Benjamin, Newton propel Panthers past 49ers
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[September 19, 2016]
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Remembering
what wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin can do was something the Carolina
Panthers could appreciate Sunday afternoon.
Benjamin, who missed all of the 2015 season following a strong
rookie year, was back in form with two touchdown receptions as the
Panthers overcame a series of mistakes for a 46-27 victory against
the San Francisco 49ers at Bank of America Stadium.
"I'm good and I'm glad to be out there," Benjamin said, downplaying
his contributions. 'It's only the second game of the season."
Cam Newton threw four touchdown passes, including a pair in the
third quarter to Benjamin, as the Panthers (1-1) opened their home
schedule with a big offensive game.
Benjamin, who sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the
2015 training camp, made a team-high seven catches for 108 yards.
"He is special, makes my life extremely easy," Newton said. "Helps
me a lot."
At 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, Benjamin became a matchup problem for
the 49ers' secondary.
"He's a big body," San Francisco safety Antoine Bethea said. "They
had a couple guys out there with big frames. Cam just puts the ball
within their wide catch radius and (Benjamin) just goes up and
Newton completed 24 of 40 throws for 353 yards as Carolina bumped
its franchise-record home winning streak to 14 games.
San Francisco quarterback Blaine Gabbert was 17 for 36 for 243 yards
and two touchdowns and two fourth-quarter interceptions. The 49ers
(1-1) didn't score in the second half until a pair of Panthers'
turnovers put them in prime position in the fourth quarter.
Gabbert's 75-yard touchdown pass to tight end Vance McDonald closed
what had been a 21-point deficit to 34-27 with 7:51 to play.
"We just kept saying that we got to believe," Bethea said. "We've
got to play hard until that clock rolls off. We've got to just keep
pushing and plugging and see what happens."
Graham Gano's 49-yard field goal with 4:08 to play gave Carolina a
Two plays later, linebacker Luke Kuechly picked off Gabbert. That
set up Newton's 16-yard touchdown pass to receiver Devin Funchess.
Carolina running back Fozzy Whittaker gained career-high 100 yards
on 16 carries, mostly after starting Jonathan Stewart left the game
with a hamstring injury.
"Fozzy picked up the rifle and kept shooting," Newton said. "... I'm
not sure what (Stewart's) injury is, but I'm confident in Fozzy
picking up the torch."
The 49ers scored only 13 points off four Carolina turnovers.
"We can't keep going on those lulls," Newton said. "It seems like a
time we were taking turns messing up."
Gabbert's 28-yard touchdown strike to receiver Torrey Smith gave the
49ers a 10-7 lead in the second quarter.
Less than 30 seconds later, San Francisco's defense gave up its
first points of the season. Panthers tight end Greg Olsen broke free
down the middle and collected Newton's pass for a 78-yard touchdown
play. That was the longest scoring play of Olsen's 10-year career.
[to top of second column]
Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin (13) catches the ball as San
Francisco 49ers cornerback Jimmie Ward (25) defends in the third
quarter. The Panthers defeated the 49ers 46-27 at Bank of America
Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
"I felt like there were plays out there where you had to make the
play," 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman said. "They did a good job
executing and going on with their game plan."
Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson's 9-yard return for a touchdown
off of running back Carlos Hyde's fumble with 4:04 remaining in the
first quarter accounted for Carolina's first points.
"My whole mindset was to just scoop and score," Thompson said.
Gano's 41-yard field goal with 1 second left in the half pushed the
lead to 17-10.
The Panthers opened the second half with a drive lasting almost five
minutes, capped by Newton's 10-yard touchdown throw to Benjamin.
They hooked up for a 9-yard touchdown play less than four minutes
It didn't start so smoothly for Carolina.
Newton was intercepted by Bethea on the second snap of the game. But
all the 49ers could muster was Phil Dawson's 29-yard field goal.
Newton's fourth-quarter fumble on a scramble resulted in Dawson's
39-yard field goal. That came one play after Gabbert was sacked for
the first time this season. In two games, he threw a total of 60
passes before taking a sack.
But after Ted Ginn Jr. fumbled the ensuing kickoff, Gabbert ran 1
yard on the next play for a touchdown, pulling the 49ers within
31-20 with 12:31 remaining.
NOTES: These former NFC divisional rivals hadn't met since San
Francisco won in the 2013 playoffs in Charlotte. ... QB Cam Newton's
third touchdown throw of the day gave him the Carolina franchise
record for touchdown passes at 121, one more than Jake Delhomme. ...
Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart left in the first quarter with a
hamstring injury and didn't return. ... Early in the second quarter,
Panthers RB Fozzy Whitaker was evaluated for a concussion after
fumbling, but he passed the protocol and returned to the game. ...
LB Ray-Ray Armstrong of the 49ers left in the second half with a
shoulder injury. ... The 49ers have an NFC West matchup next week at
Seattle. ... The Panthers stay home to face the Minnesota Vikings in
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