Andrew Sharp: The game ended in the third quarter. First the 49ers offense went 77 yards down the field to go up 10. Then the defense sacked the Panthers out of field goal range. Right then, it was pretty much over. The Niners got the ball back, kept it for eight minutes, and Cam Newton was on the sideline tugging at his collar while the life got squeezed out of his season. By the time the Niners kicked a field goal, half of the fourth quarter was gone. This is how the death machine works. Frank Gore chips off four or five yards at a time. Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis slice through the secondary for 15- and 20-yard chunks. And then Colin Kaepernick will scramble around for as much as he needs, just to make the defense a little more helpless. Then the other team gets the ball back, and you remember the Niners defense has NaVorro Bowman and Ahmad Brooks and Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith and Donte Whitner/Hitner. Then you watch them wreak havoc on poor, miserable offenses and grind them down to nothing one hit at a time. The 49ers don't have the best offense or the best defense, but no team in the NFL has a better combination of the two. When everything's clicking, it's clinical on both sides of the ball. When everything's clicking, there's no more methodical, ruthless machine in football. And … [Googles past two months of the 49ers' schedule] … Well, shit. They seem to be clicking pretty well right now.