer: Yes, slightly. They hung on early against a Panthers team that was coming off nine days of rest and did a nice job of converting Carolina turnovers into points late. Last year’s Steelers game was followed by a blowout loss in Arizona. This year’s squad now heads to Seattle. Grade: C+

Matt Barrows

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton spoke about the efficiency of the wide receiver corps and the need to continue to improve following Sunday's 46-27 win over the San Francisco 49ers.

Carolina Panthers receiver Kelvin Benjamin talks about his big game in Carolina's 46-27 win over the San Francisco 49ers.

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