Panthers take place among NFC elite with gritty win over 49ers

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The Panthers stifled the 49ers on offense, holding them to just 45 yards in the second half.

The Panthers stifled the 49ers on offense, holding them to just 45 yards in the second half.

"We've always got each others' backs," Johnson said, "so I'm always trying to pick them up on that side of the ball when things don't go right, and that's what they do for me when I need it. That's a good thing, because if we're not looking out for each other, no one is."

As the coach matures, so does his team. Which is why it now has a seat at the grown-ups table.