By Jerrell Richardson
After their emotional win over the Seahawks last week, the 49ers biggest concern entering this game was suffering a letdown against a scrappy Tampa Bay squad. San Francisco erased any of these doubts by racing out to an early lead, and after taking the Bucs best shot, the 49ers regained control of the game and cruised to a 33-14 victory. Frank Gore reached another milestone, but it was Colin Kaepernick and the defense that proved too much for Tampa Bay, before the special teams sealed the deal.
Offense Grade: B+
The thought going into this game was that the 49ers would struggle to run the ball, meaning a big game from the passing attack would be needed. This was not the case though as San Francisco had no issues running the football. Frank Gore reached the 1,000 yard mark on the season after his 86-yard performance while Kendall Hunter added 40 yards, and Kaepernick chipped in 41. As a team, the 49ers totaled 187 yards on 40 attempts and won the battle in the trenches. With the ability to run the ball, very little was asked of the passing game that regardless did its part in the win.
His overall numbers are modest, but Colin Kaepernick played outstanding. He passed for 203 yards including a 52-yard touchdown bomb to Vernon Davis that few other quarterbacks could have made, and just as important as what he did, is what he did not do, which is commit turnovers. The Tampa Bay defense knew coming into this game they needed to force turnovers to pull off the upset, and failed to do so.
With Michael Crabtree back in the lineup, the passing game is finally clicking as the ball is getting spread around. Vernon Davis had 79 receiving yards; Crabtree matched Davis’ team-high five receptions while racking up 45 yards and a touchdown, while Anquan Boldin added 43 yards. With Kap making plays with both his arms and legs, all while keeping the ball safe and targeting several receivers, it made the task of slowing down this offense a daunting one, and too much for Tampa Bay.
Defense Grade: A
The 49er defense was again the story of the game. They forced a three and out on the Bucs first possession and never looked back. The two scores they allowed came with Tampa Bay employing their hurry up offense and the Buccaneers capitalizing on momentum and a defense giving up short passes. These blemishes came at the end of the first half, and late in the third quarter, and outside of these two drives, the Tampa Bay offense was stuck in neutral.
Mike Glennon was in over his head. The rookie quarterback threw for 179 yards, two touchdowns, and his only interception was late in the fourth with the game already out of reach, but he struggled to say the least. His biggest weapon, Vincent Jackson had only five catches for 58 yards and a touchdown, which is a win for the 49er defense. With Jackson under wraps the Bucs had no chance to throw the ball which spelled doom for their running game.
Outside of turnovers, the other key for the Buccaneers was to run the ball. They failed in this area as well, with 12 rushes for the game. Part of it was them playing from behind, part of it was the 49ers defensive front, but for Tampa Bay to have 39 yards on the ground for the entire game is not going to get it done. The Bucs could only muster 183 total yards due in a large part to their lack of balance on the offensive side of the ball. A big reason for their struggles though was the play of Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith. Willis lead the team with six tackles and a sack while Smith pressured Glennon all day and finished with two sacks. Safety Eric Reid continued his impressive rookie campaign with his fourth interception this year.
Special Teams Grade: A+
As they have done more often than not this year, the 49ers special teams were a positive contributor. Andy Lee’s per punt average was slightly down, but out of his four punts, only one was returned, and that was for nine yards. Phil Dawson continues to make kicks, connecting on all four of his tries, but it was the kickoff coverage unit that allowed the team to get some much-needed separation on the scoreboard. LaMichael James, who also had 51 punt return yards, recovered and scored on a muffed return in the fourth quarter and that was crucial to helping put away a Tampa Bay team that refused to go down without a fight.
49ers Earn 10th Win
The 49ers are playing their best football at the right time. Not only did they secure their 10th win of the year, they continue to get healthy and have to be pleased with the progress of the aerial attack. There is no such thing as an easy win the NFL, and in a game they had to win, San Francisco earned it. Tampa Bay responded to falling behind early and tested San Francisco. The 49ers prevailed due to a complete team effort as the offense, defense and special teams all made plays leading to their fourth consecutive win.
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Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. Jerrell is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.