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What We Learned: Panthers 46 - 49ers 27

View images from the Week 2 game between San Francisco and Carolina.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The San Francisco 49ers were defeated for the first time in Chip Kelly's Bay Area coaching tenure on Sunday.

The defending NFC Champion Carolina Panthers put up 14 unanswered points in the third quarter to break away from Kelly's squad. A feverish comeback in the fourth quarter by the 49ers was not enough to steal one on the road. Carolina won 46-27, putting both teams at 1-1 on the year.

Blaine Gabbert rushed for a touchdown and threw for two scores, but reigning league MVP Cam Newton produced four touchdown passes of his own in Carolina's first win of the 2016 season.

Here's what we learned from the Week 2 contest.

McDonald Produces Career-long Catch

Gabbert found Garrett Celek down the field for what seemed like a long gain, and the starting tight end raced away from Carolina's defense and received a well-timed block from Quinton Patton to finish off the play for a 75-yard touchdown.

The quick-strike made it a seven-point game after the two-play scoring drive took just 16 seconds off the clock.

McDonald made the most of the first pass to come his way on Sunday. It was also San Francisco's longest passing play of the season.

Carolina marched right back into San Francisco territory and made it a two possession game with Graham Gano's 49-yard field goal.

Considering it was a 31-10 game in the second half, the 49ers have a lot to build on with their second-half effort.

49ers Recover Muffed Kick Return

A special teams blunder on a kick return by former 49ers wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. looked like a game-changing moment in the fourth quarter. Ginn was slow to field a 49ers kickoff and when he reached down to pick the ball up, San Francisco running back Shaun Draughn was there to recover it at Carolina's 1-yard line.

Blaine Gabbert kept the ball on a quarterback keeper to give San Francisco another touchdown.

The 49ers have scored 34 points off six turnovers this season. Twenty of the team's points against the Panthers came off turnovers, too.

Ginn returned the ensuing kick 59 yards to put his offense back into field-goal range. Gano tacked on a field goal to cap the 8-play, 25-yard scoring drive to give the home team a two-touchdown advantage.

49ers Pick up 10 Early Points off Turnovers

NaVorro Bowman tipped Cam Newton's first pass attempt of the game, and it was intercepted by Antoine Bethea at Carolina's 23-yard line. 

Following the turnover, the 49ers ran the ball five consecutive times and Gabbert's first pass attempt was an incompletion. As a result, Phil Dawson made a field goal from 29 yards out to give the 49ers an early lead.

The 49ers defense kept the momentum going by forcing a punt on Carolina's second drive. A 42-yard Ginn touchdown catch was also overturned on the drive when the former 49ers wideout's left toe landed out of bounds.

Bethea forced another first-half takeaway to set up points. This time he knocked out the ball from Panthers running back Fozzy Whitaker. The fumble was quickly recovered by linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong. With the ball, Gabbert hit a 13-yard, third-down conversion over the middle to Rod Streater, which was followed by a 19-yard gain by Draughn.

Gabbert got the 49ers into the end zone with a perfectly thrown 28-yard post route to Torrey Smith, who used his body to shield away rookie cornerback James Bradberry from the ball.

The 7-play, 59-yard scoring drive gave the visiting team a 10-7 lead.

Panthers Took Leads off 49ers Mistakes

Just when San Francisco was able to gain the advantage, they gave it right back to Carolina.

The 49ers appeared to have early footing on the road, but a Pierre Garçon fumble was returned for a touchdown by Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson from nine yards out. Just like that, Carolina took the lead, 7-3, with 4:04 left in the first quarter.

Shortly after Smith's 28-yard touchdown grab, the Panthers regained the lead 22 seconds later with a 78-yard Newton touchdown pass to tight end Greg Olsen. The busted coverage was exploited by the Panthers quarterback to put up the first touchdown against the 49ers defense all season. San Francisco went 80 minutes and 20 seconds without allowing a score.

Pass-rush Shows up Late for Both Teams

The 49ers generated one sack on Sunday. Carolina was able to record two sacks and five quarterback hits. Both Newton and Gabbert were able to avoid pressure and get rid of the football throughout the game.

San Francisco's first of three quarterback hits during the game came in the third quarter from linebacker Eli Harold. The second-year player's hit, however, didn't bring Newton to the ground. The big signal-caller absorbed the contact and completed a 9-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin to put the score at 31-10 in favor of the Panthers.

Gerald Hodges later sacked and stripped Newton on a fourth-quarter scramble, the ball was scooped up by Harold and returned 19 yards to Carolina's 17-yard line.

Dawson made a 39-yard field goal to cut into the Panthers lead, making it a 31-13 game with 12:38 left to play.

The 49ers held Newton to 37 rushing yards, but the signal-caller's play-making ability was on display for most of the afternoon. San Francisco will look to improve its pass-rush this week against another mobile quarterback, Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks.

Niner Nuggets

-- Hodges started at inside linebacker on base downs. Armstrong saw action in nickel sub packages. Chris Davis played nickel slot after being inactive due to injury in Week 1.

-- Glenn Dorsey made his 2016 debut at nose tackle on San Francisco's second defensive series.

-- Davis returned the opening kick of the second half and returned it 25 yards.

-- Armstrong suffered a shoulder injury in the third quarter and was announced as questionable to return to the game.

-- Concord, N.C. native, Bradley Pinion averaged 45.4 yards on his seven punt attempts, including four inside the opponent's 20-yard line.

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