Putting 49ers in 3rd and long key for Carolina

Thirteen times on Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers were faced with a third down.

And against one of the league’s best defenses, only twice did the home team convert.

The Panthers held the 49ers, who entered the game with a conversion percentage of 40.2, to 15.4 percent on third downs in the 10-9 victory.

“We had a great game plan, and really we just played Panther defense,” Carolina free safety Mike Mitchell said. “We had a good idea what they were going to be about and we just took those things away. Our coaches did a great job preparing us.

“We were locked in on everything they were doing.”

The Panthers set the tone early on third down when Charles Johnson stuffed Frank Gore for a loss of one on third and 2 from the Carolina 33 on the 49ers’ first drive.

That stop led San Francisco to its first of three field goals on the day and an early 3-0 lead.

The next two 49ers’ possessions would be three-and-outs. Gore was again stopped on third-and-1 for a loss of 1 yard when A.J. Klein met him behind the line. On the next drive, the Panthers stopped a Colin Kaepernick scramble short of the sticks, but the 49ers retained the ball after Drayton Florence inadvertently touched the ball on a partially blocked punt.

The first conversion came on a 3-yard Kendall Hunter run from San Francisco territory that would prove harmless at the end of the first half. The second came on a 14-yard pass to Mario Manningham from the 49ers’ 6.

Hurting San Francisco was the loss of tight end Vernon Davis, a 6-foot-3, 250-pound target who went out midway through the game with a concussion. That put San Francisco down two tight ends following the loss of Garrett Celek earlier in the game.