The San Francisco 49ers are on the road again, this time against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. The 49ers look to notch their first road win this season after securing their second victory overall against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 4 at Levi's® Stadium.
For this week's Four Downs, 49ers team reporter Lindsey Pallares and 49ers spanish insider Jesús Zárate have joined me to break down several storylines ahead of the team's Week 5 matchup in Carolina. We also answer questions directly from the Faithful exclusive for the 49ers Supporters Club. To get your questions answered, sign up for the 49ers Supporters Club here.
1st Down: Biggest Takeaway from Week 4?
@LindseyLares: An outperforming defense
I was already incredibly impressed with the high caliber of the defensive unit as a whole through the first three weeks, and they just keep outperforming themselves with each outing. This is a defense that can always keep the team competitive, and if the offense can get into a rhythm the way it did in Week 4, this is an incredibly difficult team to beat. The Rams offense hasn't been as high powered as we remember from the 2021 season, but to keep the reigning Super Bowl champs out of the end zone entirely is no easy feat. You can't really ask more of a unit that closed out a game giving up just nine points, racking up 7.0 sacks, five pass breakups and a pick-six. My takeaway is that you can expect much more production out of the defense in weeks to come, and it's going to be exciting to watch.
@JesusZarate87: Offensive line stepping up
San Francisco's offensive line really impressed me against the Rams in Week 4 considering the injuries they had. Trent Williams is currently unavailable due to a high ankle sprain and the 49ers lost his replacement, Colton McKivitz, during the game vs. Los Angeles to an MCL sprain. Despite all of those challenges against a defensive line that features guys like Aaron Donald, you have to be very happy with the way the unit played.
@BriMcDonaldTV: Finding their rhythm
The offense's performance in Week 4 against the Rams truly looked like "49ers football." It was great to see San Francisco find their footing and build their confidence against a division rival and I think their recent win can help boost the team's morale heading into an extended road trip. On the offensive side of the ball, there wasn't necessarily one key element or one specific player that made the 49ers successful against the Rams. Rather, the team's run and passing game worked well together and the win came from a team effort.
2nd Down: How Can the 49ers Notch their First Win on the Road?
@LindseyLares: Limiting penalties
Playing on the road has proved to be a bit of a challenge in this first part of the season, but the team can flip the script by playing disciplined football and sustaining drives. If you look at the numbers from Chicago and Denver, both games involved a lot of penalties for the 49ers. Against the Bears, San Francisco had 12 penalties for 99 yards and against the Broncos they recorded another seven penalties for 40 yards. If San Francisco can keep these numbers down, they can keep their offensive unit on the field longer and avoid giving up any first downs to opposing offenses.
@JesusZarate87: Clean football
In order to win their first game on the road, the 49ers need to play mistake-free football like they did against the Rams. Obviously, the whole game is not going to be perfect, but the team should at least not beat themselves with errors like the ones they had in Chicago and Denver. They dominated those teams but the only reason they lost is because of penalties and other mistakes. So if the 49ers continue to play at the level they did on "Monday Night Football" they should have a great opportunity of winning their first game on the road.
@BriMcDonaldTV: Forcing turnovers
San Francisco's defense is one of the strongest in the league at stopping their opponents' momentum by forcing punts and protecting their end zone. That in itself is enough to give the 49ers offense a chance to out score an opposing team. However, when the 49ers defense takes control of the game and tallies interceptions and fumble recoveries, the unit becomes almost unstoppable. If San Francisco's defense can continue to keep their focus on the ball, they are very likely to record their first road win.
3rd Down: Player Who Must Step Up vs. Panthers?
The 49ers are going to need a big game out of swing offensive lineman, Brunskill. Jaylon Moore is likely going to be taking over at left tackle with McKivitz and Williams both sidelined due to injury, and Brunskill is going to be the reinforcement needed up and down the line. He made his 2022 regular season debut against the Rams, playing a total of 21 snaps in that matchup, and I expect he will be needed to play an even lbigger role against the Panthers as the O-line gets healthy. He is a player that Kyle Shanahan has a lot of confidence in, and per the head coach, could also be an option at left tackle.
Moore played well when he had to come in for the injured McKivitz vs. the Rams. If Moore continues to play and keeps doing well, that would be great news for the 49ers because they would have valuable depth at the tackle position when Williams returns. Stepping up at left tackle during Williams' absence is huge in order for San Francisco to play the physical type of football they love.
The veteran back continues to shine brighter and brighter in each game and his production is essential to keep the 49ers offensive momentum. In Week 3 against the Broncos, Wilson Jr. recorded a career-long run of 57 yards. In last week's contest against the Rams, the running back was the team's leading rusher, notching 74 yards on 18 carries and a 32-yard rushing touchdown. If he continues to build on this performance, he can be a key factor in the 49ers success over the Panthers.
4th Down: What is Your Bold Prediction for the Week 5 Matchup Against the Panthers?
@JesusZarate87: The 49ers have another game of 5.0-or-more sacks.