Panthers beat 49ers 10-9 for fifth straight win
Carolina's swarming, opportunistic defense stopped Colin Kaepernick in his tracks.
Drayton Florence intercepted a pass by Kaepernick in the final minute to seal a 10-9 victory Sunday to snap the San Francisco 49ers' five-game winning streak and give the Panthers their fifth straight win.
Graham Gano kicked a 53-yard field goal with 10:05 remaining that held up as the Panthers (6-3) twice shut down Colin Kaepernick on last-ditch drives with swarming defense.
DeAngelo Williams broke two tackles for a 27-yard touchdown run late in the first half that pulled Carolina within 9-7. Gano missed wide left on a 48-yard field goal in the third period, but came through later.
San Francisco (6-3) got the ball back with 5:25 left at its 1, then again with 1:02 to go.
Phil Dawson kicked a season-best 53-yard field goal among his three for the 49ers, who lost tight end Vernon Davis and rookie safety Eric Reid to concussions.
Carolina fumbled twice in the closing moments, but recovered each time. First, Jonathan Stewart fumbled and Mike Tolbert pounced on the ball. Cam recovered his own bobble.
This was hardly the highly touted showdown between 2011 No. 1 overall pick Newton and Kaepernick, the sixth quarterback drafted that year, in the second round. They roomed together during the scouting combine.
Kaepernick went 11 for 22 for 91 yards with an interception and was sacked six times for a 42.0 passer rating. Newton was only slightly better, going 16 of 32 for 169 yards, an interception and four sacks for a 52.7 rating.
For two teams that have been putting up points at a prolific pace for the past month, the defenses dictated this one.
More than losing the game, the 49ers' losses of Davis and Reid could be troublesome for the reigning NFC champions as they hit the road next week for New Orleans, then go to Washington.
Davis didn't return after sustaining a concussion in the second quarter, then Reid went down on a helmet-to-helmet hit on Mike Tolbert in the third. Earlier, Reid recovered a fumble to give him five takeaways in an already-stellar rookie season that also includes three interceptions.
Frank Gore had 16 carries for 82 yards, accounting for most of San Francisco's 151 total yards.
Dawson put San Francisco ahead on a 53-yard field goal on the team's opening drive, his longest kick of the year. He kicked second-quarter field goals of 43 and 25 yards.
But Kaepernick could never get his team in the end zone in its first game since a bye on the heels of a win over Jacksonville in London.
When San Francisco's Andy Lee had his punt blocked at the end of the first quarter, Florence tried to get out of the way, but went to grab the ball at the last second and it got away from him. Reid wrestled the ball from Josh Thomas for his second fumble recovery of the season and fifth takeaway.
Carolina got going after managing only minus-7 yards passing and 12 total yards in the first quarter. The Panthers finished with 250 total yards.
The 49ers also lost tight end Garrett Celek to a hamstring injury in the first quarter, while defensive tackle Ray McDonald hurt an ankle.
Panthers linebacker Chase Blackburn did not return in the second half because of a foot injury.