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THE NFL / 1996

What's This? Panthers Beat 49ers for First

NFC: Beuerlein passes for two touchdowns to lead Carolina to 23-7 victory over San Francisco in showdown between top NFC West teams.

September 23, 1996|From Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Carolina Panthers keep saying it's going to take time to build the franchise into a winner. Playing the San Francisco 49ers has helped put them on the fast track.

"That's the most fun I've had in a long time," Steve Beuerlein said after he led the Panthers to a 23-7 victory over San Francisco on Sunday.

Beuerlein, starting in place of the injured Kerry Collins, led Carolina to its second victory in three games against the 49ers. The victory meant that 19 games into their existence, the Panthers are alone in first place in the NFC West. Both Carolina and the 49ers came in as the last two unbeaten teams in the division.

"This is a special day, but we've still got a long way to go," said safety Brett Maxie, who ended the 49ers' last scoring threat by intercepting a pass by Steve Young with 5:15 remaining. "Now we've got the responsibility of living up to what we've done to this point."

Collins, 9-6 as the Panthers' starter, sprained his left knee two weeks ago. He spent Sunday's game on the sidelines waving a towel as he cheered on his teammates.

"You can't ask any more of Steve than what he did today," Collins said. "He came through with an incredible performance."

Beuerlein completed 17 of 20 passes in the first half as Carolina (3-0) built a 17-0 lead against a defense that finished No. 1 in the NFL last season and was in the same spot this year.

"There's no doubt, Kerry's the man. This is his team," said Beuerlein, who completed 22 of 31 passes for 272 yards. "I'll just go out here and do what I did today and hopefully play at a high level when called upon."

The 49ers (2-1) gave up 389 yards, including 251 in the first half when the Panthers scored on their first three possessions.

The Panthers nearly added to that total on their fourth possession, when they drove to the San Francisco 11 before Beuerlein's pass was intercepted in the end zone by Marquez Pope.

At halftime, San Francisco had just 66 yards.

"When we saw our defense being handled," Seifert said, "it permeated throughout the club."

Young finally got the 49ers on the scoreboard with a 44-yard touchdown pass to Derek Loville in the third quarter.

San Francisco's Tim McDonald intercepted a pass by Beuerlein on the opening play of the fourth quarter and returned it for an apparent score that would have cut the lead to 20-13.

But the 49ers' Tyronne Drakeford was called for holding, and the Panthers retained possession.

Carolina closed the scoring with a 19-yard field goal by John Kasay with 38 seconds left. Kasay has made all 13 of his field-goal attempts this season, including three Sunday.

"We have a lot of respect for them, and they played very well, but we didn't give them much to think about until the second half," said Young, who had 213 of his 267 passing yards after halftime.

San Francisco came in allowing 168 yards per game. Carolina surpassed that early in the second quarter during a 69-yard drive on which Beuerlein completed all five of his passes for 60 yards.

The Panthers opened the game with an 80-yard, nine-play drive capped by a 19-yard touchdown pass play from Beuerlein to Wesley Walls. It was the first time a 49er opponent had scored a touchdown on its opening drive in 29 consecutive regular-season games, ending the longest active streak in the league.

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