..and time to eat a little crow. This team isn't the team you fear can't get it done against real competition, to a point. I feared it. They pulled it off.
But it wasn't easy. A 10-9 game - and only over in the last few seconds. The team used to struggle and lose this type of game against mediocre teams - but they're now at the spot where they can win this type of close one against a good team.
The escapable Kaepernick, who had never been sacked more than four times in his career, was laid down six times in the game (Luke Kuechly, rook AJ Klein, Charles Johnson [plus sharing a half with Mike Mitchell],Greg Hardy, and Dwan Edwards all came home with sacks). Kaepernick was under pressure for most of the remaining 22 attempts, of which he completed half for 91 yards - which became a net 45 yards passing. The game-ending INT was forced on pressure right after Kaepernick had gone down for the sixth time.
The 49ers did have a hundred yards rushing, not an easy feat against Carolina, 82 of them being Frank Gore's and the bulk of the remainder being Kaepernick's - Kendall Hunter had a late carry that, being hit by Thomas Davis, became another Carolina turnover.
Carolina couldn't capitalize on their picks, but at minimum, was able to still use them for field position, and to deny San Francisco points; it was a dominating defensive performance that left just enough room for a few offensive plays. They left some points on the field - Graham Gano's FG miss, a Steve Smith drop that would've extended a drive, another by Brandon LaFell, and near-misses with LaFell and Greg Olsen.
Other than the run game, where Deangelo Williams scored the one TD of the game, there weren't a lot of plays made in either phase. Other than the 49er run game, where the 9ers had some success, Carolina found themselves shutting down an opportunistic San Francisco offense. The 45 yards passing were the fewest in almost ten years, which itself was a record for the team for years.
So, is Carolina real? I don't know - but it feels real so far.