During the first half of the San Francisco 49ers‘ 23-10 NFC Divisional Playoff win over the Carolina Panthers, the 49ers’ defense found itself in a situation where the Panthers offense was able to move the ball with relative ease and efficiency. Yet when the Panthers got down inside the 49ers five-yard line, the defense held firm with two goal-line stands that resulted in the Panthers only scoring three points from those two ventures.
In particular, the play of the 49ers’ defense on the second goal-line stand would be the catalyst to turn the momentum of the game in the 49ers’ favor. During that sequence of plays, with the Panthers deciding to get conservative and try to power into the end zone, the 49ers’ defense stepped up and showed that they were more physical and dominating down in the trenches. From that sequence on, San Francisco’s defense showed why they can be so dominating and the numbers back them up.
In the second half of the game, Cam Newton was only able to average 8.7 yards per attempt, which dropped from the 13.6 Newton was averaging in the first half. In addition, the Panthers were only made to gain 130 total yards in the second half with close to half of those coming on the final garbage time drive which was a drop-off from the 195 total yards the Panthers offense had gained during the first-half. The last stat of note that highlights how dominant the 49ers’ defense was during the second-half was the fact they did not allow a single point in the second 30 minutes.
And while Cam Newton at times had his way in the first half, the 49ers defense was able to hit Newton and make him feel their presence on a number of occasions. This paid off in the second-half of the game as Newton got sacked four times with the 49ers finishing the game with five sacks as Ahmad Brooks led the way with 2.5. As they showed on Sunday, the 49ers’ defense has proven to be ready to step up another level in being catalysts for another 49ers road playoff win.