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October 8, 2011 @ 2:09 pm
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Cook's Five Keys To Victory at San Francisco

Written by Mark
Mark Cook


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Each week PewterReport.com's beat writer Mark Cook takes a look at five specific things that will help the Buccaneers achieve victory against their upcoming opponent. Find out which things Cook feels will be a factor in this column.

Key 1: Cause an Earthquake with Blount
Twenty-six games and counting is the streak of the 49ers not allowing an opposing running back to rush for 100 yards, which is the longest current streak in the NFL. Allowing just 74 yards per game rushing, this Niners defense will provide the Buccaneers' offensive line its stiffest test so far this year.

While it is not a must for Blount to get 100 yards for Tampa Bay to win (see last year's 84-yard effort in the Bucs' 21-0 win) it certainly won’t hurt. And hey, breaking streaks is fun! In all seriousness a successful rushing attack has been an excellent formula in the last three weeks, all resulting in wins. Tampa Bay stands a much better chance of leaving the "City by the Bay" with four wins if Blount can impose his will on the Niners' front seven.

Key 2: Bring Smith Back to Earth
Where has the erratic, deer-in-the-headlights-looking Alex Smith gone in 2011? In Smith’s first six NFL seasons he was only able to hit the 60 percent completion percentage plateau once (60.5 percent in 2009) and through his career had only thrown more touchdowns than interceptions in a season twice. But head coach Jim Harbaugh has worked his mojo with Smith so far in 2011 and the former University of Utah standout is having his best season since his college playing days.

So far in 2011 under Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman (Smith’s seventh different O.C. in seven years) Smith finally looks like the quarterback 49ers fans have been expecting since he was the first overall pick in the 2005 draft. With a 97.7 QB rating, four TD’s and only one interception, arguably no NFL player is having a better turnaround season/career like Smith.

Just as the running attack has come on for the Buccaneers in recent weeks, so has the pass rush. With eight sacks in the last two games Keith Millard’s band of pass rushers is finally starting to showcase its abilities. In order for the Buccaneers to win Sunday players like Adrian Clayborn, Gerald McCoy and Michael Bennett must pressure Smith into thinking it is 2006 all over again.

Key 3: Put the Brakes On Gore
There is a reason Frank Gore is a perennial top-10 fantasy pick every year. The former Hurricane is a load with deceptive shiftiness and speed.

The last two weeks the Buccaneers have been able to contain two of the better running backs in the league in Michael Turner and Joseph Addai, holding both to less than 100 combined yards. And it is no coincidence the Buccaneers were victorious in those two games. Even in the Minnesota game Adrian Petersen didn’t gouge the Buccaneers and the run defense was a big part in Tampa Bay’s come-from-behind victory.

The Buccaneers did a good job last season in stopping Gore and the San Francisco rushing attack last season (12 carries, 23 yards) allowing the defense to dare Troy Smith to throw the ball. Smith struggled and Tampa Bay came home with the 21-0 win.

Last week the Buccaneers defense line totaled 17 tackles and will need to have similar numbers Sunday against San Francisco. Gore is a bruiser and if he can get a head of steam to the second level it could be a long day for the Buccaneers linebackers and secondary.

Key 4: Be Special On Special Teams
As reported by PewterReport.com’s Eric Horchy Saturday in his special teams preview story, the 49ers boast one of the top special teams units in the NFL led by speedy return man Teddy Ginn Jr. Raheem Morris expects a battle.

“I feel like it’s going to be a heavyweight fight with those guys,” Morris said. “Our special teams have been really good; their special teams have been really good. It’s two young teams going out there competing.”

Morris’s tradition of success in promoting from within seems to have worked again with Dewayne Stukes’ unit performing even better than under longtime coordinator Rich Bisaccia. On the season the coverage units are standing out, as Tampa Bay is second in the NFL for total opponent kick return yards. Part of this success has been Michael Koenen’s ability to kickoff deep, with only seven of his kickoffs even attempted to be returned.

The 49ers are third in the NFL in kickoff return average at 33.5 per return so this will be as Morris said: a matchup of heavyweights.

Punt coverage has also been stellar, as the Buccaneers have limited punt returns by opponents to just 4.8 yards per return, which ranks fifth in the NFL. Like on kickoffs, the weapon Tampa Bay has in Koenen is a huge factor.

In a game that may be decided by a field goal, the placekickers figure to play a prominent role this week. Conner Barth has been solid but did suffer his first miss of the season last week against the Colts, clanking one off the right upright in the first quarter. San Francisco counters with one of the best in the league in David Akers, who on the season is 8-for10 with a long of 55 yards.

Key 5: Rebound From a Short Week and a West Coast Trip
From 1976 to 2008 the Buccaneers were a dreadful 4-28 on visits to the west coast. But since 2009 the Buccaneers have been, as Morris joked this week, “west coast killers.” Since 2009 Tampa Bay is 3-0 on trips to the Pacific Time zone with wins at Seattle, Arizona and, of course, last season’s 21-0 victory at San Francisco.

This trip poses an additional problem, however, as the Buccaneers' schedule has been a day behind because of the Monday night matchup with Indy. Not only has Tampa Bay lost a day, they decided to leave a day earlier than normal, choosing to fly out Friday rather than the usual Saturday.

None of the Bucs players or coaches feels it will be much of a hindrance, but chances are there will be some fatigue issues. Of course one good thing about being one of the youngest teams in the NFL is younger players tend to recover easier and much faster, whether it be from injury or even time-zone changes.

Final Analysis: This game is one that early in the season looked like an easily checked off win. However few saw the 49ers going east and knocking off the dream team from Philly in the manner in which they did. Jim Harbaugh looks like the perfect coaching choice as he commands the respect from Niners players and is working magic with Alex Smith.

The Buccaneers are coming off a hard-fought, emotionally draining game last Monday and may suffer some ill effects from the short week.

Cook’s Prediction
: 49ers 21, Buccaneers 20
Reynolds Prediction: Buccaneers: 23, 49ers 20
Horchy’s Prediction: Buccaneers 23, 49ers 17

Last modified on Saturday, 08 October 2011 14:55

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  • avatar

    Worst game I have seen in awhile. No one showed up, especially the coaches. The inability to properly game plan and get the team going early finally caught up to us. The dink and dunk was taken away and we never adjusted and had two bad INTs and a few others that should have been picked. No plays to get our guys going deep or create space with misdirection. Too many 3 and outs. The amount of penalties and turnovers each week is also very alarming, total lack of discipline. Def couldnt stop anyone anywhere. And why does Talib get beat by everyone each week? Maybe not a smart idea to give a 10 yd cushion on key plays. OLB were nowhere on run support or TE coverage. And our safety play continues to be atrocious, Lynch and Jones constantly missed tackles and way too late getting over in coverage. Where was the fire and heart when things got tough? How can backup RB just waltz around the edge for 30+ yds? How can backup QB hit a bac shoulder fade on 4th and 2 when the game was virtually finished? Not one person stepped up. On verge of total meltdown honestly with the toughest part of schedule coming up....
  • avatar

    Keys To Success for a playoff run 1) Get a real D Coordinator. Tampa Bay needs a defense. They have the right pieces in most part but Morris can't call a game. NO tampa defense should ever give up 21 points...let alone 40+ to the 9ers. Get someone who can focus on just defense and will actually keep them off off the field. 2) New OLB Black is overrated and Hayes is aweful. Foster looks solid but not an all pro, but hey its his rookie season. we need a big upgrade at both OLBs and i don't think we have them on the team. 3) atleast 2 new CBs Biggers is the worst thing this team for somereason continues to hold on to. the best play he's had all season was falling down and taking out the receiver. Barber is about to go so Talib can't cover 3 men himself....and sometimes not even 1. 4) A true star WR I like what we got but we need a Calvin Johnson or atleat a Mike Wallace. The offense is slow without someone down field. 5) no more embarrassing games like against the 49ers. You embarrassed yourselves, the organization, the coaching staff, the owners and worst of all the fans. My personal loyalty of over a decade was actually looked at long and hard after such a horrific showing by the team. the score would have been better if they missed the flight. that said lets figure out a way to atleast cover up these weaknesses til the post season. a playoff run is possible but there needs to be alot more heart then what was shown in San Fran.
  • avatar

    This might be the perfect game to start throwing the ball a lot more and getting some quick scores to take Gore out of the equation. I am changing my prediction. Bucs 33, 49er's 20. Go Bucs! This is my last Soundoff and I wish everyone the best. No I am not changing my soundoff name. I refuse to be recognize any conversation that has to do with religion pertaining to sports. I will just watch nfll.com and buccaneers.com. In the name of religion too many people have died and suffered. I don't want your beliefs thrown in my face; just like others don't want to hear about my stuff. Go Bucs! Next Win Up. Pewter report please remove my Login Name and Password. Give the rest of my subscription to someone else.
  • avatar

    I don't get what you are upset about? What did I miss?
  • avatar

    Thx Mark for your honest prediction ,but your wrong again - Bucs 16 SF 15
  • avatar

    Bucs finally start cashing in with forced turnovers and special teams return. Clayborn, Price and Foster keep Alex Smith fustrated. Blount keeps niners LB's honest to open up playaction. Williams see less double teams from Parkers emergence to stretch the field, Freeman finally gets over his redzone slump to find Rejus 2x and makes up for TD he lost last week. Final Bucs 33-14. 4-1 heading into greet the Saints in our backyard. Highlights next on ESPN!
  • avatar

    So if I read this article correctly, we need to... win the rushing battle, win the passing battle, and win the special teams battle... sounds about right!
  • avatar

    Buc and 49ers tied at 10 at the half. Bucs kick a field goal to win in a low scoring defense oriented game.
  • avatar

    The bucs do pretty darn well when Mark picks the opponent... here's hoping that bit of mojo is active again tomorrow...
  • avatar

    oldbucfan! I did pick them last week! And I picked them to beat Detroit. Just going with what I think will happen. As I have picked said on pr radio, it certainly makes my life easier if they win. Guys are a lot more pleasant after a victory. This is kind of a toss up game in my mind, pretty evenly matched teams, so with San Fran at home and Tampa Bay coming off a hard win Monday night, I say San Fran by one. But I wont be mad if I am wrong! Thanks MC
  • avatar

    Mark, when are you going to start pulling for the Bucs? Week after week you write a great piece then pick us to lose. Go Bucs 21-10 Bucs win Bucs win Bucs win
  • avatar

    Jiggyjoes prediction: Bucs 31 ; Niners 14...Go Bucs!
  • avatar

    Bucs 19; 49er's 17. go Bucs! Next Win Up!
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