Lots of sad FOX injury music early in this one. Charles Johnson blew up Frank Gore on opening play but was immediately shaken up. Michael Crabtree was injured on the second play after a short gain. Just as it looked like the 49ers opening drive, would sputter out quickly, Kaepernick hit Quinton Patton for 23 yards. On a following third down, Kaep initially tucked the ball in and started to scramble but stopped right at the line of scrimmage and flipped it to Frank Gore for a first down just as Kaep was about to be hit. Awful personal foul penalty on Mike Mitchell a third down incompletion extended the drive and got San Francisco into field goal range. Kaep was sacked on third down. Nevertheless, Phil Dawson 49-yard field goal resulted in the game’s first points.
On the Carolina opening drive, after picking up a first down on a throw to Greg Olsen, Cam threw it a little behind Brandon LaFell, who tipped the ball in the air, where Patrick Willis scooped it for thre interception. The Niners were helped again by the refs thanks to a unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Captain Munnerlyn for not respecting Crabtree’s personal space. Another Phil Dawson field goal made it 6-0.
Panthers got their first big offensive play with a 28-yard strike to Steve Smith to get into Niners’ territory. Tolbert was stuffed at the 1 on 3rd and goal on the final play of the first quarter. A Cam Newton sneak was stopped on 4th down, inspiring thousands of sunken Riverboat Ron jokes, but then the Niners did nothing backed up on their goal line on the ensuing possession.
A nice punt return by Ted Ginn set Carolina up in field goal range. Cam Newton then found Steve Smith in the end zone with a perfect throw for a score from 31 yards out to give the Panthers their first lead of the game. Following a short San Francisco possession, the Panthers got back within the Niners’ 5 on a 13-play drive that featured Ahmad Brooks being hilariously offside.
Even with the penalty, however, the Panthers were stuffed again at the goal line because they just have to keep pounding even if it’s ineffective. This time, however, there was no Riverboat Ronning on 4th down and the Panthers settled for a field goal to go up 10-6 with a few minutes left in the half.
San Francisco took advantage of their chance for a two-minute drive by getting into the red zone for the first time in the game. To get there, Anquan Boldin had a nice catch and run, after which he did pretty much the same thing Munnerlyn got flagged for just that time there was no flag. To make it worse, Boldin drew a PI flag on third and goal. Two plays later, Kaep found Vernon Davis in the corner of the end zone. It was initially ruled an incompletion, forcing Harbs to go batshit and get a penalty, but then the play was overturned and San Francisco got its first touchdown of the game.