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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2024 Opponent Preview: San Franciso 49ers, Week 10

The 49ers extended their 2023 season all the way Super Bowl overtime, and while they fell just short of the final goal they still have a roster loaded with stars on both sides of the line of scrimmage


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have begun their final break from football in 2024, but they won't be inactive for long. Training camp arrives in the latter half of July and the games will follow shortly thereafter. As we wait for the return of Buccaneer game days, we're taking a look at each team Tampa Bay is going to face during the regular season. From how those teams fared last year, to what they've done with the roster since, to some as-yet-unanswered questions – we want to get a better feel for what the Bucs will be up against this fall. After breaking down the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday, we know turn to the team they narrowly beat for their second straight Lombardi Trophy, the San Francisco 49ers.

2023 Results

The 49ers came out of the gate red hot in 2023, survived a minor midseason lull prompted by some key injuries and finished strong enough to head into the postseason with the NFC's top seed. After falling one game shy of the Super Bowl in 2022, San Francisco made it all the way to the big game this time but couldn't quite topple Patrick Mahomes' Chiefs.

The 49ers opened the regular season on a five-game winning streak, scoring at least 30 points in all five games and beating three eventual playoff teams (Steelers, Rams and Cowboys) along the way. They were sent on the road for the first two games but handled Pittsburgh easily, 30-7, and held off the Rams, 30-23, thanks to touchdown runs by Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel and Brock Purdy. The most impressive win in that opening stretch was a 42-10 shellacking of the Cowboys in which Purdy threw four touchdown passes, three to tight end George Kittle, and was not intercepted.

A three-game losing streak followed, perhaps not coincidentally at the same time that Samuel and All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams were briefly sidelined by injuries. The 49ers scored 17 points in each of those three contests and lost to Cleveland and Minnesota on the road and Cincinnati at home. Purdy was intercepted twice by the Bengals' defense while Joe Burrow threw three touchdown passes for the opposition.

After a bye week, San Francisco got back on track quickly, this time ripping off six wins in a row, starting with a 34-3 blowout in Jacksonville in which both Fred Warner and Talanoa Hufanga picked off Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence. The Bucs visited the other Bay area during this stretch and came home with a 27-14 loss in which Purdy tossed three touchdown passes, including a 76-yarder to Brandon Aiyuk. The 49ers also beat the Seahawks twice by two-touchdown margins, dropped 45 points on Arizona and avenged their 2022 NFC Championship Game loss with a 42-19 drubbing of the Eagles in Philadelphia. Purdy had another four-touchdown game against the Eagles and Samuel caught two of them.

The 49ers rang up 439 yards of offense against Baltimore in Week 16 but could only translate that into 19 points and lost by two touchdowns. After clinching the top seed in the NFC playoff field with a win over Washington in Week 17, the 49ers rested Purdy and other starters the next weekend against the Rams and lost 21-20. After enjoying a first-round bye, the 49ers continued their recent playoff mastery over Green Bay, though it took a 10-point comeback in the fourth quarter to come away with the 24-21 win. McCaffrey ran for two touchdowns, including the six-yard game-winner with a minute left.

That put the 49ers at home for the NFC Champion against the ascending Lions, and at halftime it looked like Detroit might be punching a ticket to its first Super Bowl appearance. Detroit ran out to a 24-7 lead sparked by a 42-yard touchdown scamper by wideout Jameson Williams on an end-around less than two minutes into the game. At the half, the Lions had a 280-131 yardage advantage, but things swung mightily in the other direction after halftime. Touchdown runs by McCaffrey and Elijah Mitchell powered a run of 27 straight points for the home team and the 49ers qualified for Super Bowl LVIII with a 34-31 comeback win.

In the Super Bowl, McCaffrey scored again in the first half, this time on a 21-yard reception, and the 49ers took a 16-13 lead early in the fourth quarter when Purdy hit wide receiver Jauan Jennings on a 10-yard touchdown pass. Notably, the Chiefs blocked the extra point attempt to keep it a three-point game, after which the two teams traded field goals. Harrison Butker's 29-yard field goal tied the game and sent it into overtime, where the 49ers got the ball first but had to settle for a field goal. The Chiefs thus got their own possession and won the championship on a touchdown pass from Mahomes to Mecole Hardman.

Purdy proved that his surprise emergence late in his 2022 rookie season was no fluke, solidifying his hold on the starting job and throwing for 4,280 yards and 31 touchdowns against 11 interceptions, for a league-leading passer rating of 113.0. He was one of nine 49ers to get Pro Bowl nods, joining McCaffrey, Kittle, Williams, Warner, defensive end Nick Bosa, defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, fullback Kyle Juszczyk and cornerback Charvarius Ward.

The 49ers collection of offensive stars all shined, led by McCaffrey, who produced 2,023 yards from scrimmage and scored 21 touchdowns en route to the NFL's Offensive Player of the Year award. Aiyuk and Samuel combined for 2,234 receiving yards and scored seven times each, while Kittle cracked 1,000 yards and added six scores. Williams was chosen as a first-team Associated Press All-Pro for the third year in a row, anchoring an offense that ranked second in yards and third in points.

Bosa led the defense with 10.5 sacks and Hargrave, the team's big offseason acquisition, added 7.5. Warner continued to rank as the NFL's best pass-defending linebacker, combining 132 tackles with 2.5 sacks, four interceptions, 11 passes defensed and four forced fumbles. The 49ers' defense tied for the NFL lead with 22 interceptions, including five by Ward, as the team allowed just 17.5 points per game, third best in the NFL.

2024 Arrivals

The 49ers shopped the free agent market for a number of depth additions on defense after losing some of their own players to other teams. They picked up linebacker De'Vondre Campbell after he was released by Green Bay in a cap-related move, and Campbell will likely step right into the starting lineup next to Warner and Dre Greenlaw. Edge rusher Leonard Floyd, who has had at least 9.0 sacks in each of the last four years, comes over for Buffalo and should also start opposite Bosa.

The 49ers also used free agency to pick up Panthers defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos and Browns defensive tackle Jordan Elliott on two-year deals. In addition, they sent a seventh-round draft to Houston for defensive tackle Maliek Collins, who could start. Otherwise, they handed out one-year deals to cornerbacks Isaac Yiadom (Saints) and Rock Ya-Sin (Ravens) and drafted Florida State quarterback Renardo Green in the second round. Green could push for a starting job opposite Ward right away.

Linebacker Ezekiel Turner (Cardinals), quarterback Josh Dobbs (Vikings) and tackles Chris Hubbard (Titans) and Brandon Parker (Raiders) all came aboard on one-year deals, as well. Dobbs will compete with Brandon Allen to be Purdy's primary backup. More recently, the 49ers signed tight end Logan Thomas after he was released by the Commanders.

San Franciso used its first pick in the draft to add yet another weapon to Purdy's arsenal, taking Florida's Ricky Pearsall late in the first round. Pearsall could find a home in the slot right away and will be in the mix for the kick return jobs, as well. Kansas guard Dominick Puni, taken in the third round, will be a candidate to start at right guard, with veteran Jon Feliciano providing the main competition. The 49ers also had three fourth-round picks and used them to grab Wake Forest safety Malik Mustapha, Louisville running back Isaac Guerendo and Arizona wide receiver Jacob Cowing.

2024 Departures

The 49ers released defensive lineman Arik Armstead just before the start of free agency and he found a new home in Jacksonville just two days later. Defensive end Chase Young, the former second-overall pick the 49ers got from Washington in a midseason trade, hit free agency and took a one-year deal for $13 million in free agency. Tight end Charlie Woerner, largely valued for his blocking skills, got a three-year commitment from the Falcons.

Defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, the 49ers' first-round pick in 2020 who never really developed into the interior force they expected, also hit free agency and landed with the Jets on a one-year deal. Defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph and defensive end Clelin Ferrell also departed, taking one-year pacts with the Titans and Commanders, respectively. Edge rusher Randy Gregory, another midseason trade acquisition by the 49ers, signed with the Buccaneers. San Francisco released cornerback Isaiah Oliver and he signed with the jets.

Other players from the 49ers' 2023 roster who left for one-year contracts with other teams included quarterback Sam Darnold (Vikings), wide receiver/kick returner Ray-Ray McCloud (Falcons), linebacker Oren Burks (Eagles), tight end Ross Dwelley (Falcons) and guard Matt Pryor (Bears).

Other Noteworthy Developments

McCaffrey, who had previously reset the running back market with the deal he got from the Panthers in 2020, did it again in June when the 49ers gave him a two-year $38 million contract extension. McCaffrey's new deal will carry through his age-31 season, but he shows no signs of slowing down despite a consistently heavy workload.

San Francisco also retained Jennings, first extending the restricted free agency tender and then signing him to an extension. Other 49ers under contract with the team who got extensions included starting right tackle Colton McKivitz (one year) and safety George Odum (two years). The 49ers also gave a handful of potential free agents new one year deals, including Feliciano, Allen, defensive tackle Kevin Givens, linebacker Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles and wide receiver Chris Conley (1)

Despite their success in 2023, the 49ers made some changes to their coaching staff for 2024. The team parted ways after just one season with Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks, who was brought in last year after DeMeco Ryans got the head coaching job in Houston. His replacement is Nick Sorensen, who was promoted to coordinator after serving as the 49ers' defensive pass game specialist and nickels coach. Sorensen should get some help from Brandon Staley, who was hired by Kyle Shanahan to be his assistant head coach/defense after he was relieved of his head coaching duties by the Chargers.

The 49ers also lost a valued member of their player personnel department when Assistant General Manager Adam peters was hired to run the show in Washington. Two of Shanahan's assistant followed Peters to Washington, with Darryl Tapp coming in as the Commanders' defensive line coach and Anthony Lynn taking on run game coordinator responsibilities.

Pressing Questions

Will both Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel still be members of the 49ers' receiving corps in September?

Aiyuk was the 49ers' first-round draft pick in 2020, and as such the 49ers had a fifth-year option on his contract that they picked up last offseason, which will pay the big-play receiver around $14 million in 2024. Aiyuk reportedly prefers a new long-term deal and did not show up when the 49ers began their mandatory minicamp last week. Reports surfaced that the 49ers were willing to field trade offers for the fifth-year pass-catcher.

The 49ers signed Samuel to a three-year extension in 2023 and his cap burdens for the next two seasons are quite high. Still, the team reportedly received calls about the availability of both their star receivers before and during this year's draft. Afterward, General Manager John Lynch said the 49ers were not interested in moving either Aiyuk or Samuel. Still, they did use a first-round pick on Ricky Pearsall, whose game has been compared to Samuel's, and they also used a fourth-round pick on Arizona's Jacob Cowing, who could factor into the slot job. They also kept Jauan Jennings, who could possibly fill a bigger role.

There's no doubt that the 49ers have enough footballs to go around to keep both Aiyuk and Samuel satisfied in terms of their roles in the offense. Even with McCaffrey catching 67 passes and Kittle adding 65, both receivers were able to eclipse or approach 1,000 yards. The question is whether they can keep all of those players contractually satisfied in 2024 and beyond.

With a change in coordinators, can San Francisco's defense get back to the top of the NFL rankings after a slight dip in 2023?

The 49ers had a good defense in 2023, which is what you would expect from a team whose season extended all the way to Super Bowl overtime. They finished eighth in yards allowed and third in points allowed, held opposing teams to 89.7 rushing yards per game and tied for the most interceptions in the league.

They just weren't quite as good as they had been in 2022 under DeMeco Ryans, when the 49ers' combination of the game's best defense and an offense loaded with playmakers sometimes felt unfair. That San Francisco defense finished first in both yards and scoring, giving up just 16.3 points per game. In 2023, the defense still had dominant games, but it limped to the finish line, particularly in the playoffs. The 49ers gave up an average of 409.0 yards per game in the postseason, including nearly 150 per outing on the ground.

As noted above, Shanahan chose to make a move after the season came to an end just shy of the ultimate goal, moving on from Wilks after just one season. The San Francisco defense is still littered with star-caliber players all over the depth chart, from Bosa and Hargrave up front to Warner and Greenlaw in the middle to Ward and Hufanga in the secondary. With a few key additions to that group, as detailed above, the 49ers should have the personnel in place to dominate once again. Will it prove its late-season mini-swoon to be a fluke under new leadership in Sorensen and Staley?

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