When the Panthers beat the 49ers in the regular season, they collected six sacks, and held the 49ers to 151 total yards. It was a dominant effort for the Panthers defensive line.
And the 49ers clearly were in no mood for a repeat.
Bur rather than talk about it or fight, the 49ers dissected the Panthers pass-rushers on tape, and neutralized them throughout the game.
Pro Bowl defensive end Greg Hardy, who had 15.0 sacks in the regular season, had none Sunday, and neither did linemate Charles Johnson on the other side.
“I studied every single game he played this season, every single pass rush he had, to figure out what kind of counter-moves he had,” left tackle Joe Staley said of Hardy. “It wasn’t like I pitched a shutout – he got around me and got some hits on our quarterback. But overall I felt like we did a good job on him. . . .
“I wanted to get my hands on him quick to see how he would counter because I felt like I had a bead on him. There were a couple of times he tricked me, but this was about coming with a game plan.”
By giving Colin Kaepernick time, the 49ers were eventually able to get something going in the air, and without the pressure up front, the weaknesses in the Panthers secondary were finally exposed.