Panthers kicker Graham Gano isn’t perfect anymore, but he was more than good enough. Gano kicked a 53-yard field goal in the fourth quarter and the Panthers rode another strong defensive performance to a 10-9 win over San Francisco on Sunday at Candlestick Park. The Panthers (6-3) won their fifth consecutive game and answered critics who said they’d beaten up on a series of lesser opponents. In defeating the 49ers (6-3), the Panthers knocked off the defending NFC champions, who had won five straight. Gano had made all 12 of his field goal attempts entering the game, but missed a 48-yarder in the third quarter that would have given the Panthers the lead. But the former Florida State standout got a second chance following a long punt return by Ted Ginn Jr., and whistled it through the uprights with 10 minutes remaining. Gano said he was thankful for the second chance. “I was so angry up until the ball left my foot on the 53-yarder,” he said. “I always want another opportunity after a miss.” The Panthers’ defense did the rest, holding the 49ers to 151 total yards and limiting them to 2-for-13 on third down. Panthers coach Ron Rivera said key defensively was the penetration the Panthers got up front, putting the 49ers in a bunch of third-and-long situations. The Niners had one last chance, though, taking over on their 20 with 1:02 left and out of timeouts, but veteran cornerback Drayton Florence intercepted Colin Kaepernick’s second-down pass with 23 seconds left to seal it. “They’re the NFC champions, 5 1/2-hour flight, one of the best running backs, the best running quarterback in the league, one of the best defenses in the league,” Florence said. “And we come in, 10-9 ballgame.” The Panthers’ five consecutive wins are their most since they won six in a row during the 2005 season. Ginn, playing against his former team, set up Gano with a 24-yard punt return to the Niners’ 44. Ginn punctuated the play by staring at the San Francisco bench and spinning the ball.
Panthers answer critics, outlast 49ers 10-9
Charlotte Observer | Nov 10