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DEFENSIVE LINE Tampa Bay's defense held San Francisco's offense to 125 yards in the first half. However, 72 of those yards came via the running game courtesy of running back Frank Gore, who rushed nine times for 61 yards (6.7 avg.) in the first half and played an integral role in the 49ers' seven-play, 72-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter.
However, the Bucs limited the 49ers to just 216 yards of total offense and held Gore to 89 yards on 21 carries (4.2. avg.) for the game while substituting heavily along the defensive line and playing mostly backups in the second half.
Tampa Bay's defense sacked San Francisco quarterback Shaun Hill twice Sunday. The first quarterback takedown came from Bucs under tackle Jovan Haye on the first series of the game when Haye brought the signal caller down for a 4-yard loss in the first quarter. That play set up a third-and-9 for the 49ers and eventually forced them to punt. In the second quarter, Haye made a key tackle on RB Maurice Hicks to stop him short of the first down marker on a third down play. Haye finished Sunday's game with five tackles, which was second on the team, one sack and one pass defensed.
Late in the second quarter, Bucs defensive end Greg White pressured Hill on a third down play, which forced the signal caller up in the pocket. White showed impressive athleticism with backside pursuit that led to him tackling Hill to force a punt. However, White injured his ankle/leg on the play and had to leave the game. He did not return. White finished the game with one tackle.
Rookie DE Gaines Adams got some decent pressure on Hill. In the third quarter on a pass to the end zone, Adams knocked Hill to the turf with a helmet hit to the signal caller's ribs. That hit forced Hill to leave the game for one play, but it also led to a personal foul, roughing the quarterback penalty, which gave the 49ers an automatic first down. Two plays later with the 49ers set up in a first-and-goal situation from the 6-yard line, Hill threw a touchdown strike to tight end Vernon Davis, capping off a three-play, 14-yard drive and giving the 49ers a 14-13 lead over the Bucs. Late in the fourth quarter, Adams got good pressure on Hill again, this time causing the quarterback to throw the ball away in an effort to avoid the sack. However, that pass led to an intentional grounding penalty, which forced the 49ers to punt the ball away. Adams finished the game with two tackles and one quarterback hurry.
Bucs nose tackle Chris Hovan did not record a tackle vs. the 49ers before being pulled in the second half. He was replaced by Ryan Sims, who was impressive in Hovan's place. Sims sacked Hill late in the fourth quarter and finished Sunday's game with two tackles and one quarterback takedown.
Veteran DE Kevin Carter started at left end, but Greg Spires, who had missed several weeks of action due to a calf injury, saw a significant amount of playing time vs. the 49ers. Carter notched two tackles while Spires recorded one of his own. Spires showed good acceleration on a third-and-7 play late in the third quarter when he busted into the backfield and forced Hill to throw an incompletion.
Tampa Bay DE Patrick Chukwurah (hamstring) was inactive for Sunday's game and did not make the trip to San Francisco.
LINEBACKERS Bucs middle linebacker Barrett Ruud led the team's defense in tackles with six. He also came up huge in the second quarter when safety Jermaine Phillips forced TE Vernon Davis to fumble the ball after a reception for a first down. Ruud jumped on the loose ball and recovered it on the 49ers' 36-yard line with less than six minutes to go in the first half. Tampa Bay's offense capitalized on that turnover by driving 36 yards on four plays for a touchdown, which put the Bucs up 13-7 at halftime.
With 9:30 remaining in the third quarter, 49ers QB Shaun Hill threw a 6-yard touchdown strike to Davis over the head of Bucs weakside linebacker Derrick Brooks and to the side of Phillips. That touchdown gave the 49ers a 14-13 lead over the Bucs. Brooks finished Sunday's game with four tackles.
Strongside linebacker Cato June had a quiet game. He notched just one tackle vs. the 49ers.
Early in the third quarter, Tampa Bay replaced its starting linebackers with rookie outside linebackers Quincy Black and Adam Hayward and veteran middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter.
Black struggled early, trailing 49ers running back Frank Gore on a short pass play. Not only did he allow Gore to haul in the pass, Black missed the tackle, which allowed Gore to scamper 23 yards for a touchdown, which put the 49ers up 21-13 early in the fourth quarter.
However, Tampa Bay's revamped linebacking corps performed well overall, allowing the 49ers offense to produce a total of just 91 yards in the second half.
Trotter, who saw his first action on defense as a Buc, did not get tested by the 49ers in pass coverage. He did, however, hold up nicely vs. the run, notching four tackles.
Black finished Sunday's game with three tackles while Hayward recorded two takedowns. Davis caught three passes for 30 yards and one touchdown vs. the Bucs.
San Francisco converted just 4-of-14 (29 percent) of its third down attempts vs. Tampa Bay on Sunday.
SECONDARY San Francisco quarterback Shaun Hill entered Sunday's game with Tampa Bay having completed over 70 percent of his passes this season. But he had not seen a defense like the Bucs, and their zone scheme clearly gave the young signal caller problems. Hill completed just 11-of-24 (45.8 percent) of his passes for 123 yards. However, he came up huge inside the 30-yard line, tossing three touchdown passes.
Bucs strong safety Jermaine Phillips had a mixed outing vs. the 49ers. Near the end of the first quarter, Phillips took a bad angle near the line of scrimmage on a Frank Gore run. That allowed Gore to gain 20 yards down the right sideline and get the ball to the Bucs 48-yard line. However, Phillips rebounded from that play in the second quarter when he forced tight end Vernon Davis to fumble after hauling in a pass for a first down across the middle of the field. Linebacker Barrett Ruud recovered the loose ball at the 49ers 36-yard line, and the Bucs offense eventually scored a touchdown. Davis' 5-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter came with linebacker Derrick Brooks and Phillips in coverage. Phillips finished Sunday's game with four tackles and one forced fumble.
49ers wide receiver Darrell Jackson caught just two passes vs. the Bucs, but his post pattern in the second quarter was good enough to get beat cornerback Brian Kelly and the safety help into the end zone for a touchdown, which capped off a seven-play, 72-yard drive and gave the 49ers a 7-6 lead over the Bucs. But Kelly rebounded late in the second quarter by intercepting a pass from Hill intended for WR Arnaz Battle. That turnover gave the Bucs the ball at the 49ers' 43-yard line with just 26 seconds remaining in the first half. Kelly finished the game with one tackle, one interception and one pass defensed before leaving the contest in the second half.
Bucs CB Ronde Barber nearly intercepted Hill's pass intended for Battle near the end of the second quarter. Had Barber come up with the pick, he might have scored. Barber did not have a tackle vs. the 49ers and finished the game with one pass defensed.
Rookie free safety Tanard Jackson had five tackles vs. the 49ers. Veteran cornerback Phillip Buchanon recorded one tackle.
In the early part of the third quarter, Tampa Bay replaced its secondary in an effort to rest the starters. Sammy Davis played at cornerback while Kalvin Pearson saw a limited amount of action at safety.
San Francisco's leading receiver was Gore, who hauled in four passes for 43 yards vs. Tampa Bay.
SPECIAL TEAMS Tampa Bay kicker Matt Bryant was solid vs. San Francisco. He drilled two field goals, both of which came in the first quarter and capped off a 10-play, 64-yard drive and eight-play, 57-yard drive, respectively. Bryant's first attempt was a 34-yarder. His second field goal was good from 22 yards out. Bryant's onside kickoff attempt late in the fourth quarter bounced on the turf and went out of bounds, which allowed the 49ers to run the clock out with a 21-19 lead.
Bucs punter Josh Bidwell turned in another outstanding effort. He punted the ball six times and averaged 47 yards per attempt. He pinned two of those punts inside San Francisco's 10-yard line, including one that was downed on the 4-yard line late in the fourth quarter. Bidwell's longest punt of the game went 61 yards.
Tampa Bay's return games struggled mightily vs. San Francisco. Bucs cornerback Phillip Buchanon fielded four punts, and he put two of them on the ground. His second fumble was recovered by the 49ers, but an illegal man downfield penalty negated the fumble and allowed the Bucs to retain possession. However, on the ensuing punt, Buchanon allowed the ball to bounce down to the Bucs' 6-yard line, giving San Francisco a 63-yard punt.
Bucs wide receiver Michael Spurlock wasn't much better. He fielded two punts and averaged 6 yards per return. His longest return was a 13-yarder. Spurlock averaged 22.7 yards per kickoff return on three attempts vs. the 49ers. Like Buchanon, Spurlock put the ball on the ground in the second quarter on a punt return. The 49ers recovered the loose ball, but the Bucs challenged the play, and replay showed that Spurlock was down before the ball came loose, which allowed Tampa Bay to retain possession.
Tampa Bay's kick return team showed poor awareness to start the second half when San Francisco came out and surprised the Bucs with an onside kickoff. The 49ers recovered the ball at their own 43-yard line.
Midway through the third quarter, Bucs safety Will Allen put a devastating hit on 49ers return specialist Michael Lewis. Allen timed the tackle perfectly and it was amazing that Lewis managed to hold onto the ball. Allen led the Bucs with two special teams tackles on Sunday.
COACHING Tampa Bay dominated San Francisco in a number of categories, including time of possession, 34:29 to 25:31. The Bucs offense produced 434 yards to the 49ers' 213. Tampa Bay had 20 first downs to San Francisco's 11. However, the Bucs had just 19 points to show for it due to two costly turnovers and the fact that they had to settle for two Matt Bryant field goals instead of touchdowns in the first quarter.
The 49ers scored two touchdowns vs. the Bucs defense in the second half. However, San Francisco only had to drive a total of 37 yards on four plays to put the ball in the end zone both times due to costly turnovers by quarterback Luke McCown, the second of which was an interception on a ball that should have been caught by tight end Alex Smith deep in San Francisco territory. The defense allowed the 49ers to march inside the 30-yard line three times on Sunday, and it couldn't force the 49ers to kick a field goal once.
Tampa Bay was undisciplined on the offensive side of the ball. The Bucs were penalized eight times for 56 yards vs. the 49ers.
The Bucs special teams return unit was awful, especially on punt returns, where they averaged just 2 yards per return on six attempts.
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden was wise to start resting players on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, especially after wide receivers Joey Galloway, Maurice Stovall and defensive end Greg White left the game with their respective injuries and quarterback Jeff Garcia took a beating in the first half.
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