The San Francisco 49ers and Blaine Gabbert do not make for a potent offensive combination ... unless they are playing the Los Angeles Rams, it seems. The 49ers are 1-0 after Week 1 of the season, which technically means they’re in first place in the NFC West after besting a division rival.
Their reign may be short-lived, though. On Sunday, the 49ers will face the Carolina Panthers, the Super Bowl runner-up. The Panthers have been defeated by the Denver Broncos twice in a row now and are probably in a pretty rotten mood.
Gabbert has confidence, and in Monday night’s win over the Rams, you could see it grow as the game progressed. Winning a game by four touchdowns can do that to a player, even one who managed to survive being drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
What the 49ers need more than anything else right now is for Gabbert to carry that confidence into Sunday’s game against the Panthers. Gabbert went 22-of-35 for 170 yards and a touchdown — not a fantastic stat line by any means, but good enough for him and for the 49ers to get the win.
That probably will not be good enough to beat the Panthers. However, the word "probably" is important because Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian completed just 18 of 26 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown against them, and Denver still wound up winning. He also threw a pair of interceptions, which Gabbert did not do.
The Panthers, who finished 15-1 last season, are supposed to have one of the top offenses and defenses in the league, but they struggled a little on both sides of the ball in Week 1. Cam Newton threw for just 194 yards, but he was also disrupted all night by Denver’s defense, taking a couple of helmet-to-helmet hits. Only one was flagged, though safety Darian Stewart and linebacker Brandon Marshall were later fined.
The Panthers did run the ball well, with 157 yards on the ground. Newton accounted for 54 of those yards, while starting running back Jonathan Stewart led the way with 64 yards. But Carolina’s defense was also fairly porous, yielding 148 rushing yards to the Broncos.
That bodes well for Carlos Hyde, who totaled 88 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground for the 49ers in Week 1. Facing a Rams defensive front that was supposed to be one of the best in the league, the 49ers rarely looked harassed at the line of scrimmage.
Defensively, the 49ers showed a ton of promise on Monday, though how much that has to do with the Case Keenum-led Rams’ offense is still up in the air. But the 49ers have several big-name players — including NaVorro Bowman, Eric Reid, Antoine Bethea and DeForest Buckner — who will be focused on making life tough for Newton.
Anything can happen on Sunday, as cliched as that statement may be. Gabbert and the 49ers will not combine for many more shutouts this season, if any, and the Panthers are more than likely to get right back to their winning ways. The stats from Week 1 show an even matchup, but the entire schedule from last year tells a different story, one that heavily favors Carolina.
Both teams got a primetime slot in Week 1, but that won’t be the case on Sunday. The game will start at 1 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on FOX. The team of Chris Myers and Ronde Barber will be on the commentary, while Fox Sports GO will provide a live stream for those with login credentials from a television or satellite provider.
Below is all you need to know to watch Sunday’s action.
How to Watch 49ers vs. Panthers on Sunday
Time: 1 p.m. ET
Location: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.
Announcers: Chris Myers, Ronde Barber, Jennifer Hale