The good news: in a battle of the NFL’s top-ranked defense vs. the NFL’s worst-ranked offense, the former prevailed and the San Francisco 49ers (3-2) beat the Carolina Panthers (1-4), 37-15. And they did so with some pretty impressive offense, too.
The very bad news: they, again, suffer a myriad of injuries, including what they fear is a torn ACL for cornerback Emmanuel Moseley.
“It was tough there at the end,” said 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. “It was a weird feeling there, watching E-Man. Lots of guys got hurt in the game, but it didn’t look good. That definitely took away from a little bit of excitement at the end. But we know the deal, it’s part of this league and everybody goes through it. That was a tough one today. I love how we get to go to the Greenbrier, I love how our guys get to stay together. it’s a lot easier to focus when we do that. Hopefully we’ll get some better news on some of these guys.”
Safety Jimmie Ward returned from injured reserve to play one snap and broke his hand. Pass rusher Nick Bosa left the game with groin tightness, but the 49ers do not think it’s serious. Kicker Robbe Gould suffered a knee contusion.
“It’s tough,” said quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. “It is football so you’ve got to take it with a grain of salt, but everyone in there, it’s a tight locker room. It sucks whenever we lose a guy…I know we lost E, Jimmie, there was some random stuff today. But it’s football, we’ve got to keep going. The train ain’t stopping.”
It may not be stopping, but it’s getting stalled weekly, as a week has yet to go by without San Francisco losing someone for a significant amount of time. The Moseley injury hits particularly hard, as he was playing at an extremely high level and had a game-changing pick-6 in his return to his home state.
“It’s tragic what happened at the end of the game,” said cornerback Charvarius Ward.
It was the first touchdown of Moseley’s career, and he also had two tackles and two PBUs.
“E-Man is such a special human being to me,” said safety Talanoa Hufanga. “He’s been a leader to me as I came in as a rookie. He always had that juice to him, energy and infectious smile and that just flows throughout the locker room. To see E-Man go down, it almost felt like Trey Lance, too. Those are both of my guys.”
If Moseley’s injury is indeed season-ending, expect to see Ambry Thomas, Samuel Womack or potentially Jason Verrett step in. Next man up is a phrase the 49ers have become all too familiar with.
“We wish that that obviously wasn’t the case, you don’t want to be familiar with dealing with big losses,” said linebacker Fred Warner. “But we understand the game that we play. It’s a violent game. As much as it’s easy to say, ‘Next man up,’ it’s not like we’re not thinking about those guys and missing them. But we’re going to find a way to get through and continue to play at a high level.”
It should be noted that Bank of America Stadium is a turf field.
“It was an OK turf,” said tight end George Kittle. “But turf’s turf. It is what it is. I’d much rather play on grass. That’s why I love Jed York. We have the nicest grass in the NFL.”
That Defense Though
The 49ers sacked Panthers quarterback Baker Mayfield six times. There was the aforementioned Moseley pick-6. Charvarius Ward had four PBUs and three tackles. Fred Warner had a sack, nine tackles and a PBU. Talanoa Hufanga had a sack, five tackles and a PBU. The defense also didn’t allow a first-half touchdown for its fifth-consecutive game. In other words, San Francisco’s dominant defense continues. But this week, the offense played its part too.
The Tevin Coleman Game
Running backs Tevin Coleman and Jeff Wilson Jr. each had a day. Coleman, who was activated Saturday from the practice squad, looked like 2019 Tevin Coleman and then some. He had a 5-yard touchdown run, a 9-yard touchdown catch and a 30-yard catch that could get him entered into the Olympics.
“It was a catch that I was doing all week in practice,” Coleman said. “At practice, Jimmy actually didn’t throw it to me at practice when he was supposed to. So he was like, ‘In the game we going to get it. In the game, we going to get it. In the game, we going to get it.’ I was just ready for that play. I knew he was going to throw it…And there was a DB on me. He wasn’t supposed to throw it, but he definitely trusted me.”
This is Coleman’s fifth season in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. He was with the 49ers in 2019 and 2020 and with the Falcons for two years with Shanahan. After being released by the New York Jets in August, Coleman was happy for this opportunity.
“It felt real good,” said Coleman, who was released by the New York Jets in August. “It felt so good just going out there and getting touches and proving that I still have it.”
Garoppolo called Coleman “Mr. Reliable.”
“He’s one of those guys that you know where he’s going to be,” Garoppolo said. “You know he’s going to do the right thing. Whenever you have a guy like that, as a quarterback, you can put that ball up and trust him. It’s fun. I didn’t even see the play, but I heard it was awesome.”
Meanwhile, Wilson finished the day with 17 carries for 120 yards and a touchdown.
Wide receiver Jauan Jennings continues to be his own brand of Mr. Reliable, as the 49ers’ resident Mr. Third Down. He had two receptions for 45 yards but the stats don’t tell the story.
“He’s dangerous when he gets the ball in his hands, man,” Garoppolo said. “I was telling some of the guys. We’ve got to just get him the ball in his hands. It doesn’t even matter how we do it. He’s kind of a third-down specialist right now. He makes those big plays. They just can’t tackle him. He’s a big body out there. He runs with purpose, that’s for sure.”
It was his 32-yard catch, in which it took the Panthers several tries to bring him down, that was the key to the 49ers setting up a touchdown to give them a 24-9 lead. He also had a 13-yard reception on a 3rd-and-10. Specialist.
For the third year in a row, the 49ers will spend the week at the Greenbrier in West Virginia. Then they’re off to Atlanta to take on the Falcons.