The Tampa Bay Buccaneers kick off the 2019 season on Sunday, Sept. 8, against the visiting San Francisco 49ers. It will mark the regular-season Buccaneers debut of Bruce Arians, in his first year as the Buccaneers' head coach after five seasons (2013-17) in the same capacity in Arizona. Arians' former NFC West division foe has been constructed by Bucs legend and 49ers General Manager John Lynch, who has the promising Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback and a star-studded defensive line.
This is the first time in 22 years that the Buccaneers and 49ers will meet in Week One, since the memorable 1997 opener that started a five-game winning streak for Tampa Bay and propelled them to a drought-ending playoff spot. The Buccaneers would like very much to repeat that storyline. Here's what you need to know to prepare for all the action in Dallas.
GAME AND BROADCAST DETAILS
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0) vs. San Francisco 49ers (0-0)
Sunday, September 8, 4:25 p.m. ET
Raymond James Stadium (capacity: 65,618)
Television: FOX (Local WTVT Channel 13)
TV Broadcast Team: Kenny Albert (play-by-play), Ronde Barber (analyst), Lindsay Czarniak (sideline)
Radio: 98Rock (WXTB, 97.9 FM), Flagship Station
Radio Broadcast Team: Gene Deckerhoff (play-by-play), Dave Moore (analyst), T.J. Rives (sideline)
You won't want to miss the game live at Raymond James Stadium! Make sure to get your tickets before it's too late.
ALL-TIME HEAD-TO-HEAD SERIES
The all-time series between the Buccaneers and 49ers pivoted on the opening weekend of the 1997 season.
San Francisco leads that series by an overwhelming margin, 17-6, but as much as the '97 season is the dividing line between a long-downtrodden team and a successful franchise in Tampa, it also marks the point at which this head-to-head matchup become competitive. The Buccaneers and 49ers had met 13 times between 1977 and 1994 and San Francisco had won 12 of them, often by wide margins. The last four San Francisco wins prior to 1997 were by a combined 138-58.
Then the Buccaneers shocked the league by beating Steve Young, Jerry Rice and the 49ers (who would go all the way to the NFC Championship Game that season), 13-6 in Week One of 1997. That was the first of five straight wins to start the season for Tampa Bay as they wound up ending a 15-year playoff drought. Including that win, the Bucs have a 6-5 edge in the series since '97, including the two most recent meetings. Tampa Bay won 34-17 in California in 2016 and followed up with a 27-9 victory last year.
As for that turning-point contest in 1997, it famously featured Warren Sapp knocking out Young and Rice with early injuries. San Francisco still managed to take a 6-0 lead into halftime as the Bucs' offense took time to get going, but the defense got even stinger in the second half, allowing only 45 more yards. The Bucs took their first lead five minutes into the fourth quarter on Trent Dilfer's one-yard rollout touchdown pass to tight end Dave Moore. Much of the rest of the offense was provided by fullback Mike Alstott, who finished the game with 119 yards from scrimmage, including 46 of the 53 yards on the game's only touchdown drive. Young came back into the game to start the fourth quarter but was promptly sacked by Hardy Nickerson and intercepted by Tyrone Legette on consecutive plays, setting up Michael Husted for his second field goal, a 34-yarder, and the game's final points.
· San Francisco General Manager John Lynch was inducted into the Buccaneers' Ring of Honor at Raymond James Stadium in 2016. Lynch played for the Buccaneers for the first 11 seasons of a career that seems destined to put him in the Hall of Fame and was a key part of the historic defense that led a franchise turnaround that peaked with victory in Super Bowl XXXVII.
· Lynch and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan came in together as the 49ers' new leadership in 2017. Shanahan got his first NFL coaching job in Tampa, as an offensive quality control coach under Jon Gruden in 2004-05.
· One of the 49ers' most significant acquisitions of the 2019 offseason was linebacker Kwon Alexander, who signed as an unrestricted free agent after four seasons in Tampa Bay. A fourth-round pick in 2015, Alexander was an instant starter and a playmaker for the Bucs from 2015-18.
· Buccaneers QB Blaine Gabbert played three seasons (2014-16) in San Francisco, starting 12 games in that span.
· Bradley Pinion is in his first season as a Buccaneer after opening his NFL career with a four-year run as the 49ers' punter.
· Jon Embree, San Francisco's tight ends/assistant head coach, was the Buccaneers' tight ends coach from 2014-16.
SENIOR COACHING STAFFS
· Tampa Bay:
· Head Coach Bruce Arians
· Assistant Head Coach/Run Game Coordinator Harold Goodwin
· Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles
· Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich
· Special Teams Coordinator Keith Armstrong
· San Francisco:
· Head Coach Kyle Shanahan
· Defensive Coordinator Robert Salah
· Special Teams Coordinator Richard Hightower
· Tight Ends/Assistant Head Coach Jon Embree
KEY 2019 ROSTER ADDITIONS
· OLB Shaquil Barrett (UFA)
· LB/S Deone Bucannon (UFA)
· CB Jamel Dean (3rd-round draft pick)
· S Mike Edwards (3rd-round draft pick)
· QB Blaine Gabbert (FA)
· K Matt Gay (5th-round draft pick)
· CB Sean Murphy-Bunting (2nd-round draft pick)
· WR Breshad Perriman (UFA)
· P Bradley Pinion (UFA)
· DL Ndamukong Suh (UFA)
· LB Devin White (1st-round draft pick)
· LB Kwon Alexander (UFA)
· DE Nick Bosa (1st-round draft pick)
· RB Tevin Coleman (UFA)
· DL Dee Ford (Trade-KC)
· C Ben Garland (UFA)
· WR Jalen Hurd (3rd-round draft pick)
· WR Deebo Samuel (2nd-round draft pick)
· CB Jason Verrett (UFA)
· P Mitch Wishnowski (4th-round draft pick)
ADDITIONAL 2019 CHANGES OF NOTE
· In January, Tampa Bay engineered one of the most significant changes a franchise could make in hiring a new head coach. That man is Bruce Arians, who needed just five years to become the winningest coach in Arizona Cardinals history and who has a history of helping quarterbacks excel. Arians assembled an extremely experienced coaching staff around him, almost all of whom he had worked with in the past.
· One of the coaches Arians brought on was Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles, who served under him in the same capacity in Arizona in 2013 and 2014 before becoming the Jets' head coach. Bowles' arrival means the Buccaneers have switched to a base 3-4 defense, something the team hadn't identified with since 1990.
· Bowles' defense means certain players were redefined as outside linebackers, inside linebackers and defensive linemen. No matter the position designations, Tampa Bay's defense is expected to be more aggressive and varied in its pass-rush packages, and will likely ask its defensive backs to play more press-man coverage than it has in the past, which plays to the strengths of many players in that unit.
· Tampa Bay's offense was prolific in 2018 in terms of yards, especially in the passing attack, and most of its starters return for 2019, so one could reasonably expect another strong season on that side of the ball. If anything, the Bucs may be more aggressive under Arians, whose 'no risk-it, no biscuit' philosophy involves taking the big-play shot when you have the chance.
· Though it doesn't count as an addition to the roster, the 49ers do have a huge change at the top of the depth chart at the game's most important position. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is back in the starter's seat after missing the last 13 games of the 2018 with a knee injury. Originally acquired from New England in a trade midway through 2017, Garoppolo won all five of his starts to end that season and then got a lucrative long-term deal from the 49ers, only to suffer his injury early the following season.
· Another former Patriot joined the team this year in a coaching capacity. An extremely prolific pass-catcher over 12 seasons in the NFL, Welker came aboard as the 49ers' new wide receivers coach, taking over those duties from Mike LaFleur, who remains as the passing game coordinator.
· After trading for Dee Ford and bringing in Kris Kocurek as the new defensive line coach, the 49ers said they would be tweaking their 4-3 defense to use more "wide-nine" alignments. That approach spaces out the down linemen more and stacks all three linebackers off the line of scrimmage behind the line.
· The 49ers made wholesale changes to the strength and training staff, with former Head Athletic Trainer Jeff Ferguson and Strength and Conditioning Coach Ray Wright departing. The new player health and performance staff will be led by Ben Peterson, formerly of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Spotlight on the QBs – It's no exaggeration to say that the 2019 season is a pivotal one for the future of both franchises at the quarterback position. In Tampa, Jameis Winston is heading into the fifth and final year of his rookie contract, which means a big decision lies ahead. The Buccaneers brought in Head Coach Bruce Arians, who is known as the "quarterback whisperer" and Arians has consistently expressed his belief that Winston can be a top-flight NFL passer. The 49ers would seem to be more set with Garoppolo in just the second year of his five-year deal, but they could get out of after this season without a disastrous dead-money hit. Obviously, the 49ers believe that they will be wed with Garoppolo for a long time to come, but the young passer does have only eight career starts. Will 2019 be the year he blossoms into the full-on star that his run at the end of 2017 seemed to portend?
A Critical Early W – Not only do the 49ers open the season with a cross-country trip but they also play on the road in Cincinnati in Week Two. That's followed with potentially difficult matchups with the Steelers, Browns and Rams. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay goes directly from its home opener to a Thursday night game on the road in Charlotte. After a Week Three home game against the Giants, the Buccaneers face an unprecedented stretch where they will be away from home until November 10. That stretch includes four road games, a "home" game in London and a bye week. With such tough roads ahead, both the Buccaneers and 49ers would feel a lot better about their chances if they could get a Week One win under their belts.
Defensive Adaptations – As noted above, the 49ers are making some changes to their approach in the front seven, intending to employ more "wide-nine" looks. That's an effort to make their base and sub packages more interchangeable, but San Francisco is also trying to unlock all the pass-rushing potential they've amassed in recent years. After the selection of Nick Bosa with the second-overall pick in the 2019 draft, the 49ers now have four high-first rounders on their D-Line in Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas. The trade for Dee Ford further supercharges that group as the 49ers try to improve on a sacks-per-pass attempt average that ranked just 23rd in the NFL last year. The Buccaneers' changes on defense are even more sweeping under new coordinator Todd Bowles. The Bucs' base defense is now a 3-4, though like all teams they will be in a sub package far more often than base. Either way, they will now be employing stand-up outside linebackers as pass rushers on most snaps and, as has become a Bowles calling card, will feature a wide variety of blitzes and disguises.
Backfields in Motion – The Buccaneers finished 29th in rushing yards per game in 2018 but Arians wants a more balanced attack, and more bite in the play-action game for his no-risk it/no-biscuit philosophy, this season. The Bucs think they can get that through the emergence of second-year back Ronald Jones, who looked vastly improved in preseason and training camp after a lost rookie campaign. Jones and starter Peyton Barber hope to form a productive one-two punch and should be much more involved in the passing game this year. The 49ers got better results out of their ground game in 2018, ranking 13th in the NFL, but are facing the disappointment of losing prized 2018 free agency addition Jerick McKinnon to injured reserve for a second straight year. However, the team brought in former Falcon Tevin Coleman in free agency and have the makings of strong ground game with Coleman and incumbent Matt Breida.
Putting on the LBs – For four years, Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander formed one of the better linebacker duos in the NFL in Tampa. This offseason, however, the Buccaneers lost Alexander in free agency to the 49ers and a very lucrative contract. Alexander got that well-deserved deal despite finishing 2018 on injured reserve due to a knee injury, and the 49ers are hoping he'll be ready to go in Week One against his former team. Actually, Alexander saw more preseason action than his former teammate, as he got on the field for 24 snaps in the 49ers' Week Three contest against Kansas City. David, meanwhile, hasn't played or practiced since sustaining a knee injury in the second week of training camp, one that required arthroscopic surgery. The Buccaneers anticipated all August that David would be ready for the opener, and indeed he has practiced this week. Sunday's opener will definitely be more entertaining if former teammates Alexander and David are both involved.
1. 49ers WR Dante Pettis vs. Buccaneers CB Vernon Hargreaves
The 49ers have reloaded at wide receiver for the future in the last two drafts, taking Pettis in the second round in 2018 and Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd in the second and third rounds, respectively, this year. While tight end George Kittle is likely to remain the top-targeted player in the 49ers' passing attack this year, it could be Pettis that emerges as the second big weapon that attack needs. He averaged 17.3 yards per catch last season and scored touchdowns on five of his 27 grabs. Similarly, the Buccaneers are hoping this is the season that Hargreaves emerges as a top-notch lockdown corner. Hargreaves was one of the team's most obvious standouts throughout training camp and he appears to be well-suited to the Bucs' more aggressive scheme under Todd Bowles.
2. Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston vs. 49ers CB Richard Sherman
Winston played well in the preseason and most notably was not intercepted in any of his three outings, two of which were admittedly quite brief. If Bruce Arians is indeed going to usher Winston along the next step in his evolution into an elite NFL quarterback, it will obviously start with a reduction in turnovers. Winston already improved dramatically in that regard between the first and second halves of last season, and his decision-making in the preseason suggests he remains headed in the right direction. To start the 2019 regular season, Winston gets to face a 49ers defense that infamously set a record last year by only intercepting two passes (among seven total takeaways, also a record low). However, if any Niners defender has the savvy to lure Winston into an unwanted turnover it's Sherman, who has a wealth of experience and 32 career starts. Sherman might not be at the height of his powers, when he intercepted 16 passes from 2012-13 in Seattle, but he remains a concern for opposing passers.
3. 49ers Laken Tomlinson/Ben Garland/Mike Person vs. Buccaneers DL Ndamukong Suh
Tomlinson, Garland and Person form the interior trio of the 49ers' O-line from left guard to right guard. Suh should get plenty of action against all three, perhaps at times in the form of a double-team. Garland, the former Falcon who signed with the 49ers this offseason to provide depth, could be the pivot between those two returning guards if Weston Richburg isn't cleared to play in Week one. Richburg just came off the PUP list on August 26. The 49ers had a little trouble protecting their quarterbacks in 2018, allowing a sacks-per-pass play rate of 9.02% that ranked 24th in the NFL. Suh could exacerbate those problems, bringing pressure up the middle as he has throughout a dominant career that includes 56.0 sacks so far. Suh is also a very good run defender and the Niners blockers could have a tough time moving the Bucs' interior defense, particularly if Vita Vea is able to play next to Suh.
4. Buccaneers TE O.J. Howard vs. 49ers LB Kwon Alexander
Welcome back to Tampa, Kwon! Now have fun covering your former teammate, emerging-star tight end O.J. Howard. The 49ers are definitely more equipped to handle that challenge with Alexander on the field. An excellent coverage linebacker, Alexander plays the WILL position for San Francisco after manning the MIKE for Tampa Bay, but the two inside spots in the 49ers' defense are essentially interchangeable. The upshot is that Alexander is almost certain to have to aid in the coverage of Howard at some point, and that is becoming increasingly difficult for opposing defenders. The 6-6, 251-pound tight end has rare speed for his size and is excellent at working the seams downfield. Howard led all qualifying tight ends last year with a 16.6-yard per-catch average and he has already scored 11 times in just 24 career games.
· TE Antony Auclair (calf): Limited participation on Weds., full participation on Thurs./Fri.
· OLB Devante Bond (hamstring): Limited participation on Weds./Thurs., full participation on Fri.
· TE Cameron Brate (calf): Limited participation on Weds., full participation on Thurs./Fri.
· ILB Lavonte David (knee): Limited participation on Weds., full participation on Thurs./Fri.
· S Mike Edwards (hamstring): Limited participation on Weds., full participation on Thurs./Fri.
· S Justin Evans (Achilles): Did not participate on Weds./Thurs./Fri...Ruled out of Sunday's game
· WR Mike Evans (illness): Not listed on Weds./Thurs., did not participate Fri...Questionable for Sunday's game
· QB Blaine Gabbert (left shoulder): Did not participate on Weds./Thurs./Fri....Ruled out of Sunday's game
· OLB Demone Harris (illness): Did not participate on Weds., full participation on Thurs./Fri.
· OLB Anthony Nelson (knee): Full participation on Weds./Thurs./Fri.
· DL Vita Vea (knee): Limited participation on Weds., full participation on Thurs./Fri.
· ILB Devin White (illness): Not listed on Weds./Thurs./Fri, did not participate on Sat....Questionable for Sunday's game
· DE Nick Bosa (ankle): Limited participation on Weds./Thurs./Fri....Questionable for Sunday's game
· DE Dee Ford (knee): Full participation on Weds./Thurs./Fri.
· WR Jalen Hurd (back): Did not participate on Weds./Thurs./Fri....Ruled out of Sunday's game
· WR Dante Pettis (groin): Limited participation on Weds., full participation on Thurs./Fri.
· C Weston Richburg (knee): Limited participation on Weds./Thurs./Fri....Questionable for Sunday's game
· T Joe Staley (not injury-related): Did not participate on Weds., full participation on Thurs./Fri.
· WR Trent Taylor (foot): Did not participate on Weds./Thurs./Fri....Ruled out of Sunday's game
· CB Jason Verrett (ankle): Limited participation on Weds./Thurs./Fri....Questionable for Sunday's game
· S Jimmie Ward (hand): Not listed on Weds., did not participate on Thurs./Fri....Ruled out of Sunday's game
· CB K'Waun Williams (knee): Limited participation on Weds./Thurs./Fri....Questionable for Sunday's game
View some of the top photos from Buccaneers regular season practice at the AdventHealth Training Center.
Partly cloudy, high of 92, low of 77, 10% chance of rain, 65% humidity, winds out of the SSW at 6 mph.
Head referee: Alex Kemp (six seasons)
· Favorite: Tampa Bay (-1.5)
· Over/Under: 51.0
INDIVIDUAL STAT LEADERS (PRESEASON)
Scoring: K Matt Gay/TE Tanner Hudson, 18 points
Touchdowns: TE Tanner Hudson, 3
Passing Yards: QB Ryan Griffin, 744
Passer Rating: QB Ryan Griffin, 95.6
Rushing Yards: RB Dare Ogunbowale, 99
Receptions: TE Tanner Hudson, 19
Receiving Yards: TE Tanner Hudson, 245
Interceptions: CB Jamel Dean/S Lukas Denis/S Jordan Whitehead, 1
Sacks: DL Rakeem Nunez-Roches/DL Patrick O'Connor, 2.0
Tackles: ILB Kevin Minter, 10
Scoring: K Robbie Gould, 26
Touchdowns: RB Jeff Wilson, 4
Passing Yards: QB C.J. Beathard, 280
Passer Rating: QB C.J. Beathard, 94.4
Rushing Yards: RB Jeff Wilson, 178
Receptions: WR Richie James, 12
Receiving Yards: WR Richie James, 118
Interceptions: 3 tied with, 1
Sacks: DL Jeremiah Valoaga, 4.5
Tackles: DL Jeremiah Valoaga, 15
TEAM STAT RANKINGS
Scoring Offense: 15th (18.5 ppg)
Total Offense: 13th (317.5 ypg)
Passing Offense: 7th (231.0 ypg)
Rushing Offense: 22nd (86.5 ypg)
First Downs Per Game: t-3rd (21.5)
Third-Down Pct.: 9th (41.9%)
Sacks Per Pass Attempt Allowed: 31st (12.3%)
Red Zone TD Pct.: 20th (53.9%)
Scoring Defense: 16th (17.8 ppg)
Total Defense: 5th (259.8 ypg)
Passing Defense: 11th (185.0 ypg)
Rushing Defense: 6th (74.8 ypg)
First Downs Allowed Per Game: 6th (16.0)
Third-Down Pct. Allowed: 6th (28.8%)
Sacks Per Pass Attempt: 9th (9.33%)
Red Zone TD Pct. Allowed: t-2nd (33.3%)
Turnover Margin: t-11th (+1)
Scoring Offense: t-5th (23.0 ppg)
Total Offense: 9th (320.8 ypg)
Passing Offense: 24th (180.8 ypg)
Rushing Offense: 2nd (140.2 ypg)
First Downs Per Game: t-11th (19.0)
Third-Down Pct.: t-11th (40.0%)
Sacks Per Pass Attempt Allowed: 9th (5.31%)
Red Zone TD Pct.: t-16th (54.6%)
Scoring Defense: 11th (17.0 ppg)
Total Defense: 7th (275.0 ypg)
Passing Defense: 8th (169.8 ypg)
Rushing Defense: 20th (105.3 ypg)
First Downs Allowed Per Game: t-16th (17.8)
Third-Down Pct. Allowed: 21st (39.2%)
Sacks Per Pass Attempt: 5th (10.87%)
Red Zone TD Pct. Allowed: t-2nd (33.3%)
Turnover Margin: t-22nd (-2)
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
· QB Jameis Winston has 14,628 career passing yards. With 193 more he will pass Vinny Testaverde (14,820) for the most in franchise history.
· TE Cam Brate has three career games with multiple touchdown receptions. With one more he would tie Ring of Honor member Jimmie Giles for the most such games by a tight end in team history.
· LB Lavonte David has 10 career interceptions. With one more he would surpass David Lewis (also 10) for the second most by a linebacker in team annals. Derrick Brooks holds the record with 15.
· Head Coach Bruce Arians on making tough decisions to cut the roster down for the regular season: "They're always tough. You're watching that waiver wire – it's harder when a guy thinks he made the team and then you grab someone on the waiver wire today, and he's not here and hopefully he's back tomorrow. Those are the hard parts, telling guys 'You're back off and we want you on the practice squad whenever.' These cuts were always hard because, especially the first year, you get attached to a lot of guys, but then it's over with and you're on to game week. The excitement of game week kind of gets you over it."
· LB Lavonte David on returning to the field after missing the entire preseason with a knee injury: "It's fun to be back in action with my teammates. I've been out for a while – first time I've ever been out that long – and it was different for a while. But all I did was just trust the process. I'm feeling good enough to go back out there and get it going with the players."
· WR Mike Evans on facing the 49ers again after playing them last November: "We're a little familiar with them [from] last year. They're going to be more healthy this year. I'm sure they're going to be better and I'm sure we'll be better, as well. So it's going to be a great game. I'm happy that we get to play against somebody else and it really matters."
· Arians on the challenge of trying to stop 49ers TE George Kittle: "Kyle [Shanahan] does such a great job of getting him the ball out in space through all kinds of bootlegs, and he's a great run after the catch guy. Once he gets it in his hands, he's hard to bring down [with] his speed. It's going to be a number of different guys. When we're playing zone, we're going to have to be aware of him going backside and up and all those things that they do, so it's going to take more than one set of eyes on him to shut him down."
· QB Jameis Winston on what advice he would give rookie LB Devin White before White's first regular-season NFL game: "I would just say play your best game. I think that's one thing that he does great is how he compartmentalizes everything and just goes out there and executes. The guy was born to play football. He really has a deep passion for this game – he loves it. I am not the type of person to feed too much into him. I know he is going to be prepared with the way he carries himself around here. Definitely being a rookie – and I have been a rookie before – I see a confidence in him that you don't see in 11-year vets, so I am excited to be playing with him."
The countdown to season kickoff is on! The Bucs are kicking off the NFL's 100th season with a FREE Tim McGraw pregame concert for all fans with a ticket to the home opener on Sept. 8! Get your tickets today.