Panthers stifled by 49ers stout defense, lose fourth game of season

Matt Rhule’s job could be on the line as Carolina lost is 11th game in the past 12 outings.
Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule yells at line judge Mike Dolce during the first half an...
Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule yells at line judge Mike Dolce during the first half an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Rusty Jones)(Rusty Jones | AP)
Published: Oct. 9, 2022 at 7:18 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The Carolina Panthers lost their fourth game in their fifth of the year on Sunday, falling to the San Francisco 49ers 37-15 in their third of a three-game homestand.

Dating back to last season, the Panthers have now lost 11 of their past 12. The loss also drops head coach Matt Rhule’s overall record to 11-17 in two-plus seasons, putting him firmly on the hot seat as the team continues a daunting stretch of games.

Sunday’s loss featured plenty of what has plagued the team in the past under Rhule’s watch, most notably poor quarterback play and a sluggish offensive performance.

Quarterback Baker Mayfield was no better than he has been in recent weeks on Sunday, hardly completing 50% of his passes, and failing to produce much through the air.

He had completions of 31 and 32 yards to Shi Smith and Robbie Anderson, respectively, but outside of those hookups, averaged just 4.5 yards per attempt.

Mayfield finished the day completing 20 of 36 passes for 215 yards and a sorely-time interception, which 49ers defensive back Emmanuel Moseley returned for a touchdown near the end of the first half as the Panthers were driving. The ill-timed pick-six increased the deficit to 17-3 at halftime.

Following Carolina’s loss on Sunday, the offense has now been kept out of the end zone in the first half each week since Week 1.

To make matters worse for the passing game, the offensive line, which has also consistently struggled under Rhule, surrendered four sacks throughout the game.

The defense, which was playing without three of its top-four leading tacklers, was ran all over by 49ers running back Jeff Wilson, who rushed for 120 yards. Frankie Luvu, Jeremy Chinn and Xavier Woods all missed the game due to injuries. Jaycee Horn also left the game with an injury.

As a team, San Francisco torched the Panthers defense for nearly 400 yards.

Perhaps the two most exciting plays of the day for Carolina came on a pair of special-teams plays when rookie Raheem Blackshear returned two kickoffs near midfield.

Christian McCaffrey also scored his third touchdown of the season on a 19-yard scamper on a fourth down play.

Kicker Eddy Piñeiro rebounded from an early missed field goal to knock his next three tries through the uprights.

If things don’t get better quickly, Rhule could soon be out of a job and Mayfield could find himself on the bench, with last year’s starter Sam Darnold eligible to come off of injured reserve, and P.J. Walker also in the fold.

In fact, Walker relieved Mayfield with just over three minutes to go in the game. He completed five of six passes for 60 yards, but could not manufacture any points.

Reports this past week indicated that Darnold isn’t yet ready to return to the field, but when he is, a change could be coming if things don’t improve for Mayfield over the next few contests.

Unfortunately for Carolina, things won’t be any easier next week as they travel to face the Rams, who despite a somewhat slow start to the season, are the defending Super Bowl champions.

Related: Panthers lose to Cardinals after offense falls flat, commits three turnovers