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49ers Winning Streak Snapped by Panthers

Posted Nov 10, 2013

San Francisco fell to Carolina, 10-9, on Sunday at Candlestick Park.

Leave it to two of the NFL’s most potent offenses in October to engage in a defensive struggle now that we're in November.

The 49ers (6-3) fell to the Panthers (6-3), 10-9, on Sunday afternoon at Candlestick Park, ending San Francisco’s five-game winning streak.

An electric offense – combined with an opportunistic defense – had been a significant reason why the team had rattled off victories entering its bye week. Only one of those two ingredients was present on Sunday. The unit had scored at least 30 points in each win during the streak but only managed three first-half field goals from Phil Dawson.

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick was 11-of-22 passing for 91 yards – just nine more than Frank Gore gained on the ground. Kaepernick and Co. converted just two of 13 third-down plays.

"It's unacceptable," said wideout Anquan Boldin, who caught three of five passes directed his way for 23 yards. "We have a number of weapons on offense. We just have to do a better job of making it happen."

PHOTOS: 49ers vs. Panthers

The Panthers offense, which entered the game scoring 32.5 points per game over its own four-game string of victories, stalled throughout the first half.  Quarterback Cam Newton, for one, completed just 5 of his first 17 passes entering halftime.

Carolina managed the game’s lone touchdown when one of its three able running backs, DeAngelo Williams, ran like a man possessed on a 27-yard score on the first play following the two-minute warning. It was the longest rushing touchdown San Francisco’s defense had yielded this season.

Dawson’s connections from 46 yards, 42 yards and 25 yards was all there was on the other side of the ball. The veteran kicker has executed 12 of his 15 attempts this season. The second of his three tries was a result of safety Eric Reid’s fumble recovery on a muffed punt recovery attempt by cornerback Drayton Florence.

The defense benefited from the return of outside linebacker Aldon Smith. Absent from the team since Week 3, the All-Pro helped to collapse the pocket on two first-half plays, the second of which preceded Tramaine Brock’s interception of Newton.

Brock, whose four picks represent a team-high this season, returned the ball 42 yards to the original line of scrimmage, Carolina’s 24-yard line. From there, San Francisco turned a 14th straight turnover into points – this time, Dawson’s 25-yard three-pointer.

The 49ers lost tight ends Garrett Celek (hamstring) and Vernon Davis (concussion) to injuries in the first and second quarters, respectively. Wide receiver Mario Manningham, who made his season debut since recovering from surgery on his left knee, caught two passes and dropped two others.

Injuries kept coming. Defensive tackle Ray McDonald (ankle) was deemed questionable to return in the third quarter, while Reid (concussion) also left the game after making helmet-to-helmet contact with 245-pound running back Mike Tolbert during the Panthers second offensive series of the second half.

Carolina ended that drive with an errant 48-yard field goal attempt by Graham Gano, but it wasn’t the team’s last opportunity to take its first lead. Gano nailed a 53-yarder with 10:05 showing on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter.

Closing out the win wasn't easy. Newton fumbled the snap but recovered it at the start of a 3rd-and-2 play with less than two minutes remaining. The Panthers punted the ball away with 1:10 left on the game clock.

Armed with one timeout, Kaepernick was sacked for a six-yard loss on the first play of the final drive. On the next play, he threw an interception to Florence.

"Moving the ball wasn't easy for us today," Jim Harbaugh said. "I thought there were plays to be made, and (Kaepernick) made some really good ones. And we all put our fingerprints on that. Don't feel good as a coach. It's not a good feeling when you don't prevail, especially when you had multiple chances to get it done."

San Francisco visits New Orleans for its Week 11 game.

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