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Tampa Bay backup QB Chris Simms made the start on Sunday in place of Brian Griese, who was placed on injured reserve last week. Simms played like a backup quarterback in the first half of Sunday’s contest. A few of his passes were short of the receivers, and he came close to having two passes intercepted. In his defense, Simms didn’t have a chance to get comfortable in the pocket due to the heavy pressure the 49ers defense brought with a variety of blitzes. However, in the second quarter, Simms managed to settle down and complete three straight passes, including an 18-yarder to wide receiver Joey Galloway and a 14-yarder to WR Michael Clayton. But that particular drive was done in by an intentional grounding penalty on Simms and a holding penalty on left tackle Anthony Davis. Later in the second quarter, Simms’ pass near the sideline was tipped by 49ers linebacker Julian Peterson, but the ball fell into the arms of Galloway, who managed to keep his feet in bounds for the big catch on the 48-yard line. Simms later picked up a first down on a third-and-1 quarterback sneak call. A few plays later, Simms took a sack on the 49ers’ 36-yard line, which took the Bucs out of field goal range. But Simms completed a pass to Clayton on third down, which put them back in field goal range.
In the third quarter, Simms was nearly intercepted by 49ers strong safety Ben Emanuel, but he couldn’t come up with the pick in 49ers territory. However, two plays later, Emanuel picked Simms off on an errant pass intended for Clayton. Not only did he intercept it, Emanuel returned the ball to the Bucs’ 30-yard line. The 49ers eventually kicked a field goal, which put them up 9-3. Simms came back on the next drive and hit Galloway for a big gain and a first down. But on the next play, Simms’ pass was deflected after it hit the ref’s head and fell into the arms of 49ers linebacker Brandon Moore, who returned the ball to the Bucs’ 35-yard line. That turnover led to another kicker Joe Nedney field goal, which put the 49ers up 12-3. On the next drive, Simms completed a low pass to Galloway for a first down, and a few plays later, he delivered a key pass to tight end Alex Smith for a 19-yard gain, which put the Bucs at the 49ers’ 45-yard line. But Simms took a coverage sack a few plays later, which took the Bucs out of field goal range. That sack turned out to be huge as Bucs K Matt Bryant missed a 52-yard field goal attempt two plays later. Simms hit Galloway on a short pass in the fourth quarter, but the speedy receiver turned on the jets and took the ball to the end zone for a 78-yard touchdown. Despite how poorly Tampa Bay played, the Bucs still had a chance to win the game with two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, but Simms was sacked by 49ers DE Bryant Young, who caused a fumble. The 49ers recovered the ball, which pretty much secured the win.
Simms completed 21-of-34 (61.7 percent) of his passes for 264 yards and tossed one touchdown and two interceptions. He was under duress all game long and was made vulnerable and one dimensional by Tampa Bay’s inability to establish the running game. His inexperience showed on Sunday.
*The Bucs converted 3-of-14 (21 percent) of their third down attempts vs. the 49ers.
Cadillac Williams started vs. the 49ers, but he was ineffective. Tampa Bay’ offensive line had little success in opening running lanes for Williams, who carried the ball 13 times for 20 yards (1.5 avg.). Cadillac’s longest run was a 15-yarder, which came in the first half on a third-and-26 play. He also caught one pass for five yards. Things were so bad for Tampa Bay’s running game that Williams got stopped well short of a first down on third-and-1 in the second half.
Bucs RB Michael Pittman rushed four times for 5 yards (1.3 avg.).
Fullback Mike Alstott caught a 9-yard pass in the second quarter. Alstott hauled in another pass on the last play of the third quarter for a 10-yard gain and first down. He finished the game with three catches for 24 yards.
*The Bucs rushed 20 times for 43 yards (2.2 avg.).
On a day where the Bucs offense sputtered, WR Joey Galloway shined. Galloway hauled in an 18-yard pass from Simms in the first quarter. Galloway followed that grab up with a great sideline catch on a deflection by Peterson in the second quarter. That catch put the Bucs on the 48-yard line. Galloway came up huge in the fourth quarter by getting past S Shawntae Spencer and outracing CB Mike Adams down the sideline for a 78-yard touchdown. The extra point was good, which made the score 12-10. Galloway finished the game with a team-leading eight catches for 149 yards (18.6 avg.) and a touchdown.
Michael Clayton hauled in a 14-yard catch on a third-and-long play in the first quarter. That catch gave the Bucs a first down. Late in the second quarter, Clayton hauled in a pass from Simms that put the Bucs back in field goal range, and kicker Matt Bryant capitalized one play later. Clayton made a great block on CB Bruce Thorton on Galloway’s 78-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. He received a few more looks, but Clayton struggled to get separation and finished the game with four catches for 30 yards.
Bucs WR Ike Hilliard was called for being offsides in the first half. He finished the game with one catch for seven yards. Like Clayton, Hilliard struggled to get open vs. the 49ers defense.
* Tampa Bay produced 275 yards of total offense vs. San Francisco’s defense, which ranked 32nd heading into Sunday’s contest.
Bucs TE Anthony Becht struggled as a blocker and was flagged for a false start in the first quarter. To make matters worse, Becht was missing from the team’s passing game.
Rookie TE Alex Smith followed up Galloway’s great sideline catch with a 24-yard reception. While the pass to the flat was perfect, Smith made the play by breaking a tackle and running the ball all the way to the 49ers’ 29-yard line. Late in the third quarter, Smith hauled in a pass from Simms for a 19-yard gain to the 49ers’ 45-yard line. Like Becht, Smith struggled to sustain blocks in the running game.
Tampa Bay’s offensive line struggled mightily vs. San Francisco’s defense on Sunday.
In the first half, The Bucs O-line allowed Simms to get pressured and failed to open up holes in the running game. The big problem for this unit was penalties. Left tackle Anthony Davis (false start), left guard Dan Buenning (false start) and right guard Sean Mahan (holding) were each flagged in the first half, although Mahan’s penalty was declined. Those infractions hindered Tampa Bay’s efforts on offense.
Mahan allowed 49ers DE Bryant Young to sack Simms and cause a fumble late in the fourth quarter, which pretty much ended any hope the Bucs had of coming back to win the game.
Tampa Bay’s offensive line personnel was dominated in the trenches and got blown off the ball on a consistent basis, which was the main reason why the Bucs failed to get the running game going. While he held onto the ball too long at times, Simms was sacked five times, and the pass rush allowed by the Bucs offensive line led to a few of those quarterback takedowns.
*Only one of Tampa Bay’s 13 first downs came via the ground game.
The Bucs were hit with a huge distraction before Sunday’s game even started when defensive end Simeon Rice missed a mandatory team meeting on Saturday night, which prompted the Bucs to make him inactive and send him back to Tampa. Bucs DE Dewayne White started in Rice’s place on the right side of the defensive line. He didn’t provide a great pass rush, but White notched four tackles in the running game.
Left defensive end Greg Spires led all defensive linemen with six tackles. Defensive tackles Anthony McFarland and Chris Hovan recorded two tackles each.
Tampa Bay DL Ellis Wyms saw a significant amount of action on Sunday. He was penalized for a personal foul – late hit penalty in the second quarter after a run by San Francisco RB Frank Gore. That penalty put the 49ers in field goal range, and they capitalized. Wyms finished the game with one tackle. Gore rushed 10 times for 40 yards (4.0 avg.).
Tampa Bay’s defensive line didn’t play particularly well vs. the run, and a lot of this unit’s shortcomings can be attributed to poor tackling. San Francisco RB Kevan Barlow rushed 26 times for 101 yards (3.9 avg.). His longest run, a 29-yarder, came on the second to last play of the first half and put the 49ers in field goal range.
This unit failed to sustain a potent pass rush and didn’t record a sack.
*San Francisco became the first team to rush for over 100 yards vs. Tampa Bay this season by running the ball 39 times for 158 yards (4.1 avg.).
Tampa Bay starting linebackers Derrick Brooks, Shelton Quarles and Ryan Nece combined for 18 tackles, but it was the tackles they missed that led to San Francisco’s big day on the ground. This unit missed too many tackles and failed to make any big plays or force turnovers. Brooks notched nine tackles, Nece, who tackled Barlow for a 7-yard loss in the first quarter, recorded six tackles and Quarles had a quiet game, notching just three tackles.
*The 49ers converted 2-of-16 (13 percent) of their third down tries.
Tampa Bay’s tackling woes started early when strong safety Jermaine Phillips missed a tackle on Barlow in the first quarter, which led to a 20-yard run. Phillips recorded four tackles on Sunday.
Cornerback Ronde Barber broke up a third down pass in the second quarter by drilling 49ers tight end Trent Smith, which caused the incompletion and punt. However, Barber missed a tackle on Barlow on the second to last play of the first half, which allowed him to gain 29 yards and put the 49ers in field goal range, which put the 49ers up 6-3 at halftime. Barber was also called for being offsides on the field goal attempt, but that penalty was declined. He finished the game with eight tackles.
Cornerback Brian Kelly notched two tackles vs. the 49ers.
Barber and Kelly did a nice job of shutting down 49ers WRs Brandon Lloyd and Johnnie Morton, who combined for three catches for 25 yards.
Bucs FS Will Allen also missed a tackle on Barlow’s long run before halftime, which allowed the 49ers to kick a 47-yard field goal as time expired. He finished the game with seven tackles.
This unit didn’t give up many big plays through the air, but San Francisco only dropped back to throw 20 times on Sunday. Like the defensive linemen and linebackers, missed tackles happened too often in Tampa Bay’s secondary.
*San Francisco QB Ken Dorsey completed 7-of-18 passes for 40 yards for QB rating of 47.0.
Bucs punter Josh Bidwell got off a 55-yard punt in the first quarter, which was huge since the team was punting from its own 17-yard line after going three-and-out. But Bidwell’s punts lacked hang time from that point forward. With a struggling offense, Bidwell saw the field often, punting eight times (43.6 avg.). He pinned one punt inside the 20-yard line.
Punt returner Mark Jones’ long punt return to Tampa Bay’s 41-yard line was negated by an illegal block in the back penalty on safety Kalvin Pearson. Jones finished the game with five returns for 29 yards (5.8 avg.).
Fullback Jameel Cook was penalized for holding on Torrie Cox’s kickoff return in the second quarter. That penalty caused the Bucs to start the drive on their own 10-yard line. Cox, who averaged 19 yards per kickoff return on two attempts, was benched in favor of Jones in the second half. Jones averaged 23 yards per kickoff return on two attempts.
Kicker Matt Bryant drilled a 47-yard field goal near the end of the first half, which tied the game at 3-3. But Bryant’s 52-yard attempt fell just short in the fourth quarter. Although that miss turned out to be pretty big, one can’t be too disappointed in Bryant for missing that kick since his career long heading into Sunday’s game was a 48-yarder.
Tampa Bay’s offensive performance vs. San Francisco’s 32nd-ranked defense was disappointing to say the least. The fact that the Bucs were coming off a bye week and facing a team that had been defeated a week earlier by the Redskins, 52-7, makes Tampa Bay’s 15-10 loss to San Francisco inexcusable, and head coach Jon Gruden has to take responsibility for his team not being ready to play and playing down to its competition in a losing effort. Gruden’s Bucs were also plagued by penalties again, being called for eight penalties for 65 yards in the first half and none in the second half. Gruden’s playcalling was bland and failed to get the Bucs in a rhythm or put Simms in a position to succeed. In fact, Tampa Bay would have been held out of the end zone on Sunday had it not been for Galloway’s playmaking ability and speed.
Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s unit didn’t allow a touchdown and shouldn’t be blamed for allowing six points that came as a result of Simms’ interceptions. However, the Bucs defense left much to be desired in the tackling department, and it failed to record a sack or force a turnover when the offense desperately needed that type of play to be made.
Perhaps the best coaching move was made by Bucs special teams coach Richard Bisaccia, who benched kickoff returner Torrie Cox in place of Mark Jones. But even that move proved to be uneventful.
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