The win was convincing, but so is the injury list. Even though the San Francisco 49ers went into Charlotte, North Carolina, and handled the Panthers with relative ease, they left with a chunk of their roster banged up.
Here's an inglorious statistic attached to the 49ers' newfound summiting of the NFC West with their 3-2 record: "Each of the first five games for the 49ers have featured at least one injury to either a starter or key backup, and in some cases both," wrote Niners Wire. San Francisco "already had six players ruled out Friday due to injury, with a slew of others awaiting returns from Injured Reserve."
Before the carnage, though, let's relive the glory, and take a moment to appreciate that the 49ers are playing very good football. Can they maintain this level of play as the injuries accumulate?
For the second week in a row, the San Francisco 49ers found themselves in a game that felt closer than it should have been, at least for the majority of the first half. An uncharacteristic George Kittle fumble gave the Panthers more life than they would have otherwise had — though that turnover led to a missed Carolina field goal, and it was 7-0 49ers after one quarter.
A 49-yard Robbie Gould field goal early in the second made it 10-0. In response, there wasn't much rhythm to the Panthers' Baker Mayfield-led offense. Carolina hit a 43-yard field goal, then late in the second quarter, blocked a Niners' field goal attempt, keeping the game naggingly close. Driving from around their own 20-yard line with less than a minute to go in the half, Mayfield overthrew his receiver and into hands of Emmanuel Moseley, who ran it back for the pick-six to end the half.
Early in the third quarter, the Panthers went for it on a 4th and 1 at San Francisco's 20-yard line and ran it straight into the end zone, but missed on a two-point conversion attempt. Score: 17-9, and still way closer than it seems like it should have been. The next 49er possession featured a little Deebo Samuel, a little Jeff Wilson Jr., and then a little Jauan Jennings, who caught a short pass from Jimmy Garoppolo and turned it into a big gain, bouncing off tacklers and taking the ball about four yards shy of the endzone. Jimmy G — who would have 253 passing yards and two touchdowns on the day — threaded a bullet-pass to Samuel on third down in the redzone, making it 24-9, and finally putting the game at what what felt like the appropriate distance.
It was easy to forget that the Niners had been dropping like flies on Sunday.
On back to back kickoffs, Robbie Gould was the last 49er to hit the Panthers' Raheem Blackshear. Late in the third quarter, Gould was bulldozed as he put his body in front of a Blackshear return. Though he appears to have avoided "significant injury," Gould suffered a bruised knee on his plant leg and is questionable to return next week, according to Niners Wire.
A Carolina field goal was followed by a 49ers touchdown, making it 30-12 early in the fourth quarter. Mayfield and the Panthers made a valiant drive on the next possession, converting a few 3rd downs and one 4th, but they only came away with a another field goal.
Both teams traded possessions, and on a deep Baker Mayfield-pass late in the fourth quarter, Emmanuel Moseley went up to make a play on the ball (which fell incomplete), and came down grabbing his knee. Niners' coach Kyle Shanahan said that Moseley might have torn his ACL — certainly a season-ending injury — but the team is waiting on an MRI.
Late in the game and backed up against their own end zone, the Panthers were forced to go for it on a doomed 4th down, which ultimately led to one more 49ers' possession and touchdown, and the final 37-15 tally.
There were other Niners fallen in the gold dust of their romp of Carolina. After missing the first four games of the year with a hamstring injury, safety Jimmy Ward made his season debut, which lasted exactly one play, ending with a broken hand. "There’s no immediate word on how much time Ward will miss," Niners Wire said.
Quietly exiting the game yesterday was Nick Bosa, who left in the second quarter with tightness in his groin. "After an evaluation at halftime, the team decided to rule [Bosa] out for the rest of the game," Niners Wire said. It's not clear how much time Bosa might miss, if any.
And here are a few bonus injuries, just in case this happy story — which began with a impressive 49ers' win — isn't ending on an ominous enough note for you. Jeff Wilson Jr. reportedly has a "shoulder issue" that was evaluated during the game, though it's not even remotely clear if it's serious. Also in the "wait-and-see column" is corner back Deommodore Lenoir, who "briefly exited Sunday’s game" with a "wrist issue," according to Niners Wire.
Beyond bad luck, was there a particular culprit responsible for the Niners' woes? George Kittle blamed it on Carolina's "crappy turf," and said that artificial surfaces around the league can vary widely. "If you're not gonna mandate grass, why aren't all turf fields the exact same turf so guys get used to playing on the same turf everywhere?" Kittle was quoted as saying. "NBA guys don't play on different wood, so what are we doing? I just wish we played on a surface that was similar every single week in and week out, so your body wouldn't just be dealing with different crappy turf."
The 49ers will be in Atlanta next week to face the 2-3 Falcons.
Previously: 49ers Beat LA as Defense Owns the Rams
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