Niners quarterback Steve Young, facing a defense that had added seven new blitzes to an already overloaded package, passed for a million yards (actually 393), but he also threw two picks. He was sacked five times—once by Greene—and toward the end, when the Niners had pulled to within six, he was getting up slowly, in obvious distress. He has had two concussions this year, plus a groin pull and probably a few things he isn't telling anybody about, but he still had one of his patented scrambles left in him, this time for 33 yards to the Panthers' 35. But three plays later cornerback Eric Davis, another ex-Niner, picked Young off, and that turned out the lights.
So the Panthers, in their second year, are closing in on a division title, and no, it wasn't their heralded defense that was the story on Sunday. It was a 23-year-old quarterback and a set of overlooked wideouts who carried the heavy baggage. Scary, isn't it?