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Panthers score 34 points after halftime

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Nobody is safe from the Carolina Panthers'
voracious injury bug, not even kicker John Kasay.

But thanks to punter Todd Sauerbrun and a defense that ate up
the San Francisco 49ers' offense in the second half, Carolina
finally doubled its win total.

Muhsin Muhammad caught three touchdown passes from Jake Delhomme
in the second half, and Sauerbrun made four extra points and the
go-ahead 34-yard field goal in a 37-27 victory over the hapless
49ers on Sunday.

With 11 players on injured reserve and twice that many hurting
on the active roster, the beleaguered NFC champions weren't exactly
shocked when Kasay limped to the bench with a strained calf in the
third quarter.

But the rest of the Panthers (2-7) were willing to do anything
to end a six-game losing streak -- and after Carolina's next
touchdown, Sauerbrun volunteered.

"They thought about going for two, and I said, 'Come on, man,
you know that I can kick extra points. Give me a break," said
Sauerbrun, who hadn't kicked in a real game since college.

The Panthers needed every contribution they could get. Delhomme
was 19-of-34 for 303 yards -- 123 on six passes to Muhammad -- as the
Panthers scored 34 points after halftime despite no discernible
rushing attack, thanks to injuries to several running backs.

"The injury bug has not only flown over Carolina, but he has
made it his home this season," Muhammad said. "We've had to
overcome a lot. We're putting together a team, and we just have to
come up with ways to win."

The Panthers scored 17 points in the final 7:12 after Brandon
Lloyd's 30-yard TD catch gave San Francisco a 27-20 lead early in
the fourth quarter. Muhammad found alarmingly big holes in the
Niners' befuddled secondary, which was missing its top four
cornerbacks due to injuries.

"We had a pretty heart-to-heart talk at halftime, and our guys
responded," coach John Fox said. "We had some guys step up. I
told them that what I saw in the first half wasn't what I expected,
and they responded."

The entire second half was yet another disaster for the 49ers
(1-8), who lost their fourth straight to extend their worst start
since 1979.

"We just totally self-destructed in the second half," coach
Dennis Erickson said. "When we had a chance to win it, we didn't.
Whether it's a penalty or a fumble or an interception, it's not
just one thing. It's self-destruction in all areas."

Tim Rattay passed for 284 yards, but it was perhaps his worst
game as a starter. He made a key fumble and threw four
interceptions -- two that immediately were turned into points for
the Panthers in the second half.

Cedrick Wilson had five catches for 101 yards for the 49ers, but
the interceptions even made Carolina's weak secondary look good.

"Tim knows and I know that he made some pretty bad decisions,
there's no question about that," Erickson said. "It was
obvious."

The 49ers held the ball for nearly 23 minutes in the first half,
taking a 17-3 lead on two short TD runs by Kevan Barlow. But
Carolina scored 17 quick points in the third quarter, taking the
lead on Muhammad's 40-yard TD catch.

Linebacker Mark Fields made consecutive big plays in the third
quarter in what he called his best game since returning from cancer
treatments. Fields returned a fumble for a score that was called
back on replay review -- but on the next play, he intercepted
Rattay's short pass and returned it to the 1.

Muhammad caught a 4-yard TD pass with 7:12 left to cap a drive
rife with Niners defensive errors, and Rattay fumbled while being
sacked moments later.

Mike Rucker recovered at the San Francisco 21, and Sauerbrun
drilled his field goal with 4:25 left. After Brentson Buckner
intercepted Rattay yet again, Muhammad got open for his third
score.

"Special teams and defense gave us opportunities," Rattay
said. "For whatever reason, we let them hang around, and then I
made some turnovers. I've got to learn from it. I can't do that."

Game notes
Kasay kicked two early field goals. ... Barlow had just 47
yards on 21 carries, also drawing a 15-yard personal foul for
throwing the ball at a Carolina player. Erickson berated Barlow on
the sideline after the play. "You've got to go ask the coaches. I
don't know," Barlow said when asked why he got just five carries
after halftime. ... RB Brandon Bennett scored on a 1-yard dive
after Fields' interception. It was Bennett's first carry with
Carolina.

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