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3 matchups the 49ers need to win against the Panthers

Can’t let Carolina’s pass rush get going today...

San Francisco 49ers vs Carolina Panthers Set Number: X163026 TK1

To say the 1-3 Carolina Panthers have struggled through the first month of the season might be an understatement. Led by Matt Rhule, Carolina has the 32nd-ranked offense and the 16th-ranked defense in the league through four weeks.

While the 49ers' offense could be in for an even match against the Panthers' defense, the 49ers' first-ranked defense could have a field day against Baker Mayfield and company.

The 49ers should be the better team on Sunday in Carolina. Here are the three matchups the 49ers will need to win in order to win back-to-back games for the first time in 2022:

LT Jaylon Moore & RT Mike McGlinchey vs. DE Brian Burns

Brian Burns is currently on pace to set career highs for both sacks and pressures through the first month of the season. He currently sits at 20 pressures and three sacks through four games, with his highs at 57 and nine, respectively. Burns had his fewest amount of pressures in a game this season last week against the Cardinals with three but was able to record a sack in the Panthers' loss on Sunday.

What could cause issues for the 49ers line is how Burns lines up. He doesn’t stick to a specific side, taking about 60 percent of his snaps from the left side of the offense and 40 on the right. If the trend continues, Moore will see slightly more snaps against Burns than he will McGlinchey. Sunday’s tackle duo for the 49ers have allowed a combined seven pressures, with Moore allowing two on only 11 pass-blocking attempts.

With McGlinchey playing well as a pass blocker through the first month (five pressures allowed in 128 pass snaps), Burns could line up even more against the left side of the 49ers' offense.

LB Fred Warner & LB Dre Greenlaw vs. RB Chrisitan McCaffrey

With the Panthers' offense comes a test in Christian McCaffrey. While health has always been a concern for the Panthers' running back, McCaffrey has been able to stay on the field and has once again proved why he’s such a threat. He already has 270 rush yards and 318 receiving yards, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise as McCaffrey has more than half of the touches for the Panthers' offense, 77 of 150.

With the 49ers missing both Javon Kinlaw and Arik Armstead out, there will be more pressure to contain Christian McCaffrey in the run game than usual on the 49ers linebackers. That might not be the worry though, as Warner and Greenlaw are the two leading tacklers on the 49ers' defense where the concern could come in Greenlaw against McCaffrey in coverage. While Warner has only been targeted four times through four games in coverage against running backs, Greenlaw has allowed 12 receptions on 15 targets for 55 yards per PFF when targeted against a running back.

DE Nick Bosa vs. QB Baker Mayfield

The story has been told plenty of times, so I will spare the details, but the rivalry between the 49ers pass rusher and the now Panthers quarterback has been brewing since college. Mayfield has had a less-than-desirable start averaging a career-low 186.8 passing yards per game with a career-low 3.4 touchdown percentage and 75 passer rating.

The struggle could be in part to the Panthers' offensive line allowing Mayfield to be sacked on 8.6 percent of his dropbacks, tied for the seventh-highest sack percentage in the league with Denver, who allowed Russell Wilson to be sacked four times against the 49ers in Week 3.

The good news for Nick Bosa is that 19 of the Panthers' 36 pressures allowed and four of the teams' 11 sacks allowed have been credited to rookie Ikem Ekwonu and Taylor Moton, both of the Panthers' tackles. While it’s early, Bosa is on pace to set new career highs in both sacks and pressures, with six and 30, respectively, in his first four games of 2022. Last week Bosa set a new game-high with 14 pressures against the Rams and was able to add a couple of sacks. Throw in everything to be considered this week, Bosa’s hot start, Carolina’s poor tackle play early, and the stink with Mayfield, and Sunday could be a career-day for Bosa.