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49ers pounce on Panthers early in 51-13 victory

That was unexpected.

Carolina Panthers v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

The Panthers came into the game with the third-ranked defense, and Kyle Shanahan drove down the field and make it look easy. The 49ers scored on their first possession and third possession. The second one ended on the first play after Jimmy Garoppolo threw an interception after under throwing George Kittle over the middle. The possessions that ended in touchdowns seemed like Shanahan found the weakness of the Panthers. That was misdirection. The Niners would fake action one way and come back the other way with something else, and Carolina had no answer.

That’s exactly how the 49ers scored on the next possession. Despite an early turnover, it was 21-3 barely into the second quarter. The defense put pressure on Kyle Allen early, and the Panthers weren’t able to get on track. Early sacks by Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead stalled a pair of Panther drives.

The 49ers scored 27 points in the first half against one of the best defenses in the league, and they turned it over one possession. That tells you all you need to know about the level this team is playing at.

At the half, the Panthers were averaging 2.7 yards per play compared to 7.5 from the 49ers. Carolina had 76 yards while San Francisco had 254. It was a dominating performance by a team that has dominated every opponent to date. The Niners were 3-3 in the red zone. That’s when you know everything was clicking.

Nick Bosa was everywhere. He had three sacks in the first half, but that feels like it’s selling Bosa short when talking about the impact he had on the game. Emmanuel Moseley jumped a pass for an interception. It was a great read by Moseley, who has played well in every start.

The 49ers gave up a sack in the end zone to start the third quarter, and that made the score 27-5. A Christian McCaffrey 40-yard touchdown run and a two-point conversion made it 27-13, and all of a sudden, we have ourselves a ball game.

We did not have ourselves a ball game.

The 49ers scored on two of their next three possessions, and the Panthers threw an interception on two of their next three possessions. A Deebo Samuel touchdown, crazy Bosa interception, and a Robbie Gould field goal made it 44-13.

I’m not sure what to say. The 49ers are the best team in football. The offense was rolling early on, and the defense did what they’ve done all season. In a game against a team that was 4-2, the Niners pulled their starters early in the fourth quarter.

For good measure, Raheem Mostert scored on a long run to make it 51-13.