The defense gave up a 20-13 fourth quarter lead, and David Carr proved his uselessness as a Plan B in a complete failure of a 49ers effort on both offense and defense.
Alex Smith was knocked from the game in the third quarter, and David Carr proved he's no upgrade by going a pathetic 5-for-13 for 67 yards and an interception -- in entire half of football.
The 49ers looked like they had their mojo back early on, running their patented Frank Gore/Vernon Davis combo down the Panthers' throats early on. Gore had a 20-yard run up the middle, and Vernon sealed the deal with a one-yard touchdown catch.
But not much else after that, and the 49ers went in tied 10-10 to the lowly Panthers at the half.
And the the Alex Smith catastrophe came thirty seconds into the third quarter. Smith hobbled the field clutching his elbow having gone 9-for-19 for 129 yards, clearly looking like a guy who was done for the rest of the game.
"Hopefully for the rest of the season," muttered a few cynical 49ers fans.
Carr came in with the Niners down 13-10 and Mike Singletary looking like he might be fired by sundown. He eventually managed a field goal drive to tie it, and the 49ers defense took over.
Ray McDonald intercepted a Matt Moore pass and ran the distance with that baby for a pick six, giving the 49ers a 20-13 lead.
It wouldn't last. The Panthers gave their hometown crowd a treat with clutch play after clutch play once the two-minute warning hit.
Matt Moore hit David Gettis for a 23-yard touchdown pass with 1:59 left in the fourth. The Panthers intercepted a David Carr pass immediately on the ensuing 49ers possession, and drove for a John Kasay field goal with 43 seconds remaining.
The 49ers' defense gave up a whopping 380 yards on defense, and the Panthers scored 13 points off 49ers turnovers.
So Mike Singletary still might be fired by sundown.
Joe Kukura is a freelance writer who thought the 49ers had a miracle comeback in them during that "Too many men on the field" replay challenge with time expired.