Panthers DBs pay price for more physical play

jjones@charlotteobserver.comJanuary 12, 2014 

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Carolina Panthers safety Mike Mitchell (21) makes the hit on San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis (85) during the first quarter. The hit resulted in an unnecessary roughness penalty that Mitchell called ‘terrible’ four times.

JEFF SINER — jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Drayton Florence watched last week’s San Francisco-Green Bay game and saw the officials were letting defensive backs get away with more in the playoffs than they do in the regular season.

He and the rest of the Panthers secondary took note, and Friday he said he planned to be more physical with receivers.

In Sunday’s 23-10 loss to the 49ers, Florence was more physical. And he got flagged for it, too.

The Panthers were penalized eight times for 73 yards, including two personal fouls by defensive backs and a defensive pass interference on Florence.

“I thought it was very inconsistent,” Florence said of the officiating. “Watching the game as a fan I have a feeling they had the same feeling also. You watch the Green Bay-San Francisco game and the referees are letting them go.

“We went into the game with the mindframe that they’ll let us be a little more physical; obviously that wasn’t the case. You’ve got to adjust your game to the way they’re calling.”

Florence was flagged for defensive pass interference when he didn’t turn to play the ball on a Colin Kaepernick pass to Anquan Boldin in the end zone near the end of the second quarter. Neither Boldin nor Florence got a hand on the ball, but the official deemed Florence did not make a play on the ball while blocking Boldin.

“The PI call on Flo was horrible in my eyes,” cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said. “I’ll probably get fined for what I’m saying but I don’t care right now. It was horrible. They’ve just got to let us play, man. Let both sides of the ball play.”

Munnerlyn wasn’t immune to the yellow flag either. Munnerlyn head-butted 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree on San Francisco’s second drive, drawing an unnecessary roughness penalty and turning a 4-yard quarterback rush into a 19-yard play.

Later in the game, Davis went to Mitchell and head-butted him, but no flag was thrown despite protests from the Panthers.

“It was just ridiculous, a couple things weren’t called the same way,” Mitchell said. “I made a good play, taking his legs out, and he gets up and head-butts me, which is the same exact thing you saw Captain Munnerlyn do. (NFL commissioner Roger) Goodell was here, too. So I’d be curious to see what he thought about that. It was the exact same play. One team gets the call, another team doesn’t. I guess that’s human error in football.”

On the 49ers first possession, Mitchell was called for unnecessary roughness when he hit Davis from behind after an incomplete pass.

He let it be known after the game what he thought of the 15-yard penalty.

“That was a terrible call,” Mitchell said. “This is playoff football in the National Football League. That was a terrible call. The ball was not on the ground. The replays showed it was still in the air. The receiver had a chance to actually bend over and catch the ball. It was a terrible call. Terrible call. One more time, terrible call.”

The last of the personal fouls came with four minutes left in the game. Carolina had used all of its timeouts and stopped running back Kendall Hunter on third down, forcing the 49ers to punt and giving Carolina a chance to get back in the game.

Cornerback Josh Thomas got in a tussle with a 49ers receiver and, while on the ground, took a swing. Flags flew, and several Panthers got in Thomas’ face after the penalty effectively ended Carolina’s slim chance of a comeback.

After the game, Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he was not disappointed in the lack of discipline shown by his team.

“No. They fought,” Rivera said. “You wish we would have kept our composure out there a little bit better but one thing we don’t want is to be pushed around. But at the same time you have to learn and understand. We have to maintain our composure, and that falls on me as the head coach.”

Too many men : A controversial no-called riled up the Panthers late in the first half when the 49ers got away with having 12 men in the huddle.

San Francisco tight end Vance McDonald ran back to the sideline after he was the 12th man in the huddle, but referee Carl Cheffers said after the game no flag should have been thrown.

“I saw the player come off but I had not yet marked the ball ready for play, so that is why I did not call it as a foul. The ball was not in play yet.”

A replay of the FOX broadcast seemed to differ with Cheffers’ account. Cheffers signals the play in by raising his left hand and motioning downward. Moments later, McDonald breaks the huddle and runs past Cheffers to the San Francisco sideline.

A flag would have backed up the 49ers by 5 yards to the Carolina 6-yard line. The 49ers scored on a 1-yard rush by quarterback Colin Kaepernick shortly after.

“I saw that,” Rivera said. “Again, it was missed. Or at least I thought it was missed. We will go from there. That is not the reason why, but still. I saw the guy run off late. Our players saw it.”

Stewart inactive: Despite saying all week he felt comfortable and felt little to no pain, running back Jonathan Stewart was inactive for the game.

Stewart sprained his knee in Week 14 against New Orleans and had not played since. He practiced in a limited capacity last week.

DeAngelo Williams rushed five times for 13 yards. Fullback Mike Tolbert had eight rushes for 20 yards. Newton led the team in rushing with 54 yards. He led the team in rushing six times in 17 games this season.

Observations

•  Former Bank of America CEO, and friend of Jerry Richardson, Hugh McColl escorted the Panthers’ captains to midfield for the coin toss.

•  The 49ers had more third-down conversions in the first drive (three) than they did in the first meeting (two).

•  Steve Smith became the 16th player in NFL history with at least 10 postseason touchdown catches after his hauled in a 31-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

•  Strong safety Quintin Mikell injured his foot in the game and did not return. He said he will get an MRI Monday to determine the injury.

•  Cam Newton was visibly upset after the game, and media access to the locker room was cut off shortly after Newton came to his locker.

By the numbers

1 Sack on Kaepernick after the Panthers sacked him six times in their first meeting.

0 First downs via a rush in the first half for San Francisco.

5 First downs via a rush in the second half for San Francisco.

14 Fourth-down conversion attempts for the Panthers this season, converting on 10.

3 Red zone trips for Carolina, zero of which resulted in a touchdown.

Quotes

•  “A loss is a loss. But the preparation going into it, I felt as if I was ready more than any other game.” – Carolina quarterback Cam Newton.

•  “Long story short, we know (Seattle) and they know us. We have to go there and we all know the history. This is for the Super Bowl man. Everything is on the line.” – San Francisco linebacker NaVorro Bowman.

•  “We weren’t just happy to be here. We expected to win and we expected to be in New York in a couple of weeks.” – Carolina tight end Greg Olsen.

•  “I’m not just going to let you say anything you want to me. If you are going to say something to me, I am going to respond.” – San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

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