The time has come for the San Francisco 49ers take their trip to the East Coast where the team will take on back-to-back road games. San Francisco will first be matched up against the Carolina Panthers and the 49ers will look to notch their first win away from home.
Carolina holds the lead in the all-time series against the 49ers, with the record currently standing at 13-9. Although, the last time these two teams faced each other was in 2019, and San Francisco owns the most recent win in the matchup. Here's a look into how the Carolina Panthers roster has changed since they last faced the 49ers:
|2019 Carolina Panthers
|2022 Carolina Panthers
One of the biggest storylines heading into the Week 5 contest is analyzing how Carolina's offense will match up against San Francisco's defense.
So far this season, the 49ers are ranked first overall in total defense, while the Panthers offense is ranked last overall in the league.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield, who's in his first season under center in Carolina, recorded the worst statistical performance of his career in his previous matchup with the 49ers. While with the Cleveland Browns, Mayfield's team lost 31-3 to the 49ers in Week 5 of the 2019 season. San Francisco's defense sacked the QB four times, forced two fumbles and two interceptions, didn't allow a single passing touchdown and limited Mayfield to a 13.4 passer rating. 49ers fans can easily recall that game, as defensive lineman Nick Bosa celebrated a sack on Mayfield by mimicking the planting of a flag on the field, a gesture of revenge from a 2017 college game between the two that Mayfield won and celebrated by planting an Oklahoma flag on Ohio State's field.
The panthers will likely turn to running back Christian McCaffrey, one of their biggest offensive weapons, in order to establish the run game. McCaffrey is currently tied for sixth-most scrimmage yards in the NFL (408), averaging at over 100 scrimmage yards per game in every season since 2018. The running back has notched over 100 rushing yards in Weeks 2 and 3 this season, however, he was limited by the Arizona Cardinals defense, recording only 27 yards on eight carries. In order for the 49ers defense to prosper once again, they'll not only have to eliminate McCaffrey's production on the ground – but also in the air. Where the running back struggled to find success in the run game, he found in the passing game, notching nine receptions on all nine of his targets for 81 yards and a touchdown.
San Francisco's quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo put on a successful performance against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 4, recording 8.9 yards per attempt and finishing the game with a 100.7 QB rating. Garoppolo was supported by a 49ers offensive line that stepped up to the challenge after working through big changes in recent weeks. San Francisco's O-line managed to not allow a single sack, despite going into their matchup without star left tackle Trent Williams and finishing the game with rookie Jaylon Moore with backup tackle Colton McKivitz leaving the the contest early due to a knee injury.
Week 5 will also present a big challenge for San Francisco's offensive line, as they'll be up against Panthers defensive end Brian Burns. The fourth-year lineman recorded a sack against Kyler Murray in Week 4, notching a total of 3.0 so far this season. If Garoppolo can get the ball in action before Burns applies pressure, the 49ers offense has a much greater chance at finding their rhythm and sustaining long drives. Two Panthers to monitor heading into the weekend are linebacker Frankie Luvu (shoulder) and safety Xavier Woods (hamstring), who are both listed as questionable.
Although the 49ers matchup against the Panthers look pretty good in writing, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan made it clear that Week 5 is sure to be a tough contest and that every individual game is a battle of its own.
"I see a team that could very easily be 4-0," Shanahan said when describing the Panthers. "I see a team that I think is playing really good defense. I think they have some talent on their offense. They've gotten in trouble just turning it over a little bit, which has hurt them... but I don't look at their record and think any differently."