Columnist Mark Purdy's early analysis of the good and bad for the 49ers' in their 10-9 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday at Candlestick Park. Check back later for his full column after locker room interviews.
MARKUP -- It's only one loss. Hey, that's a positive. Because at times Sunday, especially on offense, the 49ers played poorly enough that you wondered if they might be assessed two defeats.
MARKDOWN -- Colin Kaepernick did not have his best day. That's obvious. Whether it was shaking off rust from the bye week, or the result of the hard-cheese Panthers' defense, Kaepernick could just not find his rhythm. The final interception on the final drive was merely the closing argument for his ugly day. Through the first three quarters, Kaepernick completed nine of 13 passes for 71 yards — while being sacked three times -- and his longest positive-yardage play occurred on a 16-yard scramble in the third quarter. Kaepernick also sailed the ball over Anquan Boldin's head on a crucial third down play in the final quarter. Boldin was well covered, but Kaepernick did not give him a chance to make the play. The QB has to be better next week in New Orleans.
MARKUP -- The 49ers' defense made certain that Carolina quarterback Cam Newton was not terrifically awesome, either. Newton wasn't helped by some dropped passes, but he also threw high and wide. He also wasn't effective running the ball. Credit the 49ers' defense for this. It's interesting how the pregame hype about the battle between the two quarterbacks turned into a battle of pass rushers.
MARKDOWN -- Kendall Hunter cannot fumble away that ball in the third quarter for the 49ers. Kendall Hunter cannot fumble away that ball in the third quarter for the 49ers. Kendall Hunter cannot fumble away that ball in the third quarter for the 49ers.
MARKUP -- After Hunter fumbled in the third quarter — it happened when Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis put his helmet on the ball while making the tackle, the 49ers defense held Carolina to three plays and a punt. But it still cost the offense some valuable field position.
MARKDOWN -- It wasn't Eric Reid's fault that he couldn't play in the fourth quarter, but it was the game's biggest bummer that he was absent. The 49er safety is the team's best tackler. He's never afraid to sell out. That's how he sustained a concussion after all.
MARKUP -- Frank Gore does not need me to extol his running prowess, but I figured out yet one more reason Gore's style works so well. He doesn't just make obvious cuts, he makes micro-cuts, slight little tweaks of direction as he patiently waits for open space. On one 5-yard run in the second quarter, I counted four Gore micro-cuts. Can I patent this phrase and put it on a tee shirt?
MARKDOWN — The 49ers seemed to forget about Gore through various stretches in a low-scoring, grind-it-out game that seemed tailor-made for him. When they took over the ball with 5:25 left at their own 1-yard line, you figured the 49ers would feed him the rock and push down the field. Instead, Gore carried the ball once on second down and got one yard — and never touched the ball again as the 49ers were forced to punt the ball five plays later.
MARKUP -- Ahmad Brooks had a great game. The 49er linebacker seemed to be in the Panthers' backfield as much as their running backs.
MARKDOWN — At times, the Carolina linebackers were in the 49ers' offensive backfield as much as Gore.
MARKUP -- Tramaine Brock's interception of Newton was as clean a pick as a defensive back can get — Newton threw it right to Brock — but give the guy credit for not dropping the ball. Receivers on both teams had trouble with that.
MARKDOWN -- The 49ers defensive backs could not contain Carolina wide receiver Steve Smith, the Panthers' go-to guy, on too many crucial third-down plays.
MARKUP -- The replay review that worked out in the 49ers favor after tight end Vernon Davis appeared to fumble away the ball after grabbing it inside the 5-yard line in the second quarter. The official instead ruled it as an incompletion and the replay review sustained that call. Davis also sustained a concussion on the play when his head hit the ground, sending him to the locker room. All in all, a bad few seconds for him.
MARKDOWN -- The ramifications of Davis' absence rippled throughout the afternoon. His replacement, Vance McDonald, couldn't gather in a long downfield pass up the middle at the start of the fourth quarter. Kaepernick put the ball right on the money to McDonald, but it fell off his hands. And everyone in Candlestick had the same thought: "Davis would have had it." McDonald was covered tightly. But a NFL tight end makes that play.
MARKUP -- The pregame salute to Veterans' Day.
MARKDOWN -- The fact that every pregame isn't a salute to veterans.