Insider's Take: Panthers vs. 49ers

The Carolina Panthers picked up their first win with an impressive rally against the 49ers. Now, they'll take that show on the road to face off with the most hyped rookie QB not named Jimmy Clausen. To find out if John Fox's team can make it two in a row, we talk what worked, what didn't and what's next.

What Worked

--Matt Moore did a lot of impressive things on Sunday en route to his first 300-yard game of the season. But most impressive was how he bounced back from his one big blunder, an INT on a botched screen pass that was returned 31 yards for a TD. After that play, Moore hit on 12 of 16 passes and led the Panthers to scores on two of their final four drives (a third drive would have ended in a score had David Gettis not dropped the ball in the end zone).

--The rookie receivers finally found their wings. Gettis appears to be a star in the making after authoring his first 100-yard game and his first multi-score game on the same day. Brandon LaFell proved he is no slouch either, catching six passes for 91 yards, including a 35-yard completion to set up the game-winning field goal. Maybe it was Moore's return to the lineup that got the rookies going, or maybe it was the competition brought about by the additions of David Clowney and Devin Thomas. Either way, the youngsters earned a lot of trust.

--The 49ers offense came out on fire, needing just four plays to put seven points on the board. After that, the Panthers defense fought back and doused the flames. San Francisco's offense scored just two field goals the rest of the way, both of those coming off Carolina turnovers. The defense's chief accomplishment was winning on third down; the 49ers converted just four of 13 third downs, a big reason why the Panthers won time of possession by more than 12 minutes.

What Didn't

--There are two key sayings in the football world: 1) always protect the football; and 2) superstars set the tone. So when Steve Smith and DeAngelo Williams both lose fumbles in the first game back from a bye, it is disconcerting. The Panthers lost the turnover battle, 3-1, and won't win many games in which they turn the ball over three times as often as their opponent.

--The run defense needs to tighten up. Frank Gore finished with 102 rushing yards, 97 of which came in the first three quarters. Gore's longest run, a 20-yard jaunt, set up San Francisco's lone offensive touchdown. San Francisco averaged 4.5 yards per carry, almost a full yard better than what the Panthers were allowing coming in.

--Captain Munnerlyn ranks No. 20 in punt return average (7.3 yards) among players with at least 10 returns, but replacing him with Smith is not the answer. The Panthers need Smith healthy and full focused on the offensive side of the ball. Given the rookie magic Carolina discovered in Week 7, maybe it's time to give Armanti Edwards another crack at it.

What's Next

The Panthers look to make it two in a row as they head to St. Louis to take on the Rams. St. Louis has won three straight home games and will provide a stiffer test than Panthers fans would have anticipated before the season.

This game would get a lot more hype if Jimmy Clausen were under center to square off with fellow rookie Sam Bradford. However, after Moore's masterful performance in Week 7, there is little chance of another QB change in Carolina any time soon.



What was the key to Matt Moore's turnaround? Discuss in the message boards.




Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and also a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. You can see more of his updates by following him on Twitter.


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