The Bucs kept cutting it close and even had the lead for a portion of the game, but they continued to shoot themselves in the foot with turnovers and a lack of execution when the game was on the line. The Bucs fell to the San Francisco 49ers by a score of 31-17 in their home opener.
These were the most impressive players from the Bucs loss.
CB Vernon Hargreaves III
Boy did Hargreaves look like someone that missed playing the game of football. In his return back after missing 15 games last year, Hargreaves was fired up showed.
He scored the first touchdown of his NFL career for the Bucs after picking off Jimmy Garropolo in the second quarter and taking it to the house, giving the Bucs their only points in the first half. Even before that, Hargreaves was strong in coverage on San Francisco’s receivers, particularly on the first drive when the 49ers had good field position after a punt block. He broke up a pass in the end zone that helped hold San Francisco to a field goal.
Hargreaves’ pick-6 changed the momentum of the game for the Bucs at the time, who were reeling from a fumble by O.J. Howard in the red zone. It was Hargreaves who provided the spark for Tampa Bay and continued to play well in coverage for the entire game.
The former first-round pick ended Sunday with three tackles, one pass breakup, and the interception.
DT Vita Vea
Vea dominated the line of scrimmage against the 49ers offensive line. The Bucs only gave up a mere 36 yards rushing in the first half, and Vea was a big reason for that. He made some punishing hits as well. What was more impressive was the speed he used to track down the ball carriers. Whether it was a pass through the middle or a wide play on the opposite side, he was constantly hustling to the ball. Vea along with Ndamukong Suh looked like a really good combination on the defense line.
Vea’s finished the day with three tackles.
LB Lavonte David
David was flying around the field on Sunday and showed a great veteran presence. He was reading plays early before they were even fully developed and found his way to the backfield often. He had one fantastic play in particular where he tracked down the running back from behind the line of scrimmage after blitzing from the opposite side of the line. David was chasing down ball carriers all afternoon to hold them to short gains. He looked like he didn’t miss a beat for a player that missed all of training camp.
David recorded six tackles on the game, good for second most on the Bucs’ defense.
DT Will Gholston
Another force in the run game, Gholston had three tackles in an impressive first game. It’s a crowded group down there at defensive tackle, but it was Gholston that made the biggest impact for the tackles that were coming in on rotation. It’s a good sign for the Bucs if they can continue to get that kind of production from him. His three tackles may not seem like a ton, but he helped out in more in ways that don’t show up on the stat sheet.
S Jordan Whitehead
Whitehead made some touchdown-saving tackles when the 49ers were moving the ball. He did a great job moving close to the line of scrimmage from his safety position to break up some runs that had a chance for a big play. Whitehead led the Bucs in tackles and was often involved. When the 49ers were backed up near their end zone, it was Whitehead that provided the hits to force another punt and get the offense in good field position. It felt as if Whitehead was involved in almost every play. His finger prints were all over this game as he led the team with seven tackles.
RB Ronald Jones
Jones was the best running back for the Bucs on Sunday, and you could make the case that he was just the best offensive player in general. Jones looked explosive as he ripped off runs big runs of eight, nine, and 16-yard runs. He looked confident running and taking on tacklers instead of hesitating while trying to dance around defenders. On one drive in the fourth quarter, Jones was the bell cow as the Bucs rode him to move the ball down the field in scoring position. His highlight play was a reception on third-and-long in which he broke multiple tackles to gain what seemed like an improbable first down. Jones ran confidently, and that’s what was most important.
Jones had 75-yards rushing on 13 carries for the day.