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Game Day: 49ers at Buccaneers

Posted Dec 14, 2013

Prepare for Sunday’s game with our preview, including injury reports, key matchups, series history, players to watch and more



STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Bucs hope to keep dual-threat QB Colin Kaepernick in the pocket as much as possible
  • The matchup between Bucs T Demar Dotson and 49ers LB Ahmad Brooks could be an underrated factor in Sunday's outcome
  • Lavonte David will try to become just the second Buc ever with an INT in four straight games
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take on the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.  The Buccaneers bring a 4-9 record into the game while the 49ers are 9-4.

Offensively, the Bucs will be facing yet another stout defense when the 49ers come to town. San Francisco currently owns the league’s fourth-best defense against the pass, and the fourth-ranked unit overall.

If the Bucs are to secure a win over one of the NFC’s best teams, quarterback Mike Glennon and the Tampa Bay offense will need to put their previous experience against other top defenses – such as Carolina, Seattle, and Buffalo – to use on Sunday.

“We’ve played a lot of good defenses back-to-back-to-back and [the 49ers] are just as good as all of them,” said quarterback Mike Glennon. “They’re as good of a defense as there is in the NFL and all around, every position you look at, they’ve got first-rounders across the board and they’re a really talented group. I think that will prepare us, offensively, having played against other top-tier defenses for the past few weeks. We know that their defense is extremely talented, but having played others will benefit us.”

On the defensive side of the ball, the Bucs will look to build off last week’s impressive showing against Buffalo. In that game, Tampa Bay defenders rang up four interceptions and seven sacks and held the Bills to just six points off two field goals.

This week, the Bucs will be tasked with containing a San Francisco offense led by versatile young quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has thrown for 16 touchdowns on the year and ran for another three.

“I think he’s really talented,” said Buccaneers Head Coach Greg Schiano. “That guy has a huge arm, he throws the ball from the far hash to a 22-yard – I don’t really see many throwing 22-yard comeback – but he really rips it and it doesn’t leave much more than about seven feet off the ground. Then when he runs, he’s a really talented runner.”

Containing Kaepernick and his dual-threat capabilities, according to defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, is predicated on trying to keep him locked up in the pocket as much as possible. Kaepernick’s biggest plays often arise when he escapes pressure, scrambles and makes something happen by either throwing on the move or tucking the ball and running.

- The Bucs hope to start fast on offense like the did in last week's win over Buffalo
“[We’ve] got to keep him in the pocket,” McCoy said. “He’s an intelligent guy. From inside information and things you hear, he’s a really smart guy and knows the offense, so it’s going to be tough for us to kind of figure him out. I think our best bet is to keep him in the pocket, make him beat us from just standing in the pocket. He’s not quite [Carolina quarterback] Cam [Newton] when it comes to scrambling, but he’s a really good scrambler and we’ve got to look out for him because he can run the ball too, more than just scrambling, he’s one of their running backs. He’s a big guy, fast. I think people underestimate how fast he is. It’s going to be tough.”

The San Francisco offense is blessed with a number of other weapons the Bucs will have to account for as well. Between a physical offensive line, hard-nosed running back Frank Gore, battle-tested wideout Anquan Boldin and freakishly fast tight end Vernon Davis – arguably the most athletic player at his position in the league – the 49ers can attack defenses in a wide variety of ways.

“They have a good offense that is going to come in here and just try to maul us and we’re going to have to be able to stand up to that,” Schiano said. “They have now [wide receiver Michael] Crabtree back. He and Anquan Boldin, you look at their receiving core it’s a Pro Bowl receiving core. With their tight end, Davis, he may be the fastest of everybody on the field at the wideout position. You’re talking about a rare group of guys and we’re going to have to really be on point with the secondary.

“Then you throw Frank Gore in there who is still running at a very high level, great vision, patience, strength. You’re talking about a great group of skill people and then a really, really good offensive line – probably the best offensive line we’ve been up against. It’ll be a big challenge.”

As mentioned, the 49ers defense will also pose a stiff test for the Tampa Bay offensive unit. San Francisco allows just 308 yards of total offense per game on average and ranks third in the NFL in scoring defense, permitting opponents to score an average of only 16.5 points per game.

Thus, Glennon and the Bucs offense know they must stick to the game plan, limit mistakes and take advantage of every crucial opportunity that presents itself in order to come out on top against a tough San Francisco team.

“We know that it’s going to be going against a tough defense,” Glennon said. “We’re just going to have to keep grinding away and be patient. If we don’t score right away, just keep staying the course and not really worry about all that. Obviously points are important, but we know, going against such a good defense, that we’re just going to have to maintain patience throughout the course of the game and just get the game into the fourth quarter and go from there.”

Click here for more on what the 49ers will bring to the table on Sunday afternoon.

**

SERIES HISTORY

The Bucs and 49ers have met 20 times in the regular season before 2013, with San Francisco dominating the series.  The 49ers hold a 16-4 overall edge in a series that has been played primarily on the West Coast.

In fact, 14 of those 20 games have taken place at Candlestick, including the first six and the most recent four.  The home team has won 12 of those 14 matchups, with the exceptions coming 30 years apart, in 1980 and 2010.  That ’10 game is the Bucs’ most recent victory in the series, a 21-0 whitewash that also represents the last time Tampa Bay shut out an opponent.

San Francisco is making its first visit to Tampa since 2004, when it absorbed a 35-3 drubbing that featured a 100-yard game for Bucs RB Michael Pittman and a 55-yard interception return for a touchdown by CB Torrie Cox.  The scheduling format the NFL introduced along with expansion and realignment in 2002 would normally have dictated another San Francisco visit in the next six years, but that didn’t happen due to a slight tweak in the process.  In order to keep teams from having too many cross-country trips in the same season, some of the matchups were reversed in the last three years.  The Bucs would have normally played host to San Francisco in 2010 but instead they made the trip out west.  Now the 49ers finally return to Tampa nine years later.

The Bucs have played San Francisco once in the postseason, recording a dominant 31-6 victory in the divisional round in 2002.  That was Tampa Bay’s first game of the playoffs that year after a first-round bye, and the win started the Bucs on the road to their first Super Bowl title.  Mike Alstott ran for two touchdowns in that game, Brad Johnson threw for two more scores and the Bucs’ defense sacked 49ers QB Jeff Garcia four times.

The Buccaneers’ breakthrough 1997 also began with a home win over the 49ers, a 13-6 decision that announced the arrival of Tampa Bay’s soon-to-be-legendary defense.  Click here for more details on the all-time Buccaneers-49ers series.

**

INJURY REPORT

Buccaneers:

Player

Injury

Game Status

DE Da'Quan Bowers

Knee

Probable

LB Lavonte David

Back

Probable

DE William Gholston

Head

Probable

DT Gary Gibson

Calf

Probable

WR Vincent Jackson

Hamstring

Probable

G Davin Joseph

Knee/Shoulder

Probable

G Carl Nicks

Foot

Out

DT Akeem Spence

Wrist

Probable

C Jeremy Zuttah

Shoulder

Probable


49ers:

Player

Injury

Game Status

WR Jon Baldwin

Shoulder

Probable

CB Tarell Brown

Ribs

Questionable

WR Michael Crabtree

Ankle

Probable

S Craig Dahl

Ankle

Probable

RB Frank Gore

Ankle

Probable

G Mike Iupati

Knee

Questionable

WR Mario Manningham

Knee

Questionable

DT Ray McDonald

Ankle

Probable

TE Vance McDonald

Ankle

Questionable

LB Dan Skuta

Foot

Probable

LB Aldon Smith

Shoulder

Probable

DT Justin Smith

Shoulder

Probable

G Adam Snyder

Not Inj. Rel.

Probable

T Joe Staley

Knee

Probable


**

BUCCANEER PLAYER TO WATCH: DE WILLIAM GHOLSTON

After notching 1.5 sacks against the Bills last week, the most productive game so far in his young professional career, defensive end William Gholston was named a finalist for the NFL Rookie of the Week award.

“It’s just fun being able to be up for an award, with everything that’s going on, having to work for everything, and building up to where I am now,” Gholston said. “I still have a lot further to go, so it feels good.”

Despite the accolade, and while acknowledging a sense of satisfaction in making big plays to help his team win, Gholston said he’s not resting on his laurels.

“When you work hard for something and you see the production, you see yourself producing and being able to continue to contribute and help my team, because we’re winning now, it feels good,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of stuff to work on. The good stuff too – you can always get better. I feel like there’s a lot of stuff I do need to work on, because there were good plays, but there were plays that could have been better.

A key component to Gholston’s progression in his rookie season has been the help of his fellow defensive linemen. Especially considering the fact that Gholston has been asked to play both inside and outside on the Bucs’ D-line at times this year, the assistance from his teammates has been crucial to his ability to pick up the playbook and master his various responsibilities.

“Every single defensive linemen, we lean on each other and we help each other because ultimately, when one goes down the next guy has to be ready to come in and we want to win,” Gholston said. “So that’s really our focus, just to help each other. I get a lot of help from Adrian [Clayborn], I get a lot of help from Gerald, I get a lot of help from Da’Quan [Bowers]. Even [fellow rookie] Akeem [Spence] helps me out too, so it’s very talkative in our room.”

For Gholston and his fellow defenders, building off last week’s outstanding performance against the Bills is going to be a tall task. That’s because a tough, talented San Francisco offense comes to town this week, led by a physical offensive line that loves beating up on opponents. Despite this fact, Gholston said he and his teammates are eager for the challenge.

“Just watching the film, watching the games, you see how they play,” Gholston said. “You see how they run the ball. They’re a hard-nosed team and they want to come in and push you over, really.  They want you to submit.

“For me, physicality is one of the main things of being a defensive lineman and being in the trenches. So that may not be one of the changes, but they do have a dynamic offense, they’ve got a lot of playmakers on their offense, and their offensive line is great. What do they have, like four first-rounders on their offensive line, and a very good center too? So it’ll be a lot to handle and a lot to work with, but as long as we stick to the game plan and do what the coaches show us to do, then we shouldn’t have a problem, I don’t believe.”

With what is sure to be a hard-fought matchup on tap, Gholston once again pointed to the tight-knit group of defensive linemen as a reason for the Bucs’ recent success on defense, a vital component of his continued growth and one of the keys to a potential Bucs win on Sunday.

“Maybe our sack numbers haven’t been high, but we’ve been getting pressure and pressuring the quarterback, causing a lot of interceptions,” Gholston said. “I think we’re top five, top three in leading the NFL in interceptions, and number one in turnovers, so it’s really not necessarily an individual game. It’s still a team game, so we’ve got to be able to contribute in other ways as a defensive line.

“I just feel like we’re jelling right now,” Gholston said. “We’ve got the opportunity and we know how each other rushes now, as far as a whole unit, and we’re just letting it go.”

**

KEY MATCHUP: T DEMAR DOTSON VS. LB AHMAD BROOKS

San Francisco’s aggressive front seven can bring pressure from almost any angle out of its 3-4 front, and outside linebacker Aldon Smith might be the most fearsome player in that group. Smith recorded an incredible 33.5 sacks during his first two seasons in the NFL and has another 6.5 this year despite missing a large chunk of the season due to a personal issue.

Smith will be a significant test for standout left tackle Donald Penn, but even if Penn stonewalls his opponent the Bucs won’t necessarily out of the woods.  Leading the 49ers’ defense in sacks this season is outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks, Smith’s counterpart on the other end of the line, and he’s just as much of a challenge for the Bucs’ other tackle, Demar Dotson.

Dotson has quietly had a strong year in keeping pressure off rookie QB Mike Glennon.  The converted college basketball player has very quick feet despite his 6-9 stature, and he’ll need them to keep Brooks at bay.  If the Buccaneers can give Glennon time to throw, they’ll have a better chance at cracking San Francisco’s fourth-ranked pass defense.

Click here to read about other head-to-head matchups that will help determine Sunday’s outcome.

**

TEAM RANKINGS

The numbers would suggest a defensive struggle on Sunday, as the Bucs and 49ers are at the bottom of the NFL’s offensive passing numbers but also near the top in stopping the run on defense.  The Buccaneers are the league’s second-best team in terms of turnover differential, but the 49ers aren’t far behind, ranking ninth.  The Bucs might have an advantage in the punt and kickoff return game, but San Francisco counters with the best punting game in the NFL.

OFFENSE

BUCS RANK

49ERS RANK

Points Per Game

30

12t

Yards Per Game

31

28

Rushing Yards Per Game

21

6

Average Per Rush

22

15t

Passing Yards Per Game

31

32

Sacks/Pass Play

22

29

Interception Pct.

14

13

Third-Down Efficiency

31

18

Punt Return Average

8

23

Kickoff Return Average

9

23


DEFENSE

BUCS RANK

49ERS RANK

Points Per Game

12

3

Yards Per Game

12

4

Rushing Yards Per Game

8

9

Average Per Rush

13t

7t

Passing Yards Per Game

17

4

Sacks/Pass Play

23

17t

Interception Pct.

1

9

Third-Down Efficiency

14

6

Punt Return Average

27

16

Kickoff Return Average

1

6


OTHER

BUCS RANK

49ERS RANK

Turnover Differential

2

9t

Gross Punting Average

24

1

Net Punting Average

28

2

Field Goal Percentage

27

15


**

WHAT TO WATCH FOR
  • LB Lavonte David has five interceptions this season and with one more can become the first linebacker in Buccaneers history to record six interceptions in a single season.
  • David has an interception in three consecutive games.  If he were to pick off another pass against San Francisco, he would become only the second player in Buccaneers history to record an interception in four consecutive games (Harry Hamilton, 1988 - 11/06 at CHI; 11/13 at DET; 11/20 vs. CHI; 11/27 at ATL).
  • LB Mason Foster has two interceptions returned for a touchdown this season and with one more can tie LB Derrick Brooks (3 in 2002) and CB Wayne Haddix (3 in 1990) for the most interceptions returned for a touchdown in a single season in franchise history.
  • WR Vincent Jackson needs 25 receiving yards to pass Joey Galloway (1,057 yards in 2006) for 10th-most and 56 receiving yards to pass Keyshawn Johnson (1,088 yards in 2002) for the ninth-most in a single season in franchise history.
  • WR Eric Page has two punt returns of 40 or more yards this season. With one more punt return of 40 or more yards, Page will tie Jacquez Green (three in 1998) for the most returns of 40 or more yards in a single season.
  • With one more receiving touchdown this season, TE Tim Wright can pass Calvin Magee and Jim Obradovich for the most by a rookie tight end in franchise history.  Wright currently has three TD catches in 2013.
  • With two or more takeaways against San Francisco, the Buccaneers will have recorded at least two takeaways in five straight games for the first time since the last game of the 2009 season and the first four games of the 2010 season (1/3/10 at ATL; 9/12/10 vs. CLE; 9/19/10 at CAR; 9/26/10 vs. PIT; 10/10/10 at CIN). The Buccaneers have never recorded five consecutive games with multiple  interceptions in the same season.
Game Rewind: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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