49ers report card: Grades for offense, defense in Week 5 win over Panthers

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CHARLOTTE, NC — It might be way too early to pay attention to such things, but the 49ers are alone in first place.

The 49ers systematically dismantled the Carolina Panthers, 37-15, on Sunday to improve to an NFC West-leading 3-2 on the season. All of the other teams in the division — the Los Angeles Rams, Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks — lost their Week 5 games.

Those teams are tied, one game behind the 49ers, with 2-3 records.

Here is a look at the 49ers’ report card from their decisive, yet flawed, victory:

Rushing offense

Running back Jeff Wilson Jr. appears to be getting better and better. And the blocking up front appears to be getting better and better, too.

Wilson gained 120 yards and a touchdown on 17 rushing attempts. He helped get the 49ers’ offense going on the first drive of the game with a career-long 41-yard scamper to set up the team’s first touchdown of the game.

Backup running back Tevin Coleman made a contribution on offense. Although Coleman managed just 23 yards on eight attempts, he scored a touchdown on the ground and through the air.

In all, the 49ers rushed for 153 yards and two touchdowns on 29 attempts. Take away two quarterback knee-downs, and the 49ers averaged 5.7 yards per carry.

Grade: A-minus

Passing offense

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo had an effective day with two touchdown passes. He completed 18 of 30 passes for 253 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

He got the 49ers on the board with a 9-yard pass to Coleman in the first quarter. Then, he hit Deebo Samuel in the third quarter on a 4-yard score that gave the 49ers a 24-9 lead in the third quarter.

The 49ers were particularly impressive on third downs, as they converted seven of their 13 attempts (58.3 percent).

George Kittle led the 49ers with five receptions, but he lost a fumble after a first-quarter catch. Samuel caught just two of the nine passes Garoppolo targeted for him, but one of them was a 4-yard touchdown.

Grade: B

Rushing defense

Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey got the 49ers only once, as he scored on a 19-yard run on a fourth-and-1 play in the second half. But immediately after that, the 49ers stopped McCaffrey on a two-point try from the 1-yard line. That play kept the 49ers’ lead at eight points and appeared to signal a momentum swing.

McCaffrey finished with 54 yards on 14 rushing attempts for a 3.9-yard average.

Linebacker Dre Greenlaw led the way for the 49ers’ defense with 11 tackles. Fred Warner had nine tackles.

Grade: B-plus

Passing defense

Cornerback Emmanuel Moseley returned to his home state and came up with the big play of the first half. He went to a knee to intercept Baker Mayfield’s errant pass late in the first half. Then, he got up and weaved his way into the end zone for a 41-yard touchdown.

Moseley had an exceptional first five games of the season, but now his season is likely over. The 49ers fear he sustained a torn ACL that will require season-ending surgery.

Charvarius Ward, the cornerback on the other side, broke up four passes.

The 49ers’ pass rush came through with six quarterback sacks. Talanoa Hufanga, Fred Warner, Charles Omenihu, Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles and Drake Jackson registered one piece. Tashaun Gipson and Oren Burks shared a sack.

Grade: A-minus

Special teams

The 49ers’ special teams were about the lowlight of this game for the team.

Robbie Gould appeared to hit a 43-yard field-goal attempt low, enabling the Panthers to block the kick.

Gould also was forced to make two tackles on kickoff coverage at the end of long returns. The 49ers gave up kick returns of 45 and 48 yards. On his second tackle, Gould sustained a left knee bruise that ended his day.

Mitch Wishnowsky took over the kicking duties. He missed a field goal, but snuck in an extra point that was partially blocked.

Grade: D

Coaching

Once the 49ers lost star edge rusher Nick Bosa to a groin injury, it looked as if coach Kyle Shanahan got more aggressive. (He denied that, by the way.)

The 49ers went for it on a fourth-down play and picked up the first down due to a pass-interference penalty in the second half. That first down enabled the 49ers to score a big touchdown after the Panthers had cut the deficit to eight points early in the third quarter.

The team found a near-perfect balance with run and pass on offense. And, again, defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans pushed all the right buttons on that side of the ball.

Grade: B-plus

Overall

It certainly wasn’t a completely clean game, but it was about as good as the 49ers have played this season. The 49ers had the answers any time the Panthers looked as if they might get back into the game.

RELATED: Young fan predicts 49ers’ win with perfect pregame gift to Kittle

There are still plenty of issues to figure out, and now there are a lot of moving pieces with all of the injuries.

But the 49ers showed some level of consistency in winning back-to-back games — and getting a victory on the road — for the first time this season.

Grade: B

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