Tom Brady is no longer undefeated in his hometown.
The San Francisco 49ers soundly defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 35-7, on Sunday at Levi's Stadium, about 30 minutes from where Brady grew up as a Niners fan. San Francisco built a 28-0 lead by halftime behind rookie quarterback Brock Purdy, who was making his first career start in place of the injured Jimmy Garoppolo. The game marked the first time in eight occasions that a Brady-led team lost to a quarterback in his starting debut.
"That's a good football team," said Brady. "They're good, they played well today. Brock played really well and they made a bunch of plays offensively, defensively and on special teams. We didn't make any offensively, we didn't make any defensively, we didn't make any on special teams. [Purdy] played really well, threw a lot of good balls, hung in there against the blitz. They did a good job, good job running it, good job throwing it."
Purdy repeatedly scrambled away from trouble to make plays downfield and finished with 16 completions in 21 attempts for 185 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 134.0 passer rating. He also ran for a two-yard score in the second quarter to give the 49ers a 14-0 lead. Head Coach Todd Bowles said the Buccaneers' defensive struggles were not the result of being unprepared for a new starter.
"He didn't 'present problems,'" said Bowles. "He ran the offense. [49ers Head Coach] Kyle [Shanahan] did a great job. They got us on two double-moves and he ran the offense. In short, we got our asses kicked."
At the same time, Brady and the Buccaneers offense had trouble establishing any first-half rhythm against the NFL's top-ranked defense. A fumble recovery by Lavonte David late in the third quarter led to Tampa Bay's first scoring opportunity of the game, but the ball was eventually turned over on downs after passes to Chris Godwin and Mike Evans in the end zone fell incomplete. Brady finished the game with 34 completions in 55 attempts for 253 yards, one touchdown and a season-high two interceptions. Overall, the 49ers produced 404 yards of total offense to 316 for the Buccaneers.
"We played bad in all phases," said Bowles. "We coached bad. We got out-coached, a credit to Kyle and his guys. They did a great job. We got our ass kicked on offense, we got our ass kicked on defense."
The game marked just the second time in his illustrious 23-year NFL career that Brady has played in San Francisco, following a 30-17 win over the 49ers while with the Patriots in 2016. Brady relished the opportunity to play in front of a large group of friends and family members, and he still enjoyed the experience despite wishing the Bucs had produced a better outcome.
"It was great having everyone here," he said. "I think a lot of people from the neighborhood came. It's not going to change the outcome of the game, unfortunately, because you've got a cheering section. But it was sweet to have everyone come and support me and support the team. They came out here, which was great. I wish we could have done, obviously, a lot better job but it was a frustrating day for all of us."
That 2016 Patriots team improved to 8-2 with their win in San Francisco and went on to win the Super Bowl. The Buccaneers, who also won a title in Brady's first season with the team in 2020, entered the 2022 season with Super Bowl aspirations as well but have now fallen back below .500 to 6-7. They remain one game ahead of the 5-8 Atlanta Falcons, who were idle in Week 14, in the NFC South title race with four weeks to go. The Carolina Panthers also improved to 5-8 on Sunday with a win over Seattle. The Buccaneers will face the Panthers in Charlotte in Week 17 and the Falcons in Atlanta in Week 18.
The Buccaneers repeatedly hurt themselves with penalties throughout the game, drawing eight flags for 62 yards. The first three flags thrown on the visitors erased a Keanu Neal sack on the first play of the game, a 68-yard Mike Evans touchdown catch in the first quarter and a third-down stop in the end zone near the end of the opening period. Neal was responsible for two of those three flags, one for roughing the passer and one for pass interference, and it was a Donovan Smith hold that brought back Evans' big play. Later in the half, a Carlton Davis holding penalty erased an Anthony Nelson interception, allowing the 49ers to score on the next play on Purdy's 32-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Aiyuk.
"They're devastating because we're playing the Niners and we're playing the Bucs," said Bowles of the penalties. "You can't beat two teams, and we're beating ourselves. Credit to them, because they beat us as well. They had a good scheme. But we're beating ourselves too lately."
San Francisco had a big edge in the ground game, with Christian McCaffrey leading a 209-yard charge. McCaffrey ran for 119 yards on 14 carries, caught two passes for 34 yards and scored on a 27-yard pass and a 38-yard run. The Buccaneers meanwhile, picked up only 63 yards on 19 carries and largely had to eliminate the running game as they got further and further behind on the scoreboard. Rookie RB Rachaad White led the Bucs with 50 yards on 13 carries.
The 49ers won their sixth game in a row to improve to 9-5 and strengthen their hold on the NFC West lead. However, they may have suffered a significant loss as well, with star WR Deebo Samuel exiting the game with an apparently significant ankle injury in the second quarter. Before his departure, Samuel had 64 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. After the game, Head Coach Kyle Shanahan said Samuel escaped serious injury and likely has a high ankle sprain.
After halftime, the Buccaneers began to move the ball more effectively, helped out by a 54-yard kickoff return by rookie WR Deven Thompkins to start the third quarter. Unfortunately, a new problem arose in the form of turnovers, as interceptions by Tashaun Gipson and Dre Greenlaw ended two consecutive possessions that had entered 49ers territory. The Buccaneers did finally crack the end zone with three minutes left in the third quarter when an alert Russell Gage grabbed a pass that had deflected off Chris Godwin at the goal line.
San Francisco return man Ray-Ray McCloud got the ball out to the 49ers' 33 to start the game. The Bucs appeared to start the game off with a bang as Neal blitzed out of the slot and flattened Purdy for an apparent eight-yard sacks. However, Neal was hit with a roughing-the-passer penalty, moving the ball close to midfield. The defense got Purdy into a third-and-seven but he kept the drive by hitting Kittle down the middle for 15. It took two plays from there to get it into the end zone, with McCaffrey slicing over left guard for 21 yards and Samuel rushing around right end to walk a sideline tightrope for a 13-yard touchdown just two-and-a-half minutes into the game.
The Bucs' offense got off to a good start, with White finding a seam on the right side and charging it through it for a gain of nine. Brady reacted quickly to a collapsing pocket on second down to find Leonard Fournette out in the right flat for another nine. Three plays later, the Bucs faced a third-and-four and Brady got it quickly to Russell Gage out by the right sideline for just enough to move the sticks. Brady then found rookie TE Ko Kieft down the middle for 11, but the Bucs were soon in another third down, needing nine yards from the Niners' 37. Brady was trapped by multiple defenders and just got off an incompletion to preserve a field goal try. Ryan Succop came on to try a 55-yard field goal but hit it well short.
After the miss, the Niners inherited the ball at their own 45 but the Buccaneers' defense got a big stop. David stopped McCaffrey for a loss of one on second down, forcing third-and-11. Purdy scrambled around on third down, reversing direction twice, and was able to get around the right end and dive past the sticks. However, the 49ers were flagged by holding and a third-and-21 screen to Samuel came up well short.
The Bucs appeared to tie up the game moments later when Brady found Evans wide open down the right sideline and hit him in stride for a 68-yard touchdown. However, the play was erased by a 10-yard holding call on Smith and two plays later the Bucs had to punt it away again.
This time the 49ers started at their own 38 and Purdy once again scrambled away from trouble, buying time to hit Kittle over the middle again for 15 yards. A wall of blockers sprung McCaffrey for 13 more to the Bucs' 30 on a toss-sweep left. McCaffrey picked his way through tacklers on a similar toss on the next snap to get down to the Bucs' 17. Three plays later, a pass-interference call in the end zone on Neal made it first-and-goal at the one. After the two teams switched sides to start the second quarter, Purdy escaped pressure in the pocket and eluded several tacklers to dash into the end zone for a two-yard score.
Two quick completions to Godwin and White gave the Bucs a fourth-and-three from their 25 at the start of the next drive but DL Arik Armstead got a hand up at the line to knock down Brady's pass to Evans. Jake Camarda blasted a 61-yard punt to help flip the field.
The 49ers quickly got the ball back to midfield as Purdy eluded Joe Tryon-Shoyinka deep in the backfield and improvised a throw on the run to Samuel for 18 yards. Two plays later, Purdy threw to Samuel again just as Carl Nassib was closing in on him, resulting in a first down at the Buccaneers' 42. A Purdy QB sneak on third-and-one got just enough for another first down at the 32, but then faced third-and-five after short runs by Samuel and McCaffrey. The Bucs brought heavy pressure but Purdy threw deep while falling backward and found McCaffrey right at the left front pylon for a 27-yard score. A lengthy review process followed in which the original call of a touchdown was reversed, and then reversed again. The played involved S Logan Ryan reaching to dislodge the ball, but McCaffrey regained control and barely got both feet in bounds.
The Bucs followed with another three-and-out, with Godwin unable to haul in a third-and-six pass on a crossing route over the middle, with Jimmie Ward in tight coverage. San Francisco got the ball back at its own 34 with 6:45 left in the half.
An offsides call on DL Rakeem Nunez-Roches helped get the 49ers into a short third down and McCaffrey got 12 more than the one he needed to get past midfield. However, two plays later Nelson pulled the ball from Samuel's grasp as he was being brought down and David fell on it at the Bucs' 40. Samuel was brought down awkwardly in a heap of tacklers and had to be taken off the field on a cart.
White picked his way for seven yards to start the ensuing drive but was tackled a yard short of the sticks on a second-down outlet pass. One more handoff to the rookie was good for a first down just across midfield. Brady looked deep down the middle on the next snap and Godwin high-pointed the ball over a defender for a gain of 32. A quick pass to Jones got nine more to the 49ers' eight but the Bucs would still come up empty. After White lost a yard going left, Brady's third and fourth-down passes into the end zone to Godwin and Evans were incomplete, turning the ball over on downs.
McCaffrey got five yards to bring on the two-minute warning and six more after the break. Purdy then enjoyed a long time in the pocket and was able to fire down the left numbers to Aiyuk for 25 yards. A quick 11-yard strike to McCloud made it first-and-10 at the Bucs' 44 and the Niners called their second timeout with 43 seconds left in the half. A great blitz up the middle by Devin White nearly resulted in a sack but Purdy just got off a throwaway. Facing a third-and-three from the 37 with 28 seconds left, the 49ers used their last timeout, then tried to hit McCloud over the middle. Nelson sliced in front of the intended target for what would have been his first career interception but the holding call on Davis gave the ball back to the home team. On the next play, Aiyuk got behind the defense and Purdy hit him as he was reaching the goal-line for the 32-yard score.
Thompkins' 54-yard kickoff return to start the second half allowed the Bucs' to start their first drive in San Francisco territory. Unfortunately, Brady was tugged back as he released a third-down pass down the middle, causing it to sail over Evans' head and directly to Gipson. Gipson returned the pick 36 yards to the Bucs' 38, and two plays later McCaffrey broke free to the left then cut back across the field, outrunning multiple defenders to score on a 38-yard touchdown run.
Four quick completions, including two to Fournette started Tampa Bay's next drive with a pair of first downs, and Brady converted a third-and-three with a quick slant to Godwin at the San Francisco 44. WR Scotty Miller got a step on CB Deommodore Lenoir on the next play but Brady's pass hit the defender in the back. After a one-yard scramble by Brady, the Bucs went for it on fourth-and-four and Brady got it to Fournette for a new set of downs. However, Greenlaw leaped to tip another pass intended for Evans and then was able to haul in the rebound for an interception at the 24.
Tampa Bay's defense got a three-and-out after the turnover, with Devin White and Nolan Turner combining to stop Kittle for a loss of five on third down. The Bucs got it back at their own 26 near the midpoint of the third quarter.
Rachaad White started the next drive with two runs for 15 yards and Brady then hit TE Cade Otton twice in a row for 17 more. The Buccaneers faced a third-and-six at the 49ers' 38 and White got five on a catch in the right flat. Brady converted the fourth-and-one with a quick curl to Evans, who spun around a defender for a total of nine yards to the 24. A false start penalty helped put the Bucs in a second-and-14 hole but a leaping sideline catch by Jones two plays later gave the Bucs a first-and-goal at the eight. Two plays later the Buccaneers finally scored in unusual fashion, as Brady's pass to Godwin bounced off its intended target and was caught just inches off the turf by Gage. Gage trapped the ball against his legs and rolled backward across the line for an eight-yard touchdown.
Rookie RB Jordan Mason started the 49ers' next drive with a 10-yard run to the home 40 and two plays later broke free from several near-tackles to get 13 more to the Bucs' 44. After the teams flipped sides to start the fourth quarter, OLB Carl Nassib dropped Mason for a loss of two to make it third-and-10, and Purdy's out to WR Jauan Jennings came up five yards short. The 49ers sent out the punt unit and the kick rolled to a stop at the Bucs' eight with 13:31 left in the game.
Catches of eight yards by Godwin and 12 by Evans helped produce two quick first downs but Brady's deep shot down the left sideline to Jones didn't quite get there. A holding call on Godwin on a short pass to White backed the ball up to the 22 and made it second-and-20, followed by a pair of dumpoffs to White for a total of 10 yards. The Bucs went for it on fourth-and-10 and maintained possession on Evans' leaping catch 20 yards downfield. An eight-yard catch over the middle made it fourth-and-one at the 49ers' 39 and Fournette powered up the middle for just enough. Brady threaded the needle between two defenders to Evans just a bit shy of the first-down line, and Evans then lateraled to Fournette, who initially dropped the ball before picking it up and getting to the 23. After discussing it the officials ruled that Evans' pitch was an illegal forward pass, leading to a penalty that pushed the ball back to the 35. That made it fourth-and-eight, and while Brady was able to buy time with a scramble up and to the right, his hard pass to Evans was out of reach.
Josh Johnson, whose career began as a fifth-round pick by the Buccaneers in 2008, relieved Purdy at quarterback for the ensuing drive and started handing it off to Mason. On the second play, Mason broke into the second level and weaved 18 yards to the Bucs' 42. Facing a fourth-and-one at the 33, the 49ers initially lined up to kick a field goal, then called a timeout and elected to go for it. A leaping Nassib denied the attempt, knocking down Johnson's pass at the line.
The Bucs took over on downs and kept the ball on the ground, eventually going for it on fourth-and-one. White was hit well behind the line of scrimmage by Ward, leading to a fumble that the Niners recovered at the 32 with 3:29 left.