Smith looks to help spoil Moore’s first start since Week 2 when the 49ers visit the Panthers on Sunday in a matchup between two of the league’s worst teams.
They’re also two of the lowest-scoring, as San Francisco (1-5) ranks 30th with 15.5 points per game while Carolina (0-5) is last at 10.4 en route to its worst start since opening 0-7 in 1998.
The struggles of the 49ers during an 0-5 start - their worst since losing their first seven of 1979 - led to calls from fans to replace Smith. The former No. 1 overall draft pick ranks 27th in the NFL with a 73.9 passer rating after throwing nine interceptions to eight touchdowns.
Smith, however, keyed a 17-9 win over Oakland last Sunday despite completing a season-low 48.5 percent of his passes. He didn’t have an interception for the first time this season, throwing for 196 yards and two second-half touchdowns.
“I’m sure that he hears the chants and everything else,” coach Mike Singletary said. “I just wanted to make sure at the end of the day he remembers we’re just here to win. We’re not trying to please anybody. We’re not trying to do anything else. We just want to win. If we do that, then you’ll hear something different.”
The 49ers, who after traveling to Carolina will take on Denver next week in London, still consider themselves part of the playoff race in an NFC West led by Arizona and Seattle with 3-2 records.
“It’s important for all of us to understand where we are,” Singletary said. “We’ve got to work our tails off, do everything that we can to stay focused and keep going in the right direction, because we still have a chance to do something very special here.”
San Francisco’s defense, which gave up a season-low 179 yards of offense last week, has the potential to have another big game against a Carolina team with quarterback issues.
Coming out of the bye week, the Panthers will go back to Moore after pulling Jimmy Clausen(notes) in a 23-6 loss to Chicago on Oct. 10. Clausen went 9 of 22 for 61 yards with an interception and fumbled three times.
The rookie from Notre Dame had taken over when Moore was benched after struggling through the first two games. He replaced Clausen in the loss to the Bears and threw two interceptions on 10 pass attempts.
Moore has thrown for 342 yards, six interceptions and two touchdowns while completing 42.4 percent of his passes for a 33.3 quarterback rating.
“It’s a good reminder of what you can do,” Moore said. “It reminds me, when times are tough, that it can be done. You can do this, and you’ve made this throw, you’ve been in this situation, and here’s the result.”
Moore could be further helped by the likely return of four-time Pro Bowl receiver Steve Smith, who missed the Panthers’ previous game with a sprained ankle.
Coach John Fox is looking for anything to boost an offense that is a big reason the Panthers join Buffalo as the only remaining winless teams in the league. Carolina is averaging an NFL-worst 258.8 yards of offense and was held to 147 in the loss to Chicago - its fewest since 2002.
“We’re trying to find something that works,” Moore said. “If this is what it takes, this is what it takes. We’re hoping to find a spark and hopefully we can do that.”
This is the first meeting between these teams since Carolina’s 34-14 win in 2007. The Panthers have won the last two and six of eight.