SFI's LIVE Game Blog: 49ers vs. Panthers

The 49ers finally ended a season-shattering eight-game losing streak last week, but now can they start a winning streak? Two of the NFC's most disappointing teams lock helmets today in Charlotte, N.C., and SFI will keep you up to date on the action with live reports and commentary from Bank of America Stadium. Make sure to refresh this page every 15 minutes for running updates throughout the game.

12:50 p.m. The Panthers haven't won at home in more than a year and bring a streak of seven consecutive regular-season losses on their home field in to today's game. That's difficult to believe, considering the support Carolina gets from its home fans and what a difficult place this usually is for opposing teams. The 49ers always had trouble here when this used to be called Ericsson Stadium and the teams met twice a year as NFC West rivals. They've only met once since the Panthers left the division after the 2001 season …

12:53: Already the oldest quarterback ever to win a NFL game, Carolina's Vinny Testaverde becomes the second-oldest ever to start a game today. When you last more than two decades in this league at any position, that's really saying something …

12:57: The 49ers win the coin toss and will start the game on offense, and for once that doesn't seem like a bad thing. Hopefully the San Francisco O can pick up right where it left off last season …

1:01: There's a moment of silence on the field to honor the memory of Sean Taylor, the fallen Washington Redskins safety who was killed last week. What a tragedy …

1:05: A short run by Frank Gore and a Trent Dilfer completion to Arnaz Battle sets up a second and short, but Darrell Jackson drops Dilfer's third down pass on a well-thrown ball down the sideline. Jackson had to adjust to the football, but it hit him right in the hands and that's a ball he has to catch. It's a poor start for Jackson, and let's hope that's not an indication of things to come ...

1:08: The 49ers get penalized on the ensuing punt and have to re-kick, then apparently recover a fumble by returner Ryne Robinson before that call is overturned on the field. Huh? That sure looked like Keith Lewis ripped the ball out of Robinson's hands while it still was live. Oh well. The Panthers have a lot of field in front of them …

1:16: A late hit by Nate Clements on Steve Smith moves the Panthers into scoring range, but a personal foul on Carolina tackle Jordan Gross moves the Panthers back into a third-and-18 situation and Testaverde throws incomplete on the play. The Panthers, back near midfield now, have to punt, and former 49ers punter Jason Baker sails it into the end zone ...

1:24: What the heck?! The 49ers get a nice drive going as Frank Gore makes an over-the-shoulder grab of a Dilfer pass on third down to get San Francisco moving down the field. But an 18-yard completion to Battle is wiped out by a penalty, and a few plays later, the 49ers face a third-and-1. The 49ers try to get fancy with one of those lame reverses that haven't worked well this season, and Battle gets caught in the backfield and then fumbles the ball!! The Panthers recover, and now Carolina has the ball near midfield. What's up with that call? Another poor start by the offense continues …

1:35: After getting the ensuing drive rolling with a 3rd-and-10 screen pass to DeShaun Foster that goes for 23 yards and takes the Panthers into San Francisco territory, Carolina is much more proficient with the early-game razzle-dazzle. Testaverde passes to Smith on the right side, and he laterals the ball DeAngelo Williams, who circles the right side for 14 yards and another first down. A nice, well-executed play. It's third-and-4 from the San Francisco 8 now, and Smith takes a direct snap and bounces around the right side until he gets to the 3 before being forced out of bounds. The Panthers have first-and-goal from there, but they can't push it in as the Patrick Willis-led defense stiffens. It's a good hold by the San Francisco D, which did some bending but didn't break, and Carolina's streak of touchdown-less quarters at home will stretch to four. The Panthers settle for a chip-shot 19-yard field goal John Kasay …
Panthers 3, 49ers 0

1:42: The 49ers answer Carolina's scoring drive with a whimper, another nondescript three-and out. That's 48 three-and-outs for the San Francisco offense this season, easily the most in the NFL. Ball back to the Panthers as Andy Lee comes in to boom one away and the first quarter ends …

1:56: This is getting a little ridiculous now. The NFL's 25th-ranked offense - led by an ancient 44-year-old quarterback, remember - goes right down the field again. Where's the D, 49ers? Smith picks up big yardage on a reverse as the Panthers use more misdirection and creativity, and on third-and-goal, Testaverde finds rookie Dante Rosario - Carolina's third-string tight end - alone in the end zone with a five-yard touchdown pass. It's the first scoring reception of Rosario's career. Wow. That was pretty bad. The Panthers cruise 80 yards in 10 plays in an efficient five-minute drive, and now their lead is in double digits early in the second quarter …
Panthers 10, 49ers 0

2:04: The 49ers get a nice return of the ensuing kickoff from Maurice Hicks, and look at this, the offense is moving. There's a completion to Jackson for good yardage and a first down, and a nice swing pass to Gore that picks up another nice chunk. The 49ers are in scoring range now, and they need to go for the end zone. But look at this! Oh, no!! With Jackson and Battle running routes on the right side, Dilfer throws a pass right into the hands of Carolina nickel back Richard Marshall, and Marshall makes the sure-handed pick. He immediately turns it up field, and there's some room there. He weaves toward the sideline, and Dilfer misses a diving tackle attempt. Marshall is gone! There he goes, high-stepping it at the end as Vernon Davis follows in futile pursuit. It's a 73-yard interception return for a touchdown, and talk about back-breakers. Carolina adds another TD to its growing lead, and is this game already starting to look over, or what? Where are the 49ers who showed up last week? …
Panthers 17, 49ers 0

2:14: It's another weak three-and-out by the San Francisco defense, and the Panthers move the ball near midfield on their next possession. Carolina is stopped short on third down, though, and now faces a fourth-and-1. The Panthers, still in their own territory, line up to go for it. What? Why would they risk that? But it's a rouse. They're trying to draw San Francisco offside, and the 49ers aren't biting. The Panthers will punt, and the Niners will get another shot on offense with just over three minutes remaining in the first half …

2:19: The Panthers, who ranked 31st in the NFL in sacks per play entering the game, are all over Dilfer. After moving the chains with a sideline pass to Battle that gets the 49ers up to their own 48, Dilfer is sacked again. On the next play, again facing heavy pressure, Dilfer throws over the middle and is intercepted again! It's middle linebacker Jon Beason on the pick this time as Davis falls down on his route. Sheez! The 49ers look as bad as ever. Now Carolina has the ball at the 50-yard line. Man, the Panthers have a great opportunity to pile on even more points. This is getting real bad real fast …

2:22: Clements, mercifully, provides a little relief from the onslaught. Carolina quickly drives into field-goal range, and on first down from the 38, Testaverde takes a shot at the end zone. Receiver Drew Carter is open down the sideline, but Testaverde underthrows the pass, and Clements is there to make a nice pick near the goal line. So, that's a bit of a saving grace for the 49ers as Dilfer takes a knee at the 1 and the first half comes to an end - yet another forgettable half of football for the 2007 49ers …

2:32: The first-half numbers are predictable enough. The 49ers are failing miserably once again on offense with just 85 yards and five first downs. But the big number of the first half is San Francisco's three turnovers. Meanwhile, the Panthers have rolled up 172 yards of offense with Testaverde going an efficient 11 of 16 for 101 yards. That looks a lot better than Dilfer's 7 of 12 for 78 yards with the two big picks. Gore, who had 32 touches good for 214 yards last week, has just 10 touches so far for 59 yards. Not good. And even worse, Carolina gets the ball first to begin the second half? Onside kick maybe? At this point of the season, the Panthers figure to be ready for that …

2:39: The 49ers kick it away, but it's the defense gets the ball right back for them. Facing third-and-long, Testaverde takes the snap in the shotgun and fires to the left side. But safety Michael Lewis is there and makes a leaping, athletic interception. Great play! And now the Niners suddenly have the ball at the Carolina 38 with a chance to get back in this one …

2:41: And, on third-and-9, Davis makes a nice grab in traffic over the middle to keep the drive moving deep in Carolina territory. That's the kind of play we need to start seeing more of from both Davis and the 49ers. San Francisco just has to strike for the end zone here …

2:44: And the 49ers do! Dilfer gets dumped for yet another sack, but on third-and-12 from the 20, he gets good protection as his teammates pick up a Carolina blitz. Dilfer spots Battle, who has shaken a defender and is wide open over the middle. Battle reels in the spot-on pass with nobody around him, and just like that, the 49ers are back within two scores with more than 11 minutes still remaining in the third quarter. Now, that's the way for the offense to answer after the defense gets San Francisco the ball. We have a game again here …
Panthers 17, 49ers 7

2:51: And it's a quick three-and-out by the Carolina offense as a fired-up San Francisco defense forces third-and-long after bottling up Foster in the backfield for a big loss on second down. Clements is back with returner Michael Lewis to field the ensuing punt, and he takes Baker's kick. Clements fakes a reverse handoff to Lewis, then takes off down the right sideline. There's some room there, and Clements is on the loose! He makes some nice moves and weaves his way down the sideline, picking up big yardage. It's a 41-yard return before Clements finally is dragged down, and now the 49ers are set up again at the Carolina 35. Talk about getting back in the game quickly. That's the 49ers here …

2:55: And there it is!! The 49ers don't waste time and need only a few plays to hit paydirt again as Dilfer threads a nice pass over the middle to Delanie Walker, who makes the grab as he falls into the end zone for the first touchdown pass of his career. And just like that, the fat 17-0 deficit is erased, and the 49ers are back within a field goal with 8:29 still remaining in this turnaround third quarter. The 49ers are riding this swing in momentum to the hilt! …
Panthers 17, 49ers 14

3:02: And there's another three-and-out by Carolina! Rookie Dashon Goldson gets into the act and makes a nice play on a third down pass, and now the ball is going right back to the 49ers with a chance to take the lead! …

3:04: Uh … no it's not. With all the momentum on their side, the 49ers gift-wrap it right back to the Panthers. Returner Michael Lewis seems to misread the ensuing punt, and he lets it slip out of his hands! The ball is free on the field, and both Mark Roman and Donald Strickland have a shot at it before the Panthers recover deep at the San Francisco 11. Double sheez! How do the 49ers let crap like this happen just when they're back in the game? …

3:08: The Panthers take full advantage of the major gaffe, punching it into the end zone on four consecutive runs by Foster. The 49ers almost stuffed him on third-and-short, but he wiggled free for a first down inside the 1, then leaped over the top for the score on the next play. Just like that, Carolina's lead is back to double digits …
Panthers 24, 49ers 14

3:14: Hicks has another nice return of the ensuing kickoff, and the 49ers start their next drive at the 50-yard line after a penalty by Carolina is tacked on. But San Francisco can't take advantage of the good field position and punts the ball right back to the Panthers. Carolina gets flagged for running into Lee, but the resulting five-yard penalty is not enough to give the 49ers the first down, so they decline the penalty and Carolina starts its next drive at the San Francisco 17 …

3:20: The Panthers escape the hole, and now they're driving into scoring range again as the third quarter comes to a close. The fourth quarter opens with Carolina facing third-and-3 at the San Francisco 34 …

3:22: And Carolina converts that with a short pass to Carter. Now the Panthers are in field-goal range for Kasay. The 49ers can't afford to give up more points …

3:28: The Panthers face third-and-2 at the San Francisco 20. This is a big play. And Tully Banta-Cain jumps into the neutral zone before the snap! There's a flag!! First down, Panthers. What's Banta-Cain doing? Another crucial mistake by the 49ers. Sheez …

3:33: And the Panthers convert. They roll down to a first-and-goal at the 3, and two plays later, Testaverde shakes off some pressure in the backfield and threads a pass into the back of the end zone, where tight end Jeff King is waiting. King gets behind Willis and hauls it in just inside the white lines. Touchdown, Panthers. That was a 13-play drive that ate eight pivotal minutes off the clock. And now Carolina has back its 17-point halftime lead, and things are not looking good for the 49ers with 10:26 remaining to play in this one …
Panthers 31, 49ers 14

3:38: The 49ers in the hurry-up offense now, and that certainly makes sense. Boy, you can tell that Gore's not quitting. He is running as hard as ever and taking on tacklers as the 49ers move into Carolina territory …

3:39: Well, that mini-threat didn't last long. With a first down at the Carolina 45, Dilfer looks left for Ashley Lelie down the field. But he telegraphs the throw into double coverage, giving safety Marquand Manuel plenty of time to come over, step in front of Lelie and make an easy interception of a lousy throw that was both late and underthrown. That's three interceptions for Dilfer and five - count 'em - turnovers for the 49ers. Will it ever end? Well, this one will in about eight minutes of clock time, because after that latest pick, you can pretty much say, "Game over." …

3:45: The 49ers have the look of a beaten team - a look they've worn a lot this season, obviously - but the defense gets the ball back with six minutes remaining so the beleaguered offense can take another shot. And, on first down, Dilfer is sacked for the fifth time. The Panthers began the game with only 10 sacks - for the entire season. And the beat goes on …

3:47: And, on third down, there's sack No. 6 on Dilfer as Manuel charges in untouched on a delayed blitz to flatten him. The 49ers have too much ground to cover and are too close to their own end zone to go for it. Down by 17, they have to punt the ball to Carolina with the clock now down below five minutes. Talk about waving the white flag …

3:51: The defense holds again, but the 49ers have to burn their final timeouts to keep the clock from winding down and get back the ball inside of four minutes remaining. Meanwhile, on the opposite sideline, the Panthers already are congratulating themselves on the end to their five-game losing streak …

3:53: Maybe the 49ers would just be better off letting that clock burn as quickly as possible. Dilfer is quickly picked off for the fourth time, and all the good the San Francisco offense showed last week is looking like a distant memory. Six turnovers! Wow, that's pretty bad …

3:58: The Panthers run the ball into the line three consecutive times and then punt as the clock winds down to the two-minute warning. The end of this one can't come soon enough for the 49ers …

4:01: Dilfer and the offense trot onto the field for one more try with the clock now below two minutes. What a sorry sight …

4:03: Hey, there's a first down! Forget it. Hicks takes a third-and-10 pass from Dilfer and sells out to get the 10 yards, but the play is called back when Davis is flagged for an illegal bock. That leaves the 49ers going for it on fourth-and-14 from their own 22 ..

4:04: And, fittingly, Dilfer drops the snap in shotgun formation and is swarmed by the Panthers for yet another sack. That's seven - 7!! - by a team that entered the game with only 10 sacks to show in their first 11 games. It's back to ground zero for the 49ers …

4:06: Testaverde takes a knee twice, and that's the ball game as Carolina wins at home for the first time in more than a year. Don't look now, but the 49ers are now assured of their fifth consecutive losing season - the first time that has happened in the franchise's 62-year history. This one hurts, and it also sucks. So much for turning around the season.
Final score: Panthers 31, 49ers 14

Make sure to check back with sfillustrated.com later this afternoon and evening for full post-game coverage, analysis and comments from the San Francisco locker room, and then check back throughout the week for daily coverage of the team and NFL as the 49ers look to get back on track next Sunday when they return to San Francisco to begin a three-game homestand against the surging Minnesota Vikings.


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