Tale Of The Tape: Carolina Panthers At San Francisco 49ers
- QuarterbackCam Newton appears to have put his inconsistency beside him and gotten on a roll. He has magnificent athletic talent and he can get the job done as a passer and a runner. However, he still needs to prove his consistency and this game against a top opponent on the road will be his biggest test of the year. Newton must maintain his confidence and his poise.Colin Kaepernick has overpowering athleticism and the talent to dominate any game. Kaepernick has not matched the numbers he put on the board during the 2012 season, but there is no reason to think that he can’t come through in any big game. The 49ers have been on a roll since losing two games earlier in the season and Kaepernick should be at his best in this game.
- OffenseThe Panthers have the running game to take the heat off of Newton. DeAngelo Williams runs with speed and power and is solid between the tackles or breaking it to the outside. Mike Tolbert has the power to handle short-yardage and goalline assignments. Steve Smith has been resurgent this season and is hungry to get back to the playoffs. Tight end Greg Olsen is a dependable red zone target.Frank Gore is one of the toughest and most consistent running backs in the league. He may not break a big play early, but he will wear down a defense as he pounds on them for four quarters. Anquan Boldin has the ability to win a one-on-one battle with his strength. Tight end Vernon Davis has the speed to make big plays and turn the game in the 49ers’ favor.
- DefenseThe Panthers have one of the toughest and deepest defenses in the league. Carolina ranks third overall and the all-around play of middle linebacker Luke Kuechly is one of the big reasons the Panthers have been consistent. Kuechly leads the team with 64 tackles and he also has three interceptions. Defensive end Charles Johnson has a team-high 7.0 sacks.The Niners are hoping to get outside linebacker Aldon Smith back so he can give their pass rush a lift. Linebacker NaVorro Bowman is one of the best tacklers in the league and he leads the Niners with 69 stops. Underrated free safety Eric Reid has 39 tackles, nine passes defended and three interceptions. Defensive end Justin Smith is solid on the defensive line.
- Special TeamsThe Panthers do a very solid job of maintaining their discipline and staying in their lanes, therefore preventing big plays. Ted Ginn Jr. has the kind of speed to create a big play at any time. Placekicker Graham Gano is having a sensational year, having made 12-of-12 FG attempts.The Niners have not given up any game-changing returns and they are confident that speedy Kyle Williams can break a big play of his own. Phil Dawson has been an upgrade at the PK position, but his 9-of-12 success rate on field goals is just adequate. Andy Lee is an average punter.
The Panthers are up and coming while the 49ers are an established NFC power. This game will be a true test for the visitors and while they could come away with the win, the 49ers are at home and have the advantage. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor