By The Associated Press
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — After failing to land Deshaun Watson in the offseason, the Carolina Panthers had a choice of whether to pursue Jimmy Garoppolo or Baker Mayfield in an effort to upgrade at quarterback.
They chose Mayfield.
That decision didn’t work out so well on Sunday. Garoppolo threw for 253 yards and two touchdowns, Emmanuel Moseley intercepted Mayfield and returned it 41 yards for a score, and the San Francisco 49ers beat Carolina 37-15, handing the Panthers their 10th loss in 11 games.
“I think we’ve still got room for improvement, but today was a good day. We were rolling pretty good,” said Garoppolo, who improved to 2-1 as a starter since replacing the injured Trey Lance.
Jeff Wilson ran for 120 yards and a touchdown and Tevin Coleman provided a boost, scoring twice for the 49ers (3-2) after being elevated to the active roster earlier in the week.
“I thought he played real well,” coach Kyle Shanahan said of Garoppolo. “He made some big plays, some big throws and didn’t turn the ball over which was huge. That was real big emphasis coming into this game, so I was real happy with Jimmy.”
The win did not come without cost.
Shanahan said the 49ers are concerned Moseley might have torn his ACL in the fourth quarter. Also, pass rusher Nick Bosa left the game early with a tightness in his groin, safety Jimmie Ward broke his hand and kicker Robbie Gould suffered a knee contusion.
“It’s tough. It is football,” Garoppolo said. “It’s a tight locker room in there. It sucks whenever we lose a guy.”
The Panthers (1-4) fell to 11-27 under embattled coach Matt Rhule.
And they may have lost Mayfield to injury, too.
Mayfield arrived for his postgame news conference with his left foot in a walking boot and will have an MRI on his ankle on Monday. With Sam Darnold out at least a few more weeks, P.J. Walker would likely get the start next week against the Los Angeles Rams if Mayfield is out.
Mayfield injured the ankle in the first half, but continued to play.
The 49ers flustered the 2018 No. 1 overall pick despite losing Bosa in the first half to injury. Mayfield finished 20 of 36 passes for 215 yards and has as many interceptions (four) as touchdown passes since his arrival in Carolina.
“It is a lot of frustration,” Mayfield said. “And the more you think about it, anger because we haven’t played to our capabilities.”
Christian McCaffrey had 104 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown for the Panthers.
San Francisco’s defense came in having allowed an NFL-best 37 points through four games, and has now held all five opponents to fewer than 20.
The Niners’ defense buried Carolina early. The Panthers trailed 10-3 late in the the second quarter and appeared to gain some some life after Yetur Gross-Matos blocked Gould’s field-goal try.
But on the ensuing possession, Mayfield badly overthrew McCaffrey and Moseley went to his knees to make the interception, got up and raced to the end zone to give the 49ers a 17-3 lead with 55 seconds left in the first half.
“That was a gut punch,” Rhule said.
Carolina got within 17-9 on a 19-yard TD run by McCaffrey early in the third quarter, but the Niners answered with a 4-yard touchdown pass from Garoppolo to Deebo Samuel and a 1-yard TD run by Wilson.
Coleman, who had four touchdowns for the 49ers in a 51-13 win over Carolina in 2019, was a big factor early. He scored on a 9-yard screen pass before outjumping a Carolina defender to haul in 30-yard reception, leading to a Gould’s 49-yard field goal.
He finished with 67 yards from scrimmage, caught a touchdown and ran for another.
“He’s just Mr. Reliable. He really is,” Garoppolo said. “You know where he’s going to be. You know he’s going to do the right thing. Whenever you have a guy like that and you’re the quarterback, you can put that ball up there and trust him. It’s fun.”
49ERS ‘HOME GAME’
There was a sea of 49ers red jerseys — clearly outnumbering the home fans — at Bank of America Stadium.
“Our fans are awesome,” Shanahan said. “Anywhere we go. It’s so cool there at the end hearing them chant our guys’ names. I didn’t know that until I got here. But our fans travel as good as any team I’ve been on.”
49ers: Along with the injuries on Sunday, the 49ers played without OT Trent Williams (ankle), DL Arik Armstead (foot, ankle), DT Javon Kinlaw (knee), RB Tyrion Davis-Price (ankle), TE Tyler Kroft (knee), and S Tarvarius Moore (hamstring).
Panthers: CB Jaycee Horn left the game in the second half with a hip injury. … Played without LB Frankie Luvu (shoulder) and FS Jeremy Chinn (IR/hamstring) and SS Xavier Woods (hamstring).
49ers: Visit Atlanta next Sunday.
Panthers: Visit the Los Angeles Rams next Sunday.