QUARTERBACK Quarterback Jeff Garcia left at the end of the second quarter and was put on the bench for the rest of the game after almost two quarters worth of playing time. Garcia finished the game 12-of-20 for 196 yards and one touchdown. He was sacked twice in the first half and finished with a quarterback rating of 109.6
Garcia came out with a lot of emotion early in the first quarter in his first appearance as a starter vs. San Francisco after spending four seasons with the 49ers and was accurate on the first drive of the game. He went 5-for-6 for 49 yards on the drive and his only incompletion was a dropped pass by tight end Alex Smith. The big play of the drive was a 27-yard completion to wide receiver Ike Hilliard that got the Bucs into San Francisco territory. The drive culminated with a 34-yard field goal by place kicker Matt Bryant.
Garcia remained sharp on the second drive of the game that also ended in a Bryant field goal from 22 yards out. He had two big passes during the drive, a 24-yard throw to wide receiver Michael Clayton and a 33-yard reception to Smith. Garcia, however, had a fumbled snap on second-and-goal which was a wasted down for the Bucs in the red zone. On third-and-goal, Garcia was looking to hook up with Smith in the back of the end zone, but San Francisco linebacker Patrick Willis knocked the pass down.
On the second drive of the second quarter, Garcia took a couple of bad hits to the helmet with one giving the Bucs a first down on a personal foul penalty. The second hit came from San Francisco defensive tackle Bryant Young and no penalty was called. Garcia did hook up with wide receiver Joey Galloway on a 29-yard reception.
Garcia capitalized on a 49ers turnover in leading the offense into the end zone for the first touchdown of the game. The drive was kept alive when Garcia found running back Michael Pittman for a 12-yard reception on third-and-10 with 4:46 remaining in the second quarter. On the next play, Garcia scrambled out of the pocket and found tight end Jerramy Stevens for a 24-yard touchdown, giving the Bucs a 13-7 lead.
Quarterback Luke McCown came in late in the first half and finished the game for the Bucs, going 18-of-32 for 185 yards with one touchdown and one interception. McCown was sacked twice as well and had one fumble.
McCown had an opportunity to get points on the board after a turnover late in the second quarter, but completed only 1-of-4 pass attempts to end the first half. On the first possession of the second half, his reputation of holding onto the ball was back in the spotlight as he fumbled the ball trying to scramble out of the pocket instead of throwing the ball away with 11:08 remaining in the third quarter.
McCown scrambled for 13 yards on the third drive of the second half and then hit three different receivers to get the Bucs into 49ers territory. He found Smith for a 9-yard reception and also hooked up with Pittman on third-and-2 with a 4-yard reception. McCown hit Clayton with a 21-yard slant route that put the ball at the San Francisco 49-yard line. The backup quarterback found Pittman on a 6-yard reception on second-and-15 and then a 16-yard catch on third-and-9 that kept the drive going. However, McCown was intercepted by San Francisco cornerback Nate Clements after the pass went through Smith's hands.
McCown finally got the offense into the end zone late in the fourth quarter and had the opportunity to tie the game. On second-and-10, McCown found Smith for a 21-yard reception that got the Bucs into San Francisco territory. He found running back Michael Bennett for an 8-yard reception and then hit Clayton for 18 yards on fourth-and-2 at the 49ers' 32-yard line. After a dropped pass by Clayton, McCown hit Stevens with a 24-yard touchdown reception, his second of the game, making the score 21-19.
The Bucs went for the two-point conversion to tie the game, but McCown's pass to Clayton in the back of the end zone was ruled incomplete as Clayton was unable to get two feet in bounds.
The Bucs converted 7-of-19 (37 percent) of their third down attempts vs. the 49ers with Garcia and McCown throwing for seven third-down conversions.
RUNNING BACK Running back Earnest Graham spent the second half on the sidelines and finished with 21 yards on nine carries and two receptions for 11 yards. Graham had two carries for 10 yards and one reception for six yards on the first drive. He was shut down for most of the first half as he found little running room with no push by the offensive line. Graham got some much needed rest as he didn't step on the field for the entire second half.
Running back Michael Pittman was used a lot vs. San Francisco and showed that his ankle is fully healed as he led the Bucs with seven receptions for 54 yards and racked up 13 yards on seven carries.
Three of Pittman's seven receptions came on the third drive of the second half. His first reception of the drive was a 4-yard catch on third-and-2 to move the chains. Pittman had consecutive receptions, 6 and 16-yard catches that moved the ball to the 49ers' 32-yard line. The drive stalled, however, when Clements picked off McCown.
Pittman kept the touchdown-scoring drive in the second quarter going with a 12-yard reception on third-and-10. He caught the ball out of the backfield and was able to spin off of Clements and get past the first down marker.
Running back Michael Bennett saw some more playing time vs. San Francisco after gaining 63 yards on nine carries last week vs. the Falcons. Bennett had 16 yards on five carries and two receptions for 14 yards.
Fullback B.J. Askew missed his second consecutive game with an ankle injury.
Fullback Byron Storer filled in for Askew for the second consecutive game, but the Bucs offense ran the ball just 21 times which left Storer on the sideline for the majority of the game.
The Bucs' running backs rushed for 40 yards on 21 attempts (1.9 avg.) on Sunday.
WIDE RECEIVERSWide receiver Joey Galloway joined many starters on the sideline for most of the game, especially when he came up with what looked like a shoulder injury in the second quarter. He finished the game with one reception for 29 yards, which came on a second-and-8 play with 12:16 remaining in the second quarter.
Wide receiver Ike Hilliard finished the game with three receptions for 50 yards, which showed that he's healthy heading into the playoffs. Hilliard had a big 27-yard reception on the first drive of the game right down the middle of the field. That catch helped set up a field goal to give the Bucs an early 3-0 lead. In the second half, Hilliard had a 4-yard catch that gave the Bucs a first down. However, the drive ended with an interception by Clements. Hilliard, also known as Third-and-Ike, came up with a 20-yard reception on third-and-11 in the fourth quarter, but the drive ended with the Bucs turning the ball over on downs after failing to convert on fourth down.
Wide receiver Michael Clayton was a big part of the passing game in the second half, recording five receptions for 71 yards. Clayton made a great jumping catch on a 24-yard reception in the first quarter where Garcia threw the ball behind him and he had to go up and catch the ball. With 1:07 remaining in the third quarter, Clayton pulled in a 21-yard reception that moved the ball into 49ers territory. On the final drive of the game, he had an 18-yard reception that put the ball inside San Francisco's 15-yard line, but an illegal block in the back by wide receiver Micheal Spurlock moved the ball back to the 24-yard line. Clayton had the game-tying two-point conversion pass in his hands, but was unable to get both feet in bounds and the pass was ruled incomplete. Clayton also had two dropped passes in the fourth quarter.
Wide receiver Maurice Stovall left the game early in the first half with an apparent arm injury after landing hard on the ground on a slant route. He didn't return to the game after being carted off the field.
TIGHT ENDSTight end Alex Smith had a roller coaster of a game, making big catches but also dropping passes as well. He finished the game with six receptions for 79 yards. Smith was a big weapon for Garcia on the first drive of the game as Smith had three receptions for 18 yards. He opened the game with an 11-yard reception and then had a surprise catch as Garcia flipped in the ball under pressure for minus-4 yards. Smith had a 10-yard reception on second-and-6 from the 33-yard line with 10:15 remaining in the first quarter. He did, however, drop a definite first down pass inside the 10-yard line on the same drive.
Smith made his presence known again as Garcia hit him with a 33-yard reception that put the ball inside the 5-yard line on the second drive of the game. The Bucs, however, had to settle for another Bryant field goal, this time from 22 yards out.
With 3:41 remaining in the third quarter, Smith was called for a holding penalty that negated an 8-yard run by Bennett. On the same drive, Smith made a 9-yard catch and fumbled the ball, but he was ruled down by contact. With 14:36 remaining in the fourth quarter, Smith let a pass go right through his hands and the throw was picked off by Clements, ending the potential scoring drive. Smith made up for the dropped pass with a 21-yard reception with 2:38 remaining in the fourth quarter that assisted the last-minute scoring drive by the Bucs.
Tight end Jerramy Stevens had his best game of the season with the Bucs with four receptions for 73 yards and two touchdowns. After making a 20-yard reception on a drive that ended in a punt, Stevens had a 24-yard catch late in the second quarter for a touchdown that gave the Bucs a 13-7 lead. He showed up again with 1:31 remaining in the fourth quarter when McCown found him in the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown that pulled the Bucs to 21-19.
Tight end Anthony Becht was used in two-tight end sets that were used in running situations.
OFFENSIVE LINEThe Bucs offensive line had a difficult day vs. San Francisco's athletic yet powerful defensive line. Tampa Bay couldn't get any kind of rhythm going in the running game and had to turn to the passing game for most of the second half. After posting 190 yards rushing vs. Atlanta, the Bucs only managed 40 yards rushing from running backs in the loss. Garcia and McCown were sacked two times apiece vs. San Francisco and were rushed out of the pocket on several occasions. Garcia also took some big shots from the 49ers pass rush in his two quarters of work.
Center John Wade was weak up the middle once again and remains a liability on this offense at center. On the second drive of the first quarter, Wade was called for a false start penalty on second-and-5 and had a fumbled snap on second-and-goal. With 11:07 remaining in the second quarter, Wade was beaten up the middle by Young, which forced Garcia into an incomplete pass.
Left guard Arron Sears had an average day in run and pass blocking and couldn't seem to get 49ers nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin off the line of scrimmage. On a second-and-6 play to open the third quarter, Sears was pulling out in front of Pittman on a running play and stumbled as he tried to get up field. Pittman was hung out to dry when Sears slipped and was dropped for no gain. With 9:35 remaining in the first quarter, Sears was stood straight up by Franklin, who kept Graham to a 1-yard gain.
Left tackle Donald Penn struggled all game long with the strength of San Francisco defensive tackle Ray McDonald and the speed of outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain. Penn missed a block on a second-and-10 play in the second quarter that allowed McDonald to sack Garcia. McDonald got around Penn on the play before and was able to get a hit on the nine-year quarterback forcing an incomplete pass. Banta-Cain beat Penn on a first-and-15 play in the third quarter that also forced an incomplete pass from McCown.
Right guard Davin Joseph likely had the best game on the offensive line as he wasn't called for a penalty or didn't give up a sack. On the first play of the third quarter, Joseph did a good job of clearing a lane for Pittman to gain 5 yards.
Right tackle Jeremy Trueblood did a solid job against speed rushers Banta-Cain and San Francisco linebacker Roderick Green. On a third-and-2 in the third quarter, Trueblood ran Green up the field as McCown stepped up and hit Pittman with a 5-yard reception. On third-and-goal in the first quarter, Trueblood did a good job of keeping San Francisco linebacker Brandon Moore off of Garcia's back. Trueblood came off of his block on the interior to knock Moore off course as he was coming off the edge. With 7:25 remaining in the second quarter, Trueblood had to chase Banta-Cain up the field as Garcia moved up in the pocket to find Stevens for a 20-yard reception.
Tampa Bay won the time of possession vs. San Francisco, 34:29 to 25:31, and gained 434 yards of total offense.
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