Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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2022 Game Preview: Buccaneers-49ers, Week 14

Tampa Bay heads to California in Week 14 for a clash of two division leaders jockeying for position in the overall NFC standings, as the Bucs try to snap the 49ers' five-game winning streak

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It's December, which means the NFL is accelerating into playoff stretch-run overdrive. And there is exactly one game on the league's Week 14 schedule that pits two division leaders against each other: Tampa Bay at San Francisco.

Obviously, that imbues the Buccaneers' cross-country trip with serious postseason implications for both teams. While the 8-4 49ers are trying to hold off the Seahawks and currently have a one-game lead in the NFC West that is strengthened by their Week Two win over Seattle, the 6-6 Buccaneers are trying to get some additional breathing room in the NFC South while the 5-8 Falcons are on their bye.

It is also the 49ers who own the highest seed in the NFC standings that the Buccaneers can realistically hope to reel in by the end of the regular season. Based on their current records and their remaining list of opponents, the 11-1 Eagles and 10-2 Vikings are very strong bets to hold on to the two top spots. However, if the Buccaneers can leave that other Bay area with a win on Sunday, they will have pulled within a game of the 49ers in the conference race and will have a reasonable chance of catching San Francisco for the third seed.

Both teams also come into their Week 14 matchup with at least reasonably good recent results. The Buccaneers have won three of their last four, though it took improbable rallies to secure the 16-13 Week Nine victory over the Rams and the 17-16 stunner against New Orleans this past Monday night. The 49ers' recent results top that, however. San Francisco has ripped off five wins in a row, with an average margin of victory of 16 points. That includes an impressive 33-17 win in Week 13 of a Dolphins team that came in just as hot.

That said, this Bucs-49ers matchup profiles more like the type of low-wattage squeakers the Buccaneers have been playing this year. San Francisco has the NFL's stingiest defense in terms of both yards (283.9) and points (15.8) allowed per game, while the Buccaneers rank eighth in yards (313.8) and fifth in points (18.3). With wins at a premium over the next five weeks, the Bucs won't care if they win by one point or 40 as long as they get that mark in the right column.

"In the NFL, you're not going to blow a lot of people out," said Buccaneers Head Coach Todd Bowles. "We won a lot of close games when we won the Super Bowl as well. Every year, it's going to come down to a score or two – you've just got to have details and win the ballgame. [If] you win enough of them consistently, they'll start turning into larger [margins] when the confidence grows. But it's going to be a dogfight every week from here on out."

Meanwhile, the Buccaneers' offense is producing just 18.1 points per game (27th in the NFL), a steep drop from the league-leading 30.4 per outing they rolled up over the 2020-21 seasons combined. And while the 49ers are a respectable 13th in the league in scoring with 23.5 points per game, their offense suddenly has a problem: Jimmy Garoppolo's broken foot.

That injury, suffered very early in last week's win over Miami, brought an unfortunate end to what had been a redemptive story for Garoppolo. All but certain to be traded to make way for 2021 first-rounder Trey Lance, Garoppolo instead worked out a new deal to stick around as Lance's backup in 2022…then found himself back in the driver's seat after Lance's ankle injury in Week Two.

Now the 49ers will turn to Brock Purdy, the former Iowa State quarterback who was the very last player selected in this year's draft. Purdy acquitted himself nicely over the bulk of that 16-point win over the Dolphins but obviously is very inexperienced.

Fortunately for the 49ers, they can surround their rookie passer with one of the NFL's most versatile sets of skill players, one that became even more robust with the midseason trade for former Panthers do-it-all back Christian McCaffrey. The Niners also deploy hybrid receiver/runner Deebo Samuel, run-after-the-catch star George Kittle and the uber-athletic Brandon Aiyuk, often all at the same time and in a Kyle Shanahan offense that is excellent at scheming them open.

And, of course, there is that defense, led by the NFL's current sack king Nick Bosa (14.5, including three last week against the Dolphins) and perhaps the league's best defender of the middle of the field in MIKE linebacker Fred Warner. The secondary has gotten even stronger in 2022 with the addition of former Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward and the second-year emergence of safety Talanoa Hufanga (four interceptions).

The Niners' path back to at least the NFC title game, which they lost last year to the Rams, has gotten rockier with the loss of Garoppolo, but the overall talent of the roster means they will continue to be strong contenders in the conference race. The Buccaneers hope to slow that pursuit down for at least one week this Sunday in Santa Clara.

GAME AND BROADCAST DETAILS

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-6) at San Francisco 49ers (8-4)

Sunday, December 11, 4:25 p.m. ET

Levi's Stadium (capacity: 68,500)

Santa Clara, California

Television: FOX

TV Broadcast Team: Kevin Burkhardt (play-by-play), Greg Olsen (analyst), Erin Andrews (reporter)

Radio: 98Rock (WXTB, 97.9 FM), Flagship Station

Radio Broadcast Team: Gene Deckerhoff (play-by-play), Dave Moore (analyst), T.J. Rives (reporter)

ALL-TIME HEAD-TO-HEAD SERIES

The Buccaneers and 49ers have played each other 25 times, including the postseason, but that history divides neatly into two very different series right near the middle.

San Francisco leads the overall regular-season series by an overwhelming margin, 18-6, 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 '97 season for Tampa Bay as they wound up ending a 15-year playoff drought. Including that win, the Bucs have forged a 6-6 tie in the series since 1997 if one includes Tampa Bay's 31-6 drubbing of the 49ers in the Divisional Round of the 2002 playoffs.

San Francisco prevailed in the most recent meeting between the two teams, a 31-17 decision at Raymond James Stadium in 2019 that featured three interceptions by the 49ers defense. The last one allowed the visitors to pull away at the end, as the Buccaneers had closed to within 20-17 in the fourth quarter before a Robbie Gould field goal and Ahkello Witherspoon's 25-yard pick-six off Jameis Winston. Tampa Bay had won the two previous games in the series before that one, 34-17 in California in 2016 and 27-9 in Florida in 2018. The former included a 249-yard rushing performance by the Buccaneers, led by Jacquizz Rodgers' 154 on 26 carries. In the latter, the Bucs' defense sacked Nick Mullens four times and intercepted him twice while Winston threw touchdown passes to Cam Brate and Adam Humphries.

The aforementioned 2002 Divisional Round win for the Bucs is the only postseason contest the team has had against San Francisco. Mike Alstott scored on a pair of two-yard runs, Brad Johnson threw two touchdown passes and the Bucs kept Jeff Garcia and the 49ers' offense at bay with picks by Ronde Barber, Derrick Brooks and Dwight Smith.

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.

NOTABLE CONNECTIONS

· 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 landed him in the Hall of Fame and was a key part of the historic defense that led a franchise turnaround, peaking 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.

· Buccaneers Head Coach Todd Bowles played one season for the 49ers as a safety in 1991. Assistant Wide Receivers Coach Thaddeus Lewis also spent time with San Francisco as a quarterback in 2016.

· San Francisco's Offensive Line Coach/Run Game Coordinator Chris Foerster served as the Buccaneers' offensive line coach from 1996-2001, following Tony Dungy from the Vikings to Tampa and holding that job for Dungy's entire tenure with the Buccaneers.

· Brian Griese, the 49ers' new quarterbacks coach in 2022, had two separate stints with the Buccaneers during his 11-year career as an NFL quarterback. Griese first signed with the Buccaneers as a free agent in 2004 and over the next two seasons 16 games with a 9-7 record. He was released by the Buccaneers in 2006 and then spent two years with the Bears before being traded back to Tampa for what would prove to be his final season in 2008, in which he started five games and won three of them.

· Buccaneers QB Blaine Gabbert played three seasons (2014-16) in San Francisco, starting 12 games in that span.

· 49ers Defensive Quality Control Coach Andrew Hayes-Stoker was the Buccaneers' wide receivers coach in 2014 and 2015.

· San Francisco Assistant Defensive Line Coach Darryl Tapp played 12 seasons in the league as a defensive end and his final action came with the Buccaneers, when he played three games with one start in 2017.

SENIOR COACHING STAFFS

Tampa Bay:

· Head Coach Todd Bowles

· Assistant Head Coach/Run Game Coordinator Harold Goodwin

· Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich

· Run Game Coordinator/Defensive Line Coach Kacy Rodgers

· Pass Game Coordinator/Inside Linebackers Coach Larry Foote

· Special Teams Coordinator Keith Armstrong

San Francisco:

· Head Coach Kyle Shanahan

· Offensive Line/Run Game Coordinator Chris Foerster

· Offensive Passing Game Coordinator Bobby Slowik

· Defensive Coordinator DeMeco Ryans

· Special Teams Coordinator Brian Schneider

KEY 2022 ROSTER ADDITIONS

Buccaneers:

· P Jake Camarda (fourth-round draft pick)

· WR Russell Gage (UFA)

· G Luke Goedeke (second-round draft pick)

· DL Logan Hall (second-round draft pick)

· T Fred Johnson (FA)

· WR Julio Jones (FA)

· TE Ko Kieft (sixth-round draft pick)

· G Shaq Mason (trade–NE)

· CB Zyon McCollum (fifth-round draft pick)

· OLB Carl Nassib (FA)

· S Keanu Neal (UFA)

· TE Cade Otton (fourth-round draft pick)

· TE Kyle Rudolph (FA)

· S Logan Ryan (FA)

· RB Rachaad White (third-round draft pick)

49ers:

· G Spencer Burford (4th-round draft pick)

· LB Oren Burks (UFA)

· RB Tyrion Davis-Price (3rd-round draft pick)

· WR Danny Gray (3rd-round draft pick)

· DE Kerry Hyder (FA)

· DE Drake Jackson (2nd-round draft pick)

· QB Josh Johnson (FA)

· TE Tyler Kroft (FA)

· RB Christian McCaffrey (trade – Carolina)

· WR/KR Ray-Ray McCloud (UFA)

· S George Odum (UFA)

· QB Brock Purdy (7th-round draft pick)

· DT Hassan Ridgeway (UFA)

· DE Kemoko Turay (UFA)

· CB Charvarius Ward (UFA)

· CB Samuel Womack (5th-round draft pick)

· G Nick Zakelj (6th-round draft pick)

ADDITIONAL 2022 CHANGES OF NOTE

Buccaneers:

· While the Bucs continue to maintain enviable continuity on their coaching staff, there is a new person in the corner office. In March, Bruce Arians stepped down after three years as the head coach and took on a new role as a senior advisor to the general manager. Todd Bowles was promoted from defensive coordinator to take his place. Bowles previously served as the New York Jets' head coach from 2015-18 before rejoining Arians when the latter came on as the Buccaneers' head coach in 2019.

· With Bowles stepping up the Bucs needed a new defensive coordinator and they essentially named two of them. Defensive Line Coach Kacy Rodgers added the title of Run Game Coordinator while Outside Linebackers Coach Larry Foote switched to inside linebackers and added the title of Pass Game Coordinator. They are in effect co-defensive coordinators. Bob Sanders joined the staff to take over for Foote in the outside linebackers room. Foote made his switch after Inside Linebackers Coach Mike Caldwell landed the defensive coordinator position in Jacksonville under new Head Coach Doug Pederson.

· The Buccaneers had two key players retire after the 2021 season, but only one of them stayed retired. While quarterback Tom Brady eventually elected to return 40 days after announcing he was stepping away from the game, his long-time buddy Rob Gronkowski walked away for good, leading to big changes in the Bucs' tight end room. While veteran Cam Brate returned, O.J. Howard left in free agency and the Buccaneers subsequently drafted Cade Otton and Ko Kieft and signed veteran Kyle Rudolph.

· Tampa Bay's defense also saw the departure of two front-seven stalwarts from the extremely successful 2020-21 seasons, as neither DL Ndamukong Suh nor OLB Jason Pierre-Paul was re-signed. The team signed veteran standout Akiem Hicks and drafted Houston's Logan Hall 33rd overall to address depth up front and are relying on 2021 first-round pick Joe Tryon-Shoyinka to step up on the edge.

49ers:

· San Francisco's coaching staff was a victim of its own success, as the Miami Dolphins poached the 49ers' offensive coordinator, Mike McDaniel to be their new head coach. McDaniel has thrived in Miami and is on the short list of Coach of the Year candidates in 2022, but the 49ers did get two third-round draft picks as compensation for his departure under the NFL's new diversity development and hiring incentive program. San Francisco didn't make a one-for-one coordinator replacement for McDaniel; instead, the team promoted Bobby Slowik to offensive passing game coordinator and added run game coordinator to the title of Offensive Line Coach Chris Foerster.

· The 49ers also saw Quarterbacks Coach Rich Scangarello leave to become the offensive coordinator at the University of Kentucky, and they responded by giving former NFL quarterback and ESPN analyst Brian Griese his first coaching job. San Francisco also brought on Anthony Lynn to serve as assistant head coach/running backs coach.

· The Niners attempted to make a big change at the quarterback position in the offseason, as they made their intentions to trade their 2021 starter, Jimmy Garoppolo in order to clear the path for Trey Lance, for whom they had traded several first-round picks to move up and take third overall in the 2021 draft. However, unexpected shoulder surgery for Garoppolo in March and the subsequent recovery process made it difficult for San Francisco to move him and the two sides eventually agreed on a reworked contract to keep him around as Lance's backup in 2022. Lance then sustained a season-ending ankle injury in Week Two, putting Garoppolo back in the driver's seat. Garoppolo subsequently helped lead the 49ers to an 8-4 record and first place in the NFC West, but he suffered a season-ending foot injury in Week 13 against Miami. Now the 49ers are turning to rookie Brock Purdy, the last player selected in the 2022 NFL Draft.

· The 49ers talked veteran center Alex Mack out of retirement in 2021 and he made it worth their while by starting all 17 games and making his seventh Pro Bowl. However, that was enough for Mack and he retired this offseason after 13 NFL seasons. The 49ers gave the job to Jake Brendel, who had been a reserve for them in 2021 after starting 21 games over three seasons in Miami. Starting left guard Laken Tomlinson also departed after making the Pro Bowl, leaving for the Jets in free agency. Aaron Banks, a second-round draft pick in 2021, has slid into that spot.

TOP STORYLINES

*How Relevant is the Niners' QB Change? – *As the last pick in the 2022 draft, Iowa State's Brock Purdy got the annual "Mr. Irrelevant" tag but there's no denying he has now become extremely relevant to the 49ers' immediate future. San Francisco signed journeyman Josh Johnson off the Broncos' practice squad to add some depth and experience to the quarterback room in Jimmy Garoppolo's sudden absence, but Purdy should get the call against Tampa Bay after his steady performance last weekend. The 49ers are surely confident in their young passer, but he is being thrust into a difficult spot for his first career start. Six other quarterbacks have faced a Tom Brady-led team in their first career starts, and all six lost. As Purdy himself noted earlier in the week, Brady has been playing in the NFL virtually the entire time the 49ers' rookie has been alive. And simply in terms of wins and losses, the 49ers in the Kyle Shanahan era have been much more successful with Garoppolo under center than without him. In Garoppolo starts, the Shanahan-led 49ers have gone 38-17 and produced a 99.0 passer rating. In starts by any other quarterback, they have gone 9-29 with an 81.3 passer rating. As for the Niners' ultimate goal, only four teams have ever made it to the Super Bowl in a season in which they've been forced to start three different quarterbacks. Much of it could come down to how clean of a pocket the green Purdy is given to get through his reads. San Francisco ranks 10th in sacks allowed per pass play and has perhaps the NFL's best offensive linemen in left tackle Trent Williams, but the Buccaneers' defense is fourth in the league in sacks per pass play.

*Can the Bucs Make Up Ground on the Ground? – *If Sunday's game at Levi's Stadium does turn into a low-scoring grinder, the team that can run the ball the best could gain the slight advantage it needs to come out on top. On paper, that's a clear advantage for the home team. The 49ers are 14th in the NFL with 124.1 rushing yards per game, and while running back Elijah Mitchell is currently sidelined by injury, the 49ers got perhaps their best production yet from newcomer Christian McCaffrey in last week's win, as he racked up 146 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. The Buccaneers actually have a decent track record against the former Panthers back, holding him to 50.6 rushing yards and 89.5 yards from scrimmage per game in seven meetings, but he's a big-play threat every time he's on the field. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers' 32nd-ranked rushing attack will have to try to crack the NFL's top run defense (75.6 yards allowed per game). While that appears troubling for Tampa Bay fans, the recent emergence of rookie Rachaad White and the return of Leonard Fournette from a hip injury gives the Bucs a potentially explosive backfield duo.

*Rekindling 'Road Warrior' Ways? – *From Week 12 of the 2021 season through the first two weeks of the 2022 campaign, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers strung together six consecutive wins on the road. That was the longest such streak in franchise history. However, the Bucs suffered significant upsets in their next two games on the road in Pittsburgh and Carolina and then painfully let a potential win slip away in overtime in Cleveland two weeks ago. Can the Buccaneers' rediscover whatever it was that had made them so dominant away from home in the Tom Brady era? Prior to this year's midseason swoon, the Buccaneers had won 17 of their previous 22 road games, including the famous three-game run in the 2020 postseason before Super Bowl LV. (Not technically included but still relevant is the Buccaneers' Week 10 win over the Seahawks in Munich, Germany, which was considered a home game for Tampa Bay.) The team's Week 14 trip isn't an easy one in which to regain that road form, not only because of the quality of the opponent but because of the length of the trip. The Buccaneers will leave for California on Friday afternoon in order to give their players more time to adjust to the time change but West Coast games always add an extra layer of difficulty for teams traveling in from the East Coast.

*Holding the Line – *The Buccaneers' offensive line will be trying to slow down one of the NFL's most potent pass rush groups on Sunday. Led by Nick Bosa and his NFL-high 14.5 sacks, the 49ers rank fifth in the NFL with a sacks-per-pass-play rate of 9.02%. Fifteen different San Francisco defenders have combined to take down the opposing quarterback 36 times in 12 games, and Bosa is coming off the NFC Defensive Player of the Week award after his three sacks helped hold Miami's explosive offense to just 308 yards and zero successful third-down conversions. The Buccaneers will counter with an O-Line that is still missing its All-Pro right tackle after Tristan Wirfs suffered knee and ankle injuries in Cleveland. Veteran reserve Josh Wells filled in for Wirfs and helped hold the Saints' strong pass rush to just one sack of Tom Brady, and he will get the call again in San Francisco. Head Coach Todd Bowles conceded that left tackle Donovan Smith did not have his best game of the season against New Orleans, as he took two holding penalties on the Bucs' two touchdown drives during a frenzied comeback in the fourth quarter. Smith is currently the only remaining starter from Tampa Bay's very well-regarded offensive line in 2021, as Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen is injured, Pro Bowl left guard Ali Marpet retired and right guard Alex Cappa left in free agency. Overall, the Buccaneers' blockers have done a fine job of protecting Brady, who has been sacked only 18 times, but they will face a stiff test on Sunday.

Putting a Lid On It – The Buccaneers' defense deserves credit for holding the Saints to 16 points on Monday night and limiting the visitors to three field goals on their three red-zone incursions. New Orleans was capped at 298 yards and only converted five of 14 third-down tries. The longest run by a Saints player all night was seven yards. However, the defense did surrender a 30-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Taysom Hill in the second quarter and was stung by four other Saints completions of 20-plus yards, including a 40-yarder caught by undrafted rookie Rashid Shaheed. The Bucs mostly kept the Saints from sustaining long drives but those occasional big hits gave their opponent opportunities to build a 16-3 lead anyway. Limiting big plays will be a key for the Bucs' defense on Sunday as the 49ers are very good at turning quick completions into big gains with the run-after-catch abilities of Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle. Before his injury, Garoppolo led the NFL in the percentage of his passing yards (63%) that were gained after the catch.

KEY MATCHUPS

1. Buccaneers T Donovan Smith vs. 49ers DE Nick Bosa

Donovan Smith won't be the only Buccaneer involved in the group effort to slow down the NFL's sack leader, but he'll certainly be a key part of it. Bosa is the closest thing the NFL has to unstoppable force this season, as he has recorded at least one sack in all but one of the 11 games in which he's played. In addition to the six sacks he has over the last four games, he also has 14 quarterback hits in that span to give him 34 on the season. That's 10 more than the next player on the list. Since 2021, when the 49ers have had Bosa on the field they've had a 33.3 quarterback pressure rate, compared to 23.3% without him Bosa is listed on the 49ers' depth chart as the right defensive end, which would put him in Smith's vicinity, but his pre-snap location heat map on NFL Next Gen Stats shows that he has actually split his rushes pretty equally between the two ends of the line. Smith, of course, draws a premier edge rusher nearly every week and has been a huge part of the Bucs' ability to rank first in sacks allowed per pass play this season and last year, as well as second in 2020.

2. 49ers WR Deebo Samuel vs. Buccaneers S Logan Ryan

Deebo Samuel has 37 rushing attempts in 2022, the most by any player listed as a wide receiver in the NFL. He and Washington's Curtis Samuel are the only wideouts in the league with more than a dozen carries. Last season, Kyle Shanahan unlocked another level of production for Samuel by frequently putting him in the backfield and simply handing him the ball, as he ran for 365 yards and eight touchdowns to go with his 1,405 receiving yards and six scores. Whether Samuel is running it or catching it on Sunday, safeties Logan Ryan and Keanu Neal are likely to be important figures in keeping his yardage to a minimum. On running plays, with the Bucs corners occupied with wide receivers, Ryan may be asked to get to the line of scrimmage to help keep Samuel from getting around the edge. On passing plays, with the 49ers adept at getting the ball into their players' hands with open field to tack on some YAC, it is the safeties who may be the last line of defense if Samuel and his teammate manage to run away from the corners and linebackers. Ryan, who just returned to the defense after missing seven games with a foot injury, is a very smart and heady defender who has played everywhere in the secondary in his career and has developed into an excellent in-game communicator, could be the key to making sure the 49ers don't find a way to get their playmakers into big gaps in the defense.

3. Buccaneers TE Cade Otton vs. 49ers LB Fred Warner

Rookie tight end Cade Otton has quickly carved out a significant role in the Bucs' passing game, particularly over the middle and down the seams, and Tom Brady has chosen to look in his direction in multiple high-leverage situations. In the comeback win over New Orleans, Otton was targeted 10 times, more than any other Buc besides Chris Godwin, and caught six passes, including a one-yard touchdown during the Bucs' big comeback. Otton has displayed good hands, a feel for zone defenses and an ability to hold onto the ball while taking big hits. Warner, the 49ers' middle linebacker, was a deserving first-team All-Pro selection in 2020 and he is playing at a very high level again in 2022. He may be the best linebacker in the NFL in terms of defending the middle of the field on pass plays, which is critical when the 49ers are trying to take away big plays by playing Cover Two with a pair of safeties deep. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, the 49ers have faced the second-fewest targets to the intermediate middle of the field of any team in the league since they drafted Warner in the third round in 2018.

4. 49ers C Jake Brendel vs. Buccaneers DL Vita Vea

The 49ers' offensive line is anchored by left tackle Trent Williams, widely considered the best O-Lineman in the NFL, and Mike McGlinchey has given the team a strong bookend on the other side of the line since he was drafted ninth overall in 2018. Like the Buccaneers, the 49ers had one of the league's sturdiest offensive lines in 2022, but they lost two 2021 Pro Bowlers in the offseason when center Alex Mack retired and guard Laken Tomlinson departed in free agency. The job at the pivot went to 30-year-old Jake Brendel, a former undrafted free agent who had started 21 games for the Dolphins from 2016-18. Brendel signed with the 49ers in February of 2020 but opted to sit out that season under the COVID rules. He logged just six snaps on offense last year but won the job to start this season and has opened every contest. If the Buccaneers have difficulty getting pressure off the edges against the 49ers' strong tackles, they may have to rely on an interior push to make rookie quarterback Brock Purdy uncomfortable in his first NFL start. Vea leads the Buccaneers with 6.5 sacks in 2022, a career high, and presents a serious challenge for a single blocker to keep him out of the backfield due to his size and strength.

Buccaneers:

  • TE Cameron Brate (illness) - Full Participation (Wed.), Full Participation (Thurs.), Full Participation (Friday)
  • DL Akiem Hicks (foot) - Did Not Participate (Friday) Game Status: Questionable
  • S Mike Edwards (hamstring) - Did Not Participate (Wed.), Did Not Participate (Thurs.), Did Not Participate (Friday) Game Status: Doubtful
  • CB Sean Murphy-Bunting (quadriceps) - Limited Participation (Wed.), Limited Participation (Thurs.), Full Participation (Friday) Game Status: Questionable
  • RB Leonard Fournette (foot) - Limited Participation (Thurs.), Did Not Participate (Friday) Game Status: Questionable
  • NT Vita Vea (foot/shoulder) - Limited Participation (Wed.), Limited Participation (Thurs.), Limited Participation (Friday)
  • S Antoine Winfield Jr. (ankle) - Did Not Participate (Wed.), Did Not Participate (Thurs.), Did Not Participate (Friday) Game Status: Doubtful
  • T Tristan Wirfs (ankle/knee) - Did Not Participate (Wed.), Did Not Participate (Thurs.), Did Not Participate (Friday) Game Status: Doubtful

49ers:

  • DL Arik Armstead (foot/ankle) - Limited Participation (Wed.), Limited Participation (Thurs.), Full Participation (Friday)
  • DL Nick Bosa (hamstring) - Did Not Participate (Wed.), Did Not Participate (Thurs.), Did Not Participate (Friday) Game Status: Questionable
  • OL Spencer Burford (ankle) - Limited Participation (Wed.), Limited Participation (Thurs.), Full Participation (Friday)
  • QB Jimmy Garoppolo (foot) - Did Not Participate (Wed.), Did Not Participate (Thurs.), Did Not Participate (Friday) Game Status: Out
  • RB Christian McCaffrey (knee) - Limited Participation (Wed.), Limited Participation (Thurs.), Full Participation (Friday)
  • DB Tarvarius Moore (knee) - Did Not Participate (Wed.), Did Not Participate (Thurs.), Did Not Participate (Friday) Game Status: Out
  • DL Haasan Ridgeway (pectoral) - Did Not Participate (Wed.), Did Not Participate (Thurs.), Did Not Participate (Friday) Game Status: Out
  • WR Deebo Samuel (quadriceps) - Limited Participation (Wed.), Limited Participation (Thurs.), Full Participation (Friday)
  • T Trent Williams (rest) - Did Not Participate (Wed.), Full Participation (Thurs.), Full Participation (Friday)

WEATHER FORECAST

Cloudy with occasional rain showers, high of 52, low of 40, 58% chance of rain, 78% humidity, winds out of the W at 10 mph.

GAME REFEREE

Head referee: Brad Allen (9th season, 9th as referee)

BETTING LINE

· Favorite: 49ers (-3.5)

· Over/Under: 37.0

INDIVIDUAL STAT LEADERS

Buccaneers-

Points Scored: K Ryan Succop, 89

Touchdowns: RB Leonard Fournette, 6

Passing Yards: QB Tom Brady, 3,332

Passer Rating: QB Tom Brady, 91.6

Rushing Yards: RB Leonard Fournette, 511

Receptions: WR Chris Godwin, 68

Receiving Yards: WR Mike Evans, 761

Interceptions: CB Jamel Dean/Mike Edwards, 2

Sacks: DL Vita Vea, 6.5

Tackles: ILB Devin White, 94

49ers-

Points Scored: K Robbie Gould, 89

Touchdowns: WR Brandon Aiyuk, 6

Passing Yards: QB Jimmy Garoppolo, 2,437

Passer Rating: QB Jimmy Garoppolo, 102.9

Rushing Yards: RB Jeff Wilson*, 468

Receptions: WR Brandon Aiyuk, 56

Receiving Yards: WR Brandon Aiyuk, 698

Interceptions: S Talanoa Hufanga, 4

Sacks: DE Nick Bosa, 14.5

Tackles: LB Dre Greenlaw, 88

(* no longer with the team)

TEAM STAT RANKINGS

Buccaneers-

Scoring Offense: 27th (18.1 ppg)

Total Offense: 17th (340.0 ypg)

Passing Offense: 5th (266.8 ypg)

Rushing Offense: 32nd (73.3 ypg)

First Downs Per Game: t-14th (20.4)

Third-Down Pct.: 19th (39.3%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt Allowed: 1st (3.43%)

Red Zone TD Pct.: 21st (51.4%)

Scoring Defense: 5th (18.3 ppg)

Total Defense: 8th (313.8 ypg)

Passing Defense: 7th (195.3 ypg)

Rushing Defense: 18th (118.4 ypg)

First Downs Allowed Per Game: t-3rd (17.5)

Third-Down Pct. Allowed: 9th (37.3%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt: 4th (9.62%)

Red Zone TD Pct. Allowed: 22nd (57.6%)

Turnover Margin: t-17th (0)

49ers-

Scoring Offense: 13th (23.5 ppg)

Total Offense: 10th (357.9 ypg)

Passing Offense: 12th (233.8 ypg)

Rushing Offense: 14th (124.1 ypg)

First Downs Per Game: 13th (20.5)

Third-Down Pct.: 5th (45.2%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt Allowed: 10th (5.96%)

Red Zone TD Pct.: 15th (53.7%)

Scoring Defense: 1st (15.8 ppg)

Total Defense: 1st (283.9 ypg)

Passing Defense: 12th (208.3 ypg)

Rushing Defense: 1st (75.6 ypg)

First Downs Allowed Per Game: 1st (16.3)

Third-Down Pct. Allowed: 16th (39.7%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt: 5th (9.02%)

Red Zone TD Pct. Allowed: 11th (53.9%)

Turnover Margin: t-5th (+4)

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

· Quarterback Tom Brady continues to move up the Buccaneers' all-time passing yardage list and now stands fourth with 13,281. If he can get another 254 yards against the league's 12th-ranked pass defense on Sunday he would pass Josh Freeman (13,534) for third place on that chart, behind only Vinny Testaverde (14,820) and Jameis Winston (19,787).

· Tight End Cameron Brate has 33 career touchdown catches. His next one will tie him with Ring of Honor member Jimmie Giles for second place in franchise history in receiving TDs and fourth place in overall touchdowns.

· Meanwhile, WR Chris Godwin has caught two touchdown passes this season to give him 31 in his career, plus 32 total touchdowns (one rushing). He is therefore just one behind Brate in total TDs and could tie him with one on Sunday.

· DL Will Gholston has played in 148 games as a Buccaneer. His next one will break a tie with Shelton Quarles for ninth place in franchise annals.

NOTABLY QUOTABLE

· Head Coach Todd Bowles on the 49ers' top-ranked defense: "They play hard, number one. I think [49ers defensive coordinator] DeMeco [Ryans] does a great job getting them ready to play hard. Kris [Kocurek] does a great job with the D-Line. Very fundamentally sound in the secondary and at [linebacker] – they can see things, they zone off well, they do a good job punching at the football. They can get pressure with four or five guys – I think if you can get pressure with four guys, that helps out your coverage immensely. They do a good job at all of that."

· Guard Shaq Mason on how the offensive line has protected QB Tom Brady: "I think continuity has a lot to do with it. We all work hard each and every day. I know losing 'Tris' (Tristan Wirfs) was a big blow and [Josh] Wells did a great job stepping in and played his tail off, which just goes to show how hard he works each and every day, but I think as a unit, we're jelling well and we're meshing. There's still a lot of work to do, but I think we're taking steps in the right direction."

· Safety Logan Ryan on the versatility of San Francisco running back Christian McCaffrey the 49ers' other offensive weapons: "Yeah, he's always been one of the best running backs with his versatility and ability to catch the ball. They use Deebo Samuel the same way – he runs routes, but he goes in the backfield, so they're really interchangeable players. You've got [wide receiver Brandon] Aiyuk, who's a great route runner, you've got [fullback Kyle] Juszczyk, who's the best fullback in the game, you've got [tight end George] Kittle who's a blocker and a pass catcher. So, I think what you see is that they have a lot of good football players on their team, they're all versatile and they use them interchangeably and we've got to be good, our skilled players on defense need to be good tacklers, need to be good football players as well – our secondary and our backers. So, that's really where the matchup is – the D-Line and O-Line have to have their matchup as well."

· Rookie running back Rachaad White on building the team's trust in him: "I put the work in day in and day out at the practice field just gaining 'TB's' (Tom Brady's) trust, Mike [Evans] – all the vets. Coach as well – they trust the guys to believe in me to be able to come to me about anything, come to me for a play that we ran, things like that. It's just the consistency and the work you put in every week and every day."

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