WR David Gettis (Streeter Lecka/Getty)
Matt Moore and David Gettis each made a crucial mistake in the fourth quarter, but both redeemed themselves in dramatic fashion to lead the Panthers to their first win, 23-20, over the visiting 49ers.
Carolina's rookie receivers apparently learned a lot in the bye week. David Gettis caught eight passes for 125 yards and two TDs and Brandon LaFell caught six passes for 91 yards to help Matt Moore to his first 300-yard game of the season.
Gettis scored Carolina's first touchdown from 18 yards out to knot the score at 10 late in the first half. Then, after dropping a fourth-down pass in the end zone with just over five minutes remaining, Gettis bounced back to catch a tying 23-yard score with 1:53 left to play.
After Richard Marshall gave the Panthers the ball back with his first interception of the season, Moore found LaFell for a 35-yard completion to set up John Kasay for a game-winning 37-yard field goal. Kasay previously hit from 47 and 55 yards out.
The beautiful outcome did not come without some ugly moments. The Panthers turned the ball over three times, resulting in 13 points for the 49ers. Steve Smith and DeAngelo Williams both lost fumbles that San Francisco turned into three points apiece. Later, Moore made his only befuddling decision of the game when he threw a botched screen into the chest of Ray McDonald, who rumbled 31 yards for the go-ahead TD.
Moore got steamrolled trying to tackle McDonald, but in the end, Moore had the last laugh.
The victory was sponsored by a strong effort from Ron Meeks' defense. After giving up a touchdown on San Francisco's opening drive, the defense yielded just a pair of field goals the rest of the way. The Panthers held the 49ers to 282 total net yards and 15 first downs while allowing San Fran to complete only 30 percent of its third-down tries.
Carolina's job was made easier early in the second half when QB Alex Smith left the game with a shoulder injury. Replacement David Carr struggled mightily, completing five of 13 passes for 67 yards and the interception.
The Panthers will look to keep this momentum going next week when they hit the road to take on the 3-4 Rams. St. Louis lost on Sunday to Carolina's division rivals, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 18-17.
--Steve Smith was back and not just on offense. He took over for Captain Munnerlyn as the punt returner and ripped off a 32-yard return early in the second quarter.
--Charles Johnson and Derek Landri both recorded sacks. Johnson's hit was the one that knocked Alex Smith out of the game.
--One of the game's funnier moments came when Alex Smith sailed a throw high to Tedd Ginn. Ginn, hearing the footsteps of a fast-closing Sherrod Martin, ducked for cover rather than attempting to catch the pass.
What do you think of Carolina's young receivers? Discuss in the message boards.
Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and also a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. You can see more of his updates by following him on Twitter.