Riverboat Ron vs. Pleated Pants No Way To Make This Alliterative Harbaugh! Quarterbacks reviled by fusty white sportswriters!
When these teams met in Week 10, it produced one of the fiercest defensive struggles of the regular season. By pulling out the victory with a 53-yard field goal in the final minutes, a then streaking Panthers team achieved legitimacy in the eyes of the general public for the first time in 2013, even though they were 5-3 going into that game. It was Carolina’s first victory over a team that would finish with a winning record.
Colin Kaepernick was sacked six times that day and posted perhaps his worst line of the season: 11-22 for 91 yards with an interception. While the talk of Kaep this season would seem to suggest he’s having a down year, other than two or three poor showings, it’s been mostly another very good year for the Niners quarterback. If he wasn’t quite great last week in San Francisco’s latest victory over Green Bay in difficult conditions, he posted his second highest rushing total of his career (the highest was also against the Packers’ terrible defense, for what it’s worth) and made a clutch run at the end to seal the win.
The knock on Cam Newton, even in victory, from that first meeting in San Francisco was that Carolina’s suffocating defense did it all for him. While that’s a simplistic reading, it’s not entirely untrue. Though you don’t hear a lot of criticism of the likes of Tom Brady when the Patriots have wins like they did yesterday when Dreamboat wasn’t asked to do a whole heck of a lot. While Cam momentarily silenced a lot of doubters with his game-winning drive against the Saints a few weeks back, all it will take is one subpar performance to get media trolls killing him again.
Steve Smith will likely play, though it’s fair to wonder just how effective he’ll be with a knee injury not completely healed. Fair to assume, though, he’ll still issue a memorable quote one way or another. And there’s the always character committed Greg Hardy.