Both quarterbacks struggled, but Cam Newton made a number of key plays on third down to put the game away. And Carolina's defensive line was superior with six sacks and seven QB hits on just 28 drop backs for San Francisco.
Winners of five consecutive games, the Panthers are one of the best teams in the NFL. If you didn't know before this game, now you know.
Here's what else we learned in this one:
- The good news for Mario Manningham's return: He led the team in receiving. The bad news: He had 30 yards. After Vernon Davisleft with a concussion in the first half, the 49ers could not operate throwing the ball. Kaepernick was under heavy duress and was not accurate. The 49ers have to be worried about their ability to throw the ball against quality defenses.
- Newton didn't pile up great numbers, but he completed a lot of difficult throws in the second half, especially on third down.