The sun was shining, the tailgates were out, and football was back in Tampa Bay.
The Buccaneers welcomed the cross-country San Francisco 49ers to town to kick off their 2019 regular season, in a battle between two promising quarterbacks: Jameis Winston and Jimmy Garopplo.
The Bucs won the toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff, which meant it was Winston’s time to strike first. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much striking going on in Tampa’s first drive, as they were held to a three-and-out on their first possession. But, in what was suppose to be a routine punt play, the Bucs’ punt was blocked and recovered by the 49ers with good field position.
When the 49ers offense took control, with a short field, they traveled 22 yards in six plays to get into field goal range. Veteran kicker Robbie Gould stepped up and struck it right through the uprights to open the scoring at 3-0.
On the Bucs next possession, they had a bit more success, but not enough to yield points. After a pass interference call on Niners cornerback Richard Sherman, a Peyton Barber run of 14 yards got Tampa to the middle of the field. But that was as far as they would get, as they were forced to punt.
The next two drives, one for each team, ended in punts. But, on the Bucs possession that followed, they had a very long drive, their first long drive of the game. It was a mix of run and pass that got Tampa Bay right around midfield. But the turning point of that drive was when 49ers linebacker Kwon Alexander hit Jameis Winston helmet-to-helmet as Winston was sliding to the ground. This resulted in a big penalty for the 49ers, and resulted in Alexander getting ejected from the game.
As the Bucs marched into the red zone, they would throw two touchdown passes to tight end Cameron Brate, but both were called back due to holding penalties. In the end, Bucs tight end O.J. Howard would fumble a ball and Tampa Bay would leave their eventful 16-play drive with zero points.
But fortune would soon find its way to the Buccaneers sideline. Four plays later, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves would intercept a Jimmy Garoppolo pass and take it back for a touchdown to make the game 7-3 in favor of the Buccaneers.
The 49ers responded with an 11-play, 57-yard drive that ended in a field goal to bring the score to 7-6. On the Bucs very next offensive play, Winston tried to hit Howard over the middle, but the pass went right off of Howard’s hands and was intercepted instead. With a short field to go, we thought the 49ers would surely get some sort of points before the half, but a fumble and recovery by the defense kept the score 7-6 at the end of the second quarter.
The 49ers offense came out guns blazing in the second half. In it, Garoppolo drove the ball 75 yards in just seven plays to punch it in and give San Francisco the lead once again at 13-7. To make matter worse for Tampa Bay, Winston’s first pass of the second half on the very next drive was intercepted and taken back for a touchdown. This now gave the 49ers a quick 20-7 lead.
Though the Bucs were down, they weren’t out, and on the next drive, they bounced back in the best way, marching down the field to the tune of an 11-play 75-yard drive that ended in a touchdown throw and catch from Winston to wide receiver Chris Godwin. That brought the score to within striking distance at 20-14.
The 49ers stayed calm and took their next drive 36 yards in eight plays, but after stalling just beyond Tamp’s side of the 50-yard line, instead of punting it deep into Bucs territory, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan trotted his kicker out there for a 57-yard attempt. It bounced right off the lower post. No points.
The Bucs took over with momentum on their side and drove the ball 51 yards in nine plays. At the end of it, they were about to attempt a short field goal, but an offsides call on the 49ers then spotted the ball at the 2-yard line, still fourth down. That caused Bucs head coach Bruce Arians to change his mind and go for it. They did and failed.
The 49ers took over with their backs against their own end zone, and after six plays that netted just two yards, the Bucs forced a key punt. Tampa was able to take over with favorable field position, and in the end, Bucs kicker Matt Gay chipped in an easy field goal to bring the score to 20-17.
With just under five minutes to go in the game, the 49ers took over at their own 25-yard line. After making the initial first down tough to pick up, the 49ers had a big run by Raheem Mostert that was then aided by a helmet-to-helmet penalty on Tampa Bay safety Darian Stewart. This brought the ball well into Bucs territory with just over three minutes to play. The Bucs held firm after that and forced a field goal, but San Francisco kicker Robbie Gould came up clutch again to extended the Niners lead to 23-17.
That gave Tampa bay one last chance — knowing a touchdown would win it — with just over two minutes to go. But on the first play of the drive, Winston threw an ill-advised pick-6 to give the 49ers the 31-17 lead.
And that’s how the game would end.