Bucs 14 49ers 33 - the game report
Scott Smith, Buccaneers.com, published 16 December 2013|
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers wanted a fourth-quarter battle against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, and they got it when Tim Wright’s 24-yard touchdown catch six seconds into the final period made it a six-point game. Unfortunately, the last 14:54 of the that quarter went nowhere near as planned.
Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers’ offense responded with a 10-and-a-half minute field goal drive, and a disastrous trick-play gambit moments later turned into a fumble return for a touchdown as San Francisco pulled away for a 33-14 victory at Raymond James Stadium. The loss snapped Tampa Bay’s three-game winning streak at home and dropped the Buccaneers to 4-10 overall in 2013. The 49ers improved to 10-4 and moved closer to the playoff berth that will allow them to defend last year’s conference title. “Tough loss, hard-fought game, unfortunate the way it ended,” said Buccaneers Head Coach Greg Schiano.
It was a hard-hitting game with yards at a premium, as expected, but San Francisco’s defense proved to be the stingier unit overall. The Buccaneers managed just 183 net yards of offense and never established a running game, with RB Bobby Rainey’s 27 yards on 11 carries the majority of a 39-yard ground attack. Rookie QB Mike Glennon was left to shoulder the load and he completed 18 of 34 passes for 179 yards, two touchdowns and one interception while absorbing four sacks.
“This is a tough loss, but that’s a good football team over there,” said Glennon. “Really, we wanted to get the game into the fourth quarter. We knew it was going to be a low-scoring game going against that good of a defense. Going into the fourth quarter we had that touchdown to get us back to within one score, and then they just had that drive right there.”
Glennon led the Buccaneers on an 80-yard scoring drive just before halftime and the 92-yard march that set up Wright’s score in the fourth quarter. In both cases, the offense found success when it went to a no-huddle attack. “No-huddle really got us going,” said Glennon. “Both of our scoring drives we went no-huddle, and I think that was really big for us going into halftime to kind of get the momentum back a little and get some points on the board. Down 10 going into the half is a lot better than down 17, but for whatever reason that up-tempo offense was successful against them.”
Tampa Bay’s defense, once again led by LB Lavonte David (10 tackles and a forced fumble) faced a higher degree of difficulty thanks to a 39:50-20:10 49ers edge in time of possession and an average drive start of the 38-yard line for the visiting team. The Bucs still did a good job of putting QB Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers’ offense into holes on Sunday, but the fleet Kaepernick did a better job of pulling his team out of them. Consistently escaping pressure and either scrambling for first downs or throwing on the run, Kaepernick ran for 39 yards and completed 19 of 29 passes for 203 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. The Bucs, who had taken over the NFL lead in turnovers forced with 15 over the last four games, was unable to take it away from the 49ers’ offense. David did secure an acrobatic interception early in the third quarter but it was erased by an offsides penalty.
In the process, the 49ers converted six of 15 third-down attempts, none bigger than the 25-yard Kaepernick-to-Anquan Boldin completion in the second quarter that converted a third-and-15 in Tampa Bay territory. That play, which featured a near-sack in the backfield and a broken tackle in the middle of the field, was the sort of drive-extending moment that helped the 49ers extend drives and eventually gain 376 yards of offense. Kaepernick did it again in the fourth quarter with an incredible sidearm sling to convert a third-and-12 on the lengthy field goal drive that put the game out of reach.
In many such cases, the Buccaneers were inches away from making the play but couldn’t quite get Kaepernick or his pass-catchers to the ground. “We had opportunities, without a doubt, to stop him and we didn’t do it,” said Schiano. “That’s what it boils down to.”
Added LB Dekoda Watson, who finished with a team-high and personal-best 11 tackles: “We expected it to be a physical game, but there were a lot of things that we could have corrected, a lot of things we could have controlled but didn’t take advantage of, a lot of mistakes we made on our part. The Niners definitely took advantage of it and it cost us in the end.”
The third of Phil Dawson’s four field goals on the day made it 23-14 with just over four minutes remaining in the game. Needing two scores and hoping to strike back quickly, the Buccaneers attempted a reverse on the ensuing kickoff, with return man Eric Page handing the ball to WR Russell Shepard. Unfortunately, the exchange was botched and 49ers RB Kendall Hunter scooped up the loose ball and dived two yards into the end zone. The 49ers added the final three points after the Bucs turned it over on downs on their next possession.
“Sometimes unfortunate things happen,” said Wright of the back-breaking fumble on special teams. “It happens; it’s football. Things are going to come up, things are going to happen like that, but we’ve got to look past that and correct the mistakes that we made in the first half and the second half.”
San Francisco got the scoring started with an impressive 62-yard drive that included a pair of third-down conversions that were the product of Kaepernick’s scrambling ability. A 17-yard run by the quarterback and an improvised on-the-run pass to FB Bruce Miller got the 49ers inside Tampa Bay’s five-yard line, and Kaepernick put it in the end zone on a four-yard pass to WR Michael Crabtree, who had time to make a triple-move on CB Johnthan Banks because Kaepernick extended the play.
Tampa Bay’s defense actually held strong for most of the rest of the first half despite a consistent field position disadvantage. DE William Gholston’s stop on a third-and-inches run near midfield forced one San Francisco punt, and a great open-field tackle by S Mark Barron stopped another third-down conversion. However, Kaepernick’s scrambling ability consistently kept third down plays alive and San Francisco mounted another scoring drive in the second quarter. DT Gerald McCoy’s sack of Kaepernick on third down kept that one to a Phil Dawson field goal and a 10-0 Niners lead.
Unfortunately, that Buccaneer defense was on the field for 19 of the first 30 minutes as Tampa Bay’s offense picked up just 98 first-half yards. After Dawson’s field goal, the Bucs’ offense gave the ball back quickly and San Francisco mounted another quick-strike drive before halftime. This time they got it into the end zone as Kaepernick threw a 52-yard bomb to Davis for his second touchdown pass of the game.
However, the home team grabbed a little momentum back before the break with an impressive 80-yard two-minute drill. Glennon drove the team the length of the field on seven plays, completing five of six passes, including a scrambling 26-yarder to TE Tim Wright and a seeing-eye dart of an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jackson.
The Bucs’ offense had little success against the 49ers’ defense at the start of the game. Glennon actually hit RB Brian Leonard on what looked to be a completion converting a third-and-seven over the middle, but S Donte Whitner knocked the ball loose with a hard hit. The play was judged to be an incompletion but the 49ers challenged the ruling but replay confirmed the initial ruling. The Bucs punted away and San Francisco started its first drive at its own 38.
It took one play to get into Buccaneer territory, as Gore found a seam over right guard to blast for 11 yards, with Revis making a touchdown-saving tackle. Two plays later, McCoy got a quick up-the-middle pressure on Kaepernick two plays later but the fleet QB escaped to scramble for nine yards and a first down at the Bucs’ 35. A fine stop of Gore at the line two plays later set up a third-and-three for the Niners, but a delay-of-game call made it third-and-eight. Unfortunately, Kaepernick escaped again, got a round an attempted open-field tackle by CB Johnthan Banks and scrambled for 17 yard to the 16. Kaepernick’s mobility came into play on the final play of the drive, too, as he scrambled left, buying time for Crabtree to make a series of moves and get open on the right edge of the end zone.
Tampa Bay’s second drive also went three-and-out when Rainey was dropped for a loss of two by LB Aldon Smith on first down and Glennon was forced into a scrambling throwaway on third-and-four. The field position at least worked out better this time when the 49ers committed a penalty during the return of Michael Koenen’s 52-yard punt. Clayborn tracked a fleeing Kaepernick for a five-yard sack on the first play of the next drive, and S Mark Barron made a fine open-field tackle on Davis on a third-and-seven completion to keep the tight end from getting past the first-down marker. The 49ers punted and Tampa Bay started anew at its own 30.
The Bucs got their initial first down of the game when LB Ahmad Brooks jumped offside on third-and-four. Glennon took a shot downfield on second down but it was well over Skye Dawson’s head. A third-down pass to Wright was complete but came up two yards short of a first down and the Bucs punted away for a third time.
The Bucs’ defense started the next drive by blitzing up the middle, which allowed Kendall Hunter’s sweep left to work perfectly for a gain of 15 on the final play of the first quarter. Kaepernick’s scrambling 12-yard pass to Crabtree opened the second period and Kaepernick once again escaped pressure to run for a good gain. That play set up third-and-inches at the Bucs’ 49, and a big play by the Bucs’ defense. Gore tried to go over left guard to get the small gain needed, but he ran into a wall and bounced off to his right. DE William Gholston and David eventually dragged the back down for a loss of one, forcing a punt. Unfortunately, the Bucs’ offense went backward thanks to a third-down Justin Smith sack at the Tampa Bay eight. Koenen helped again with a 55-yard boot that the Bucs covered well, stopping LaMichael James at the San Francisco 44.
The Bucs forced San Francisco into a third-and-15 but San Francisco managed to convert as Kaepernick barely got off a pass to Boldin, who somehow slipped out of a Revis tackle and found enough downfield blocking to ran for 25 yards to the Bucs’ 21. The Bucs’ defense held there, thanks largely to Gerald McCoy’s nine-yard sack on third-and-eight. Phil Dawson came on to connect on a 47-yard field goal to make it 10-0.
Two Rainey runs got the Bucs a first down after a touchback on the ensuing kickoff, but the drive went no further and Tampa Bay punted away with just under four minutes remaining in the half. San Francisco got the ball back with 3:39 in the half and scored just after the two-minute warning. Kaepernick threw very deep down the middle to Davis, who ran under the ball and made a lunging catch just as he hit the end zone.
The Bucs’ offense responded with its first extended drive of the game, with Wright catching passes for 26 and four yards and drawing a personal foul on the second one. That penalty took the ball down to the 49ers’ 11 and on the next play Jackson ran an out-and-in route in front of CB Tarrell Brown and Glennon threw a perfect dart through traffic to get the Bucs in the end zone for the first time.
San Francisco got the ball first to start the second half and got to midfield on a 21-yard run by LaMichael James. David came up with a stunning interception moments later when he somehow got the ball out of Davis’ grasp on the sideline and, while on his knees, caught the deflection. Unfortunately, the turnover was erased by an offside call at the line of scrimmage. The play at least denied a downfield reception and helped the Bucs stall San Fran’s drive at that point.
The Bucs got it back at their own 20 after a touchback on the Niners’ punt, but immediately moved 10 yards back on a holding penalty. An 11-yard pass to Jackson on second down set up a third-and-seven, but another pass attempt to Jackson was broken up. T Demar Dotson committed a personal foul after the play to push the line of scrimmage back to the Bucs’ 11 for the punt. That allowed San Francisco to start the next drive at the Bucs’ 44.
Tampa Bay’s defense just about turned that scoring chance back on three plays, but Boldin made a ridiculous one-handed catch on third down and Gore followed with a 10-yard run down to the Bucs’ 21. Barron’s big hit on Boldin disrupted a pass down inside the Bucs’ 10, and Goldson followed Barron’s lead on third-and-15 by dislodging the ball from Boldin’s grasp with a last-second blast. Still, the 49ers netted a 43-yard Dawson field goal to make it 20-7 midway through the third quarter.
An exchange of punts followed but it hurt the Bucs in terms of field position as they ended up starting the next drive at their own eight. Glennon got his team out of that hole with sharp passes of 16 yards to Jackson, seven to Wright and six to Tiquan Underwood. Another Wright catch on the left sideline got the ball out to the Bucs’ 45 and Rainey fought through traffic for just enough to move the sticks again. Three more throws in Jackson’s direction, two of them complete, set up a third-and-one at the 49ers’ 32. A sharp eight-yard strike to Owusu on the last play of the third quarter kept the drive alive. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Glennon had time to let a play develop and eventually found Wright wide open in the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown pass to cut San Francisco’s lead to 20-14.
With the help of an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Crabtree, the Bucs put San Francisco into a third-and-12 hole on the ensuing drive but Kaepernick made another stunning play on the run to move the chains. Chased to the sideline by a big Buccaneer blitz, Kaepernick slung a sidearm pass down the edge of the field to Crabtree to pick up 14. San Francisco went to grind-it-out mode on the ground and Kaepernick converted another third down with a 10-yard scramble to the Bucs’ 19. Tampa Bay held inside the 10-yard line but San Francisco still got the field goal that made it a two-score game, with the fumble recovery touchdown following just six seconds later on the game clock.