The Carolina defense has been just as ferocious as it was during a Week 10 matchup between these teams, but this time the 49ers have come in with a bit more firepower. That includes tight end Vernon Davis, who did not finish the earlier game because of a concussion but who caught a controversial pass at the side of the end zone with five seconds to go in the first half.
That touchdown, originally called an incompletion, gave the 49ers a 13-10 lead going into the locker room. They scored nine points, all of them in the first half, back in November.
All three of the 49ers' scoring drives have been helped by prominent penalties by the Panthers, who have been flagged five times for 48 yards. The 49ers' final drive of the half seemed to get bogged down close to the goal line - an issue for the 49ers last week in Green Bay, too - but a pass-interference call on cornerback Drayton Florence gave the 49ers a first down at the goal line.
Frank Gore couldn't punch the ball in on first down with 37 seconds left, and with the clock ticking the 49ers didn't call their final timeout before their second-down call. Instead Colin Kaepernick rolled to his right and hit Davis, also heading to his right, just before the tight end went out of bounds. When the play originally was called an incompletion, Jim Harbaugh ran onto the field in protest, drawing a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Phil Dawson hit field goals of 49 and 33 yards on the 49ers' first two drives.
The problem for the 49ers is that Carolina's offense also looks sharper than it did in Week 1. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton only has throw two incompletions, and he hit receiver Steve Smith - back from a knee injury - on a perfectly placed 31-yard touchdown pass at the start of the third quarter. Smith leads all receivers with four catches for 74 yards.
Meanwhile, Kaepernick was off target for much of the first half. He's 11-24 for 121 yards. But he heated up on the team's final, 80-yard drive of the half in hitting Anquan Boldin twice for first downs and Michael Crabtree once. Crabtree appeared to hurt his shoulder on the opening series-- he missed three snaps - but he leaped high to snatch a Kaepernick pass out of the air on the final drive of the first half for 20 yards.
The 49ers lost fullback Will Tukuafu to a knee injury when he was tackled awkwardly after a two-yard reception. Anthony Dixon is the lone fullback on the squad now.