CHARLOTTE – After all the headlines about physical hits on quarterback Cam Newton during the season opener in Denver, the Panthers welcome the San Francisco 49ers to Bank of America Stadium, a team that registered two sacks in its 28-0 Monday night victory against the Los Angeles Rams.
"I think they're a fast, young group," said center Ryan Kalil. "I think they're a group that's trying to find their identity, and they did a good job starting off the other night against the Rams. I think it's a physical group. I think they do some similar things to what Denver does, so we have to really, really do a good job up front at the line of scrimmage, both in run and pass."
But what was impressive about those sacks is how the Niners applied pressure without blitzing. Both sacks were earned when only four scarlet jerseys were advancing on Rams quarterback Case Keenum.
"Just individual tape study and really watching guys," Kalil said of the preparation required. "Typically that means a guy has really good technique, so it's just being more technically sound and really studying tendencies and studying what their go-to moves are."
Left tackle Michael Oher noticed that in addition to getting pressure on the quarterback, San Francisco also easily handled Los Angeles' rushing attack. Pro Bowl running back Todd Gurley rushed for just 47 yards on 17 carries.
"Very physical," Oher said of the 49ers' front. "They play the run fairly well. They just had a shutout game, so they're going to come in here ready to go."
As well as San Francisco's front played, a sack is not always caused by superior defensive line play. Often, it was the 49ers' secondary that forced Keenum to hold the ball longer than he liked. Wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr. knows he and the rest of the wide receivers also have a responsibility to help Newton get the ball out on time.
"Our objective is to go out and get open, by any means necessary," Ginn said. "However they created sacks, we're going to try to eliminate it, no matter if it's a pass rush with a coverage sack, or bad coverage with a good pass rush. We're just going to go out, secure our plays, do what we do and hope that we come out successful."
View photos from the Panthers' week of practice leading up to their game against San Francisco.