SANTA CLARA – The projection of the defensive battle everyone expected was half-correct.
The 49ers improved to 7-0 on the season with a dominating performance Sunday in a 51-13 victory over the Carolina Panthers at Levi’s Stadium.
The seven consecutive victories to open the season is the 49ers’ best start since they went 10-0 at the beginning of the 1990 season. This one was not supposed to be so easy, as the 49ers were facing one of the best defenses in the NFL.
Here are three things you need to know about the 49ers’ victory in Week 8:
The Emmanuel Sanders effect
It looked as if coach Kyle Shanahan was the one who had the extra week to prepare with the way the 49ers opened Sunday’s game.
Shanahan did not wait long to incorporate new wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders into the offense, as Jimmy Garoppolo hit him on a 4-yard pass on the 49ers’ second offensive play of the game.
The 49ers’ first drive was a masterpiece, which set the tone for the game and kept the stout Carolina defense completely off-balance with a variety of misdirection runs and play-action passes. Garoppolo found Sanders on a 4-yard touchdown pass to cap an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive.
The 49ers scored touchdowns on four of their first six offensive possessions of the game to take a 27-3 lead at halftime. The addition of Sanders -- four catches for 25 yards -- appears to have given the team’s offense a threat on the outside, and opened things up for the rest of the offense.
Running back Tevin Coleman rushed for 105 yards and three touchdowns on 11 attempts, while catching two passes for 13 yards and one TD. Tight end George Kittle added six receptions for 86 yards.
Nick Bosa gets crowd pumped
The Panthers were the team that entered the weekend with the NFL lead in sacks. But the 49ers flexed their pass-rush muscles with six sacks in the first half alone.
Edge rusher Nick Bosa, the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL draft, recorded three sacks in the first half, eliciting chats of “Bo-Sa! Bo-Sa!” from the crowd at Levi’s Stadium. He found new and interesting ways to harass Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen.
On the final play of the third quarter, Bosa jumped at the line of scrimmage and intercepted Allen. He rumbled down the field on a 46-yard return to set up a short Robbie Gould field goal.
Bosa could be sharpening his resume, not only for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, but for NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Bosa leads the 49ers with seven sacks in seven games.
Defensive lineman Arik Armstead continues his impressive contract season, and could be under serious consideration for the 49ers to tag as the franchise player at the end of the season. Armstead recorded two sacks in the first half. He has a career-best 5.5 sacks on the season.
The 49ers harassed Allen throughout the day, and cornerback Emmanuel Moseley recorded an interception. It was the first pick of Moseley’s career, and the first that Allen has thrown in five career starts.
Making a statement
As if there was any question before this game, now there is no question: The 49ers are for real.
The 49ers won their seventh consecutive game to open the season. On Sunday, they thrashed a team that came in with a streak of four consecutive victories and an extra week to prepare.
This was the 49ers’ most-thorough victory of the season, and it comes as they embark on a difficult part of the schedule. The 49ers have a quick turnaround with a Thursday night game at the Arizona. The 49ers have lost eight consecutive games to the Cardinals.
Then, the 49ers meet Seattle, Arizona (again), Green Bay, Baltimore and New Orleans in successive weeks. Green Bay and New Orleans have one loss apiece, and the 49ers will battle those teams for homefield advantage in the NFC playoffs.