Instant analysis from the Carolina Panthers’ 46-27 victory against San Francisco.
1. Kelvin Benjamin is a beast.
We already knew that. But the 6-5, 245-pound wideout reminded the past two weeks after his year-long layoff following knee surgery in 2015. It wasn’t just that Benjamin caught everything Cam Newton threw to him Sunday. It’s that he did it despite defensive backs taking their best shots at him. There’s a reason Newton likes to target Benjamin: He trusts him -- and for good reason.
2. The Panthers need more work on the short kickoffs.
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It took a Ted Ginn fumble at the Panthers’ 2 before special teams coach Thomas McGaughey adjusted to the short, so-called mortar kicks that Phil Dawson was placing short of the goal line. The 49ers scored one play after the Ginn fumble to get back in the game. So McGaughey moved Ginn out of the end zone and -- voila! -- Ginn took the next kickoff back 59 yards to set up a field goal.
3. Luke Kuechly took matters into his own hands to seal it.
After the Niners had two 1-play touchdown drives to storm within a touchdown, Graham Gano made it a two-score game with a fourth quarter. On San Francisco’s first play on its ensuing drive, Blaine Gabbert looked deep for TE Vance McDonald and nearly found him. Kuechly was not pleased with S Tre Boston, who knocked Kuechly down on the Gabbert pass. Kuechly picked himself up and picked off Gabbert on the next play.