Dominant Bucs blank 49ers 21-0, run record to 7-3
There was 8:23 left in the fourth quarter Sunday when a pro-49ers Candlestick Park crowd of 69,732 began chanting for defense. The odd thing about it was, they'd been getting it all afternoon.
From the Buccaneers.
Pitching a shutout on the road for the first time since they opened Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field in 2003, the Bucs rode their oft-maligned defense to a 21-0 victory, replete with oddities.
In addition to the shutout, the 10th in Tampa Bay franchise history, the Bucs improved to 7-3 — keeping pace with the Falcons and Saints in the NFC South — by winning at San Francisco for only the second time in 13 tries.
As if that weren't strange enough, there also were Josh Freeman's touchdown pass to left tackle Donald Penn and a fake punt attempt that only served to make the defense's job more difficult. You could probably throw running back LeGarrette Blount's hurdle over would-be tackler Reggie Smith and his leveling of fellow would-be tackler Parys Haralson into the mix as well, but those things are becoming commonplace for this team.
Defensive efforts like the one the Bucs turned in on a typically sunny but cold and blustery Bay Area afternoon are not. After all, it included several firsts, not the least of which was rookie first-round draft pick Gerald McCoy's first sack.
Actually, McCoy recorded two half-sacks, one in the first quarter in which he and fellow rookie Al Woods teamed up to take down Troy Smith and one on in the fourth when he paired with end Stylez G. White to take down Smith.
Those sacks were part of a breakout day for the Bucs' defensive line, which recorded five of the team's season-high six sacks and had what was easily its best day yet against the run, limiting the 49ers to 71 yards on 18 carries. It was the first time the Bucs held an opponent to fewer than 100 yards rushing all season, and the result was the byproduct of a perfectly executed game plan.
"The plan was to stop Frank Gore," Bucs coach Raheem Morris said. "We had to come in here and bow up. I told my guys, 'He's going to be in one of those A gaps (between the center and guard). We have to go in there and meet him and we're either going to lose violently or win.' "
They won impressively, limiting Gore, who came into the game as the NFL's leading yardage gainer since 2006, to 23 rushing yards on 12 carries and 37 receiving yards on five receptions.
"That just shows what we can do when we have 11 guys focusing on the details and in their gaps on every play," said middle linebacker Barrett Ruud, who came to the Bucs in 2005, a year after their most recent shutout.
"That's the first time all year that I've come away from a game feeling like they'd dominated the line of scrimmage the whole game," Bucs right guard Davin Joseph said of Tampa Bay's defensive line. "It's been a long time coming."
The Bucs had made a habit this year of playing stout defensively in the second half, but what they turned in Sunday was a full 60 minutes of solid defense, limiting the 49ers to 189 yards. Good thing, too, because the offense needed the help.
Slow to start, the Bucs didn't get rolling with the ball in their hands until the second quarter. Even then, they were a little plodding as they needed 14 plays and nearly six minutes to march 80 yards for their first score.
Cadillac Williams, who ran 45 yards for a game-sealing touchdown a week ago against Carolina, ran the final 6 yards for the score on a day when he finished with 51 yards on seven carries.
Blount ran 26 times for 82 yards, including about 4 after he forearmed Haralson to the ground during a 12-yard run earlier in that scoring drive, and about 8 more after he hurdled Smith during a 16-yard third-quarter run.
That helped set up an 8-yard Freeman-to-Mike Williams touchdown pass that gave the Bucs a 14-0 lead, but the offensive highlight of the day belonged to Penn, whose touchdown catch capped the scoring.
Lined up as usual on the left side of the line, Penn broke left into the flat while the rest of the line moved right along with Freeman, who turned back and rolled to his left before hitting Penn with a soft throw in the end zone. "We've had that play in our back pocket all year," Freeman said.
Some may find it hard to believe the Bucs actually won a game in San Francisco. After all, they were 1-11 at this stadium prior to Sunday, with the lone victory coming in 1980. That was part of an even worse 2-23 record in the state of California. Reminded of that during the week, Morris laughed and called the Bucs "West Coast killers."
He may have a point. If you include their recent defeat of Arizona, which Morris does, the Bucs are 3-0 on the West Coast during his regime. And this one they owe to the defense.
"The defense was just huge today," Penn said. "When they play the way they did, they make it fun for everybody. We didn't start off real well on offense, but they kept us in it and allowed us to get going and that was all we needed."
|About the writer|
Roy Cummings has been The Tampa Tribune's primary Buccaneer beat writer for many years now and has a knowledge of the current players that is unsurpassed amongst local reporters. He also appears on Channel 8's news broadcasts on stories about the Bucs. He came to London with the Buccaneers in 2009 and was at Richmond Park to be part of the Bucs UK's most memorable day when the club took on the UK Patriots at touch football in front of many Bucs alumni and club officials.