Nobody should doubt that the Carolina Panthers are a legitimate threat in the playoff race with this win over the 49ers in San Francisco. Their defense played awesome (actually both defenses did). Really this game epitomizes what I have been saying about both San Fran’s and Carolina’s defense all year long, so the fact that these teams combined to score just 19 points doesn’t surprise me all that much. What was surprising was how the Panthers responded to the 9-0 hole they were in during the first half. Cam Newton started this game out horribly, missing many passes and turning the ball over. Luckily for him, his defense did not allow the Niners to find the end zone all game, proving that football really is a team effort. Sean McDermott’s defense pitched a shutout in the second half and they got the game-winning pick of Colin Kaepernick in the final minute of the game. Obviously, the loss of Vernon Davis (to a concussion) limited what Colin Kap could do on offense. The 49ers did find some success running the ball, but they were unable to make big plays down the field in this one and it really hurt them. Believe it or not, the Panthers defense actually proved to the world that they are at least as good as the 49ers defense, if not even better. With the Saints offense firing on all cylinders, it is going to take a strong defense to slow them down and that is something that Carolina has. The NFC South will likely hinge on the outcome of the two games these two teams will play together (Weeks 14 and 16; a special thank you goes out to the schedule-makers for saving those games for later on in the season). Now with this loss, the 49ers fall two games in back of the Seahawks and now have to take on those Saints next week in New Orleans; a game that will test this defense. Colin Kaepernick may have to play like he did in Week 1 against the Packers if the Niners are to have a chance in that game.